Governor’s Condition of the State
The Governor’s plan proposes to spend $8.2013 billion from the General Fund in FY 2023. Her budget spends 89 percent of the on-going revenue in the General Fund ($9.2106 billion).
Among the major items in the Governor’s budget proposal are:
Supplemental State Aid for Schools – Iowa’s K-12 schools would receive $154.1 million in additional money during FY 2023. That is a 2.5 percent increase in Supplemental State Aid for Schools and school transportation funding.
Higher Education – State funding for state universities under the Board of Regents, Community Colleges, and the Iowa Tuition Grant program would also receive a 2.5 percent increase in FY 2023. That is a $12.3 million increase for the three state universities. For UNI, it is a $2.5 million increase. In addition, UNI receives $1.3 million for its new program working with community college students to earn their bachelor degrees, extending UNI’s reach across the state. Iowa’s community colleges are recommended to receive an increase of $5.4 million. Students at the state’s independent colleges also see an increase of $1.2 million to the Iowa Tuition Grant program.
Medicaid – In Fiscal Year 2023, the governor proposes the state spend $1.5039 billion from the General Fund on the Medicaid program. This amount would have been significantly higher, if not for the continued enhanced federal Medicaid match rate states are receiving in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mental Health – Another major piece of Governor Reynolds’ budget proposal is fulfilling the state’s new commitment to exclusively funding Iowa’s mental health system. Under her budget plan, the state provides $121.3 million to the mental health regions to serve Iowans needing mental health and intellectual disability services.
As always, the release of the Governor’s budget proposal represents the start of the annual budget process in each legislative session. Budget subcommittees begin next week, starting with a close examination of the details of Governor Reynolds’ proposal.
Among the governor’s major policy priorities for the session are these:
Tax Cuts – She proposes getting rid of tax brackets and having one tax rate – 4%. This would occur gradually over 4 years. She also proposes eliminating taxation of retirement income, which includes cash rent when a farmer retires. Corporate income tax would be reduced to 5.5% over a period of several years.
Workforce Shortage: Lower unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks and make it tougher to turn down suitable jobs. Eliminate unnecessary licensing requirements. Expand loan forgiveness for health care professionals.
New Apprenticeships: Registered apprenticeship programs created for health care professionals, teachers, and paraeducators.
School Choice: Middle and low-income families receive $5300 of the per-pupil funding to go to the school of the family’s choice
Pornographic Materials in Schools: All schools required to publish what they’re teaching
Agriculture & Renewable Fuels: Improve access to E-15 and B-20 by assisting with infrastructure costs
Bonuses: Federal funds to be designated for law enforcement personnel and teachers who taught through the pandemic
Supreme Court on COVID Vaccine Mandates
Good News: OSHA Mandate Struck Down
The US Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision has struck down the Biden Administration’s OSHA rule that would have forced millions of Americans to take the COVID-19 vaccine or risk losing their jobs. This is really great news for the freedoms and liberties of Americans! This ruling ensures that no business in Iowa will have to require employees be vaccinated. A business may still choose to require vaccination, but there is no federal requirement or state enforcement.
The Court said that the administration “lacked authority to impose the mandate.” It observed that OSHA may “set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures” and that “this is no everyday exercise of federal power. It is instead a significant encroachment into the lives-and health-of a vast number of employees.”
If a business chooses to require vaccinations and an employee doesn’t get one, what can an employee do?
An employee in Iowa can fill out a medical or religious exemption for the vaccine. Under Iowa law, all an employee must do is fill out the exemption.
Late in 2021 the Governor signed HF 902 and added more protection for employees. The new law makes it clear that if an employer requires an employee to get a COVID-19 vaccine, the employer must also accept a religious or medical waiver from their employees and waive the vaccine requirement if a signed statement is presented. If an employee is fired for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine and they have submitted an exemption, they can still receive unemployment benefits. State law protects employees from being forced to pick between their job and their rights.
State law does not prohibit the employer from asking employees if they have had the COVID vaccine, and this is where we tried to include protections for employees last spring-now we’re still working on it for this session. A bill is being prepared offering stronger protections and I am hopeful we can get it passed.
An additional thought: I also would think that for an employer to ask about the employee’s COVID vaccination status, it would appear to be a violation of federal HIPAA law. This is something that will probably have to be tested in court.
Also state law doesn’t prevent the employer from requiring masks, weekly testing, etc. (which I view as discriminatory if only required of the unvaccinated and not the vaccinated too since all can transmit the virus).
Bad News: Health Facility Vaccination Mandate Upheld
The US Supreme Court allowed the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) COVID vaccination rules to go into effect. The 5-4 ruling largely relies on Congress authorizing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make rules for health facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid that are “in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who are furnished services in the institution.”
The Court references many CMS regulations for infection prevention and control of communicable diseases and infection as a basis for upholding the vaccination requirement. Additionally, the Court acknowledges that vaccination requirements are common in the health care profession.
This is disappointing. Justice Thomas spoke correctly in his dissent that Congress did not grant the agency the authority “to force healthcare workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo.”
CMS announced emergency rules requiring employees at health care facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid payment by being Medicare Conditions of Participation providers (hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospices, public health agencies, etc) must begin COVID vaccination series by a date in the near future. If you are not one of the listed health care facilities, you are not covered by this regulation (assisted living, physician’s offices, home and community-based services).
The regulation does allow for medical and religious exemptions that must be documented by the health care employer. The medical exemption written in the rules is more stringent than our new state law and would require an identified contraindication to the vaccine and signature from a health care provider.
The religious exemption is written broadly based on EEOC guidance, and it appears that our new state law is not in conflict with the rules in this situation, meaning an employer should accept an employee’s statement that this violates their religious beliefs.
If a facility grants an exemption, they must document the accommodations that they will be providing for that employee (physical distancing, testing).
The rule does include students and volunteers as eligible staff that are required to be vaccinated, unless they have an exemption. The rule does not apply to full-time telework employees.
Unlike the previously discussed OSHA rules, the CMS rules do not allow for testing as an alternative to vaccination (unless it is a chosen accommodation for someone that receives an exemption).