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Last Monday each of us legislators was sworn into office with an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Iowa. What an awesome duty! As I begin this legislative session I am also always reminded that it is truly an honor and a privilege to represent the folks of this district in the Iowa House!

On Tuesday Governor Kim Reynolds delivered her Condition of the State speech in which she laid out her priorities for this new session. On Wednesday we heard from the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Susan Christensen on the state of the Judiciary. On Thursday we heard from the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, Major General Benjamin Correll who spoke of the strong readiness of the soldiers and airmen of the Iowa National Guard to serve on missions abroad and at home. Each outlined how they made adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they assisted Iowans during that time.

So far I have been able to schedule 2 town hall meetings as follows:

Saturday Feb. 6th in Denver at the community room from 9 to 10 a.m.
Saturday Feb. 6th in Frederika at the community room from 11 to Noon.

We will check back with the other towns to see if their library or community buildings are able to offer in-person meetings. As I said before we will work to implement social distancing at the meetings we are able to have and would ask folks to follow the Dept. of Public Health recommendations. I look forward to seeing you soon. Sen. Craig Johnson will also be able to join us for both meetings on the 6th.

Governor Reynolds Proposes Her Budget

On Tuesday night, Governor Kim Reynolds revealed her plan for state spending in fiscal years 2022.  The Governor’s plan proposes to spend $8.1141 billion from the General Fund in FY 2022, which is 98.31 percent of the on-going revenue in the General Fund ($8.2533 billion).

Among the major items in the governor’s budget are:

Broadband – The major announcement in Governor Reynolds’ Condition of the State speech was a proposal to commit $450 million over the next three years (FY 2022, 2023, & 2024) to expand access to broadband throughout Iowa.  The annual amount of $150 million would be ten times her budget request for this last year and thirty times the amount that was budgeted in Fiscal Year 2021.

Mental Health – Another major piece of Governor Reynolds’ budget proposal is addressing mental health funding.  Under her budget plan, the state would provide the mental health regions $15 million in Fiscal Year 2022 and $30 million in Fiscal Year 2023 to expand access and implement the mental health reforms and service expansions that have been enacted over the past three years.

Medicaid – In Fiscal Year 2022, the state will spend $1.4815 billion from the General Fund on the regular Medicaid program and the Health and Wellness program.  This amount would have been significantly higher, if not for the enhanced federal Medicaid match rate states are receiving in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  The Governor’s budget provides increases reimbursement rates for nursing homes ($10 million), home and community-based services’ providers ($8 million) and psychiatric medical institutes for children ($3.9 million).

Supplemental State Aid for Schools – Governor Reynolds is proposing that Iowa’s education system would receive $26.3 million in additional money during FY 2022.  The majority of this amount – $20.8 million – would be provided to school districts through a 2.5 percent increase in Supplemental State Aid for Schools and school transportation funding.  The Governor also is proposing an additional $2.5 million to implement provisions of last year’s classroom behavior bill.  Also included in her budget is $3 million to provide educational savings accounts for students who are currently attending failing schools.

Higher Education – State funding for state universities under the Board of Regents, community colleges, and the Iowa Tuition Grant program would also receive an increase in FY 2022.  Funding to the three state universities would be increased by $15 million, with $8 million replacing the FY 21 reduction and another $7 million increasing state funding levels for each school.  The Board of Regents would determine the distribution of the funds.  Iowa’s community colleges are recommended to receive an increase of $5.2 million.  Students at the state’s independent colleges would benefit from a $1.2 million increase to the Iowa Tuition Grant program.

Future Ready Iowa – Governor Reynolds’ budget would provide an additional $10 million to the College Student Aid Commission to fund the Last-Dollar Scholarship program.  This would mean that the state would be providing $23 million in financial aid to Iowans who are studying for degrees and certifications at Iowa’s community colleges to boost their movement to the workforce.

Fiscal Year 2021 adjustments – In addition to proposing budgets for the next two years, the governor also brought forward some adjustments to the current year’s budget.  Governor Reynolds is asking for supplemental appropriations of $41 million.  The funds would go to the following programs:

  • Chief Information Officer (OCIO) – Funding the first year of a contract with Workday to replace the state’s budget, accounting, and human resources computer systems – $21 million
  • Dept. of Education – Funding for a supplemental grant program to Iowa schools for costs related to providing 100% in-person learning during the 2020-2021 school year – $20 million.

As always, the release of the governor’s budget proposal represents the firing of the starter’s pistol on the annual budget process that dominates each legislative session. Budget subcommittees will begin next week, starting with a close examination of the details of Governor Reynolds’ proposal.

Iowa Distributes COVID Vaccine Statewide

I have been getting questions about the availability of the COVID vaccine. Below is what I have found out:

Based on CDC guidance, Iowa has prioritized residents of long-term care and health care workers in Phase 1A distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. As we know, residents of long-term care have been hit hardest by this virus and health care workers are essential to maintaining access to health care throughout this public health emergency. As of Monday, January 11, there have been 96,686 doses administered in Iowa. In her Condition of the State address on Tuesday, Governor Reynolds highlighted the expectation that all long-term care residents and staff will be vaccinated before the end of January.

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is planning to expand the number of populations eligible for the vaccine once 60% to 70% of the health care workforce has been vaccinated statewide.

IDPH announced that they believe that expansion to Phase 1B populations will begin around February 1. Much of the expansion to additional populations will depend on how much vaccine is allocated to Iowa from the CDC. According to IDPH, Phase 1B will be distributed to those Iowans that are 75 years and older OR the following vulnerable populations:

  • Individuals with disabilities living in home settings
  • Correctional facility staff and individuals incarcerated
  • Staff and residents of congregate settings (shelters, sober living homes, behavioral health treatment centers, detention centers. This does not include college dorms)
  • Locations where public health data indicates outbreaks or clusters of disease among food, agriculture, distribution and manufacturing workers
  • PK-12 school staff, early childhood education, and childcare workers
  • First responders

The Phase 1B list has been expanded by the interim IDPH Director to include inspectors (of hospitals, long-term care settings, child care, and food production) and government officials and staff at the Iowa Capitol.

When Phase 1B is complete, efforts will shift to Phase 1C, which includes persons 65-74 years and persons 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions. Also included are all other essential workers: workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers.

It is anticipated the vaccine will be provided at no cost. In some cases, a provider may charge a small fee to you or your health insurance for the administration of the vaccine.

It is not a requirement to get the COVID vaccine as it is not mandatory by the state. It is, and should remain, an individual decision.

Iowa News Briefs

New Records for Voter Participation: 

  1. Over 90% of Iowa’s eligible population are now actively registered to vote – 2,124,895 people.
  2. 76% of all registered voters in Iowa participated in the 2020 general election-2,095,581 people.

Drivers Licenses:  The pandemic exception regarding drivers licenses is over. Drivers with licenses that have expired between Jan. 16, 2020 and Jan. 8, 2021 should schedule an appointment to renew their license. Iowa law does allow for a 60-day grace period following the expiration of your license before a penalty is applied. Iowans can renew their licenses online or they can make an appointment on the DOT website to renew their license at a DOT service center.

Author: Sandy Salmon