|The past couple weeks have been increasingly busy as we get closer to the first funnel date of March 3. The deadline has passed to initiate individually sponsored bills this legislative session and the upcoming funnel deadline will certainly be busy as all bills must get through subcommittee and committee to advance. Many groups continue to visit the capitol, including a large number of landowners concerned about the liquefied CO2 pipelines which are being advanced prior to an Iowa Utilities Board permit application and the potential use of eminent domain. |
I have received numerous questions about the House Bill related to SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which was an early draft that was expected to be significantly amended before passage. A related bill – Senate Study Bill 1105 – was introduced last week and strives to improve oversight and better enforce eligibility standards for Iowa’s public assistance programs. This is so important due to the massive rise in fraudulent payments and erroneous unemployment insurance overpayments, which exceeded $129 million last year. These reforms are critical to ensure an appropriate amount is available to those eligible and in need of these assistance programs.
One bill that was passed through the Senate last week was Senate File 75, which provides a new license for rural emergency hospitals (REH) which, in alignment with federal code, will help ensure rural communities retain 24/7 emergency health services and would help stabilize rural hospitals and help bring in more funds via Medicare. This bipartisan bill (passed the Senate 48-0) also included state licensure of ambulatory surgical centers will help ensure health care services access across rural Iowa.
Following the Health and Human Services reorganization last year, this year the governor introduced another streamlining bill, Senate Study Bill 1123, the “Government Reorganization Plan,” with the laudable goal of reducing the number of state cabinet heads from 37 to 16, eliminating redundancies and providing a more effective structuring of state government – which should also achieve efficiency gains in the process. This bill is very large and has raised a number of questions from various leaders across my district and both the House and the Senate continue to study, discuss and evaluate its many details. One such example is a new Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services, a merger of the Iowa Insurance Division, Iowa Division of Banking, and the Iowa Division of Credit Unions.
An issue getting some attention this week the challenge of ensuring veterinary services are accessible in rural areas. These services are so important in this district because of the significant number of livestock operations. I have discussed this important issue with concerned farmers from the area. Another initiative that was discussed was the Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program, which gives up to $60,000 dollars in student loan repayment to Iowa veterinarians to attract and retain veterinarians to rural Iowa, especially those areas with a shortage of this critical care.
As a freshman I was excited to have the opportunity to chair a Technology subcommittee to ensure the maximum flexibility in using federal funds available for broadband in under-served areas of the state. Another bill I introduced, with assistance from county attorneys in my district, has made the funnel date and hopefully will pass the Senate in the coming weeks. This bill seeks to simplify and make consistent the penalties for overweight vehicles, and should save our counties and state time and money.