Ashley’s Angle: Week Nine 3/5/18
Trusted. Proven. Leader.
Thank you so much for entrusting me to represent Iowa House District 67. I am proud to represent people from Marion, Robins, Hiawatha, and Cedar Rapids.
Community College Day
This past Tuesday was the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees Day on the Hill. I was able to catch up with my friends at Kirkwood, including some of their Board of Trustees members and one of their PACE students. The PACE program is a great program because it offers short-term training and advanced degree programs for middle-skill careers. It allows students the ability to seek training based on their developmental needs, career goals, and personal situation. Middle-skill jobs make up the majority of the jobs in Iowa’s labor market, but there is still currently a shortage of qualified applicants for these positions. I believe the PACE program, which has been adopted by community colleges across the state, is a great option for individuals that want to make their futures brighter!
Congratulations Under Secretary Northey!
This past week I had the honor to watch as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was sworn in as a new USDA Under Secretary. Bill has done so much for Iowans over the last decade as our Secretary of Ag. I’m confident that he will continue to work to provide what is best for Americans in his new position, and I wish him the best of luck!
Keeping Schools Transparent
This past Wednesday, I ran a subcommittee meeting in which we discussed HF 2278, a bill that I covered as the Bill of the Week in last week’s newsletter. Otherwise known as the “School District Transparency Act”, this bill would create more accountability and transparency in school funding by creating an online, searchable database that will allow taxpayers to view the details on how school districts are spending their tax dollars and other school revenues, and the performance results achieved for those expenditures. I’m happy to say this bill was passed out of the subcommittee and will soon be discussed in the full Appropriations committee.
Violent Crimes Kit
During the week, we passed HF 2312, which is a bill that requires the Department of Public Safety to develop and implement a plan to test all violent crime evidence collection kits within 90 days. This plan will be posted online. Reducing the backlog on sexual assault kits has been a priority of mine in the legislature. Last year, I championed getting additional dollars to hire staff for this very purpose at the crime lab. I am happy to see this becoming a priority for all legislators.
Updates on Medicaid
This week, we passed a bill to address the Medicaid managed care program. Since the implementation of managed care, there have been challenges, and we have listened to Medicaid members and providers about the difficulties they have had. These issues include communication from the managed care organizations (MCOs), timeliness of payment, prior authorizations, appeals, level of care determinations, health homes, and credentialing. This bill addresses many of these concerns and brings even stronger oversight and accountability to managed care.
Holding MCOs Accountable to Providers:
Holding MCOs Accountable to Members:
Stronger Oversight of the Medicaid System:
We remain committed to assisting any Medicaid member or provider that is having a issues navigating the managed care program. The MCOs are contractors for the state, and they should be held accountable if they are not fulfilling the obligations to the state and those it serves. Please contact me if I can assist in any way.
Managing Uncertainty in State Revenues
In our Appropriations committee meeting this week, we had the great opportunity to hear from Stephen Bailey and Patrick Murray, who are with the Pew Charitable Trusts Organization. The Pew Charitable Trusts is a public charity driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew works in a non-partisan way to conduct fact-based research and rigorous analysis to improve policy, inform the public, and invigorate civic life.
Stephen and Patrick gave us a presentation about how state governments can manage uncertainty in state revenues. Over the last couple decades, state revenues are becoming increasingly difficult to forecast, which leads to a more difficult process when determining appropriations. Stephen and Patrick laid out possible options that other states have adopted in order to mitigate the problems relating to when revenue collections were not as the forecasts had projected. It was a very informational meeting in which we learned about ways to better plan and prepare for Iowa’s future.
Bill of the Week
The bill of the week is… HF 2467.
HF 2467 is a bill that relates to the school meal programs that are offered by the districts. One specific aspect of this bill is the prohibition of schools from “shaming” students that cannot pay or who owe debt. More specifically, schools are prohibited from posting a list of students who owe money for school meals, publicly identifying or stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a meal or who owes a meal debt, requiring the student to consume the meal at a table set aside for such purpose, to do chores or other work to pay for meals, or denying the student participation in an after school program or other extracurricular activity. While some districts have policies that address this, many do not.
The bill also requires schools to notify families at least twice a year about the free and reduced price meals program. I think this is a great policy, because many times there are income level changes for families through the year. Knowing the resource is available is important to making sure these students don’t fall through the cracks and are able to eat at school.
Additionally, there are times when parents can afford to pay, but don’t. Schools should have a tool to be able to collect on debt. This bill provides a tool once debt reaches a $500 level and other reasonable efforts to collect those dollars have been made.
I started working on language for this bill last year with Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D-Cedar Rapids). We have worked together with members of our respective parties, and the bill manager Rep. Kevin Koester (R-Ankeny) to make this a really sound and bi-partisan policy that doesn’t put an unfunded mandate on our schools.
If you have any questions about this or any other bill, please feel free to contact me. You can find the full text of the bill here: HF 2467.
Yay Small Business!
On Thursday, the House introduced a House Resolution that honored small businesses, which you can find in its full text here. Scott Swenson, the Regional Director of the Kirkwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Hiawatha, was one of the individuals that visited the House for this resolution. It was great to talk to Scott about what the SBDC does, including providing free business planning, financing options, market research, loan proposal assistance, business growth strategies, new business guidance, business succession strategies, and business disaster counseling.
On Wednesday, the Iowa House had the opportunity to meet the Tulip Queen and her Court. A long tradition in Pella, the annual Tulip Festival will be celebrating its 83rd year. While visiting the Capitol, the Tulip Court introduced themselves and sang us a song that many of us know, “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music. They even passed out one of my favorite things: Dutch Letters! The song and snacks were a great way to start the morning, and it reminded me of the time I marched in the Tulip Parade back in junior high as part of the drum line!
I am continuing to develop my Constituent Advisory Committee.