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Cornfields, Common Sense and Community
March 28, 2018

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The Senate has efficiently moved bills along this week. This year's work seems to be flowing well in the Senate. Even though there have been areas of disagreement, common ground is overwhelmingly being found.

Areas where common ground was found, but not limited to this week were: mental health, health care solutions, work force development and education. There was also a bipartisan effort to confirm Jerry Foxhoven to the director of Department of Health and Human Services.

The Senate and House have come to an agreement on the bill we need to pass in order to balance our budget for the current year. While revenue has slowly been growing, it has been short of estimates, requiring us to make adjustments to the budgets of various agencies and departments that use state funding. The bill, which passed the Senate and House this week, cuts overall state spending by about $35 million.

The Senate passed House Joint Resolution 2009, which proposes an amendment to the Iowa Constitution. This proposal would begin the process of doing what 44 other states have done and adopting Second Amendment language to the Iowa Constitution, if approved by the people of Iowa. The identical language of this bill must be passed by the next General Assembly of lawmakers. Then, the proposed amendment goes to Iowa citizens for a vote. I believe this bill is a necessary step to ensure the right to bear arms in our state for those who abide by the law. The bill passed the Senate 34-15.

On Tuesday this week we celebrated National Agriculture Day. Agriculture has been and always will be the backbone of Iowa's economy. Iowa's fantastic soil and climate allow almost a third of Iowa's population to make Iowa one of the largest exporters of soybeans, pork, corn, feed, fodder and processed grain in the country. Many of us go home to our farms after session to grow our crops and livestock, and participate in one of the things Iowa is known for - feeding our country and the world.

Delivering Health Care Solution for Iowans

The Senate passed several bills this week to address health care and services in Iowa.

One of these bills, House File 2456, builds on Iowa's community-based mental health system and works to improve mental healthcare by decreasing fragmentation of services.

This proposal expands services to include evidence-based preventative services to help mental health patients before crisis and treat patients in the proper setting. It also removes the statewide sub-acute bed cap and allows facilities to transition patients to a lower level of care before they prepare to return home. The policy improves the communication and processes between mental health professionals and law enforcement to prevent long-distance trips across the state for care. Finally this new legislation allows mental health providers to make health care determinations.

The Senate also passed HF 2356 which clarifies that a direct primary care contract can be entered into between a patient and a provider. Under this proposal, an individual or family can enter into a contract with direct primary care provider for a set amount of services. This provides another option for people who perhaps can't afford costly health care premiums, want a plan that covers a few essential services, or someone who just wants quicker access to some health services. One would still need to get a catastrophic plan for services not covered. A few other states have looked at this as an option for health care for their citizens as health care costs continue to rise.

Another one of the bills the Senate passed this week was House File 2305, which prohibits insurance companies from discriminating between coverage benefits for health care services provided via telehealth versus those provided in person. This is an important update to our law as telehealth services grow in our rural communities. Those Iowans can expect to have insurance pay for those services just as if they were provided in person.

Future Ready Iowa

Iowa employers continue to share a need for more skilled workers and an educated workforce. Whether it is at a town hall meeting or during a visit at the Iowa Capitol, many business owners stress these two factors are imperative if they want to continue to grow and be successful. The governor's Future Ready Iowa proposal focuses on expanding learning programs for those exploring new career opportunities.

Governor Reynolds' Future Ready Iowa proposal is intended to educate and train Iowans. The goal is for 70 percent of Iowans to have education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. This bill would open doors to apprenticeship and internship programs as well as make available resources to pursue the new educational opportunities.

This bill has been well received by Iowa employers and at the Iowa Statehouse. It passed unanimously in both chambers. The future is looking very bright for Iowans, and this policy keeps us moving in the right direction.

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