News from Des Moines
Week 7 of the session was marked by a shift from committee work to floor debate with dozens of bills passing on the floor this week. The vast majority of bills were “non-controversial” bills that received nearly unanimous support.
• House File 2199 – Penalties for Card Skimmers – This bill ensures that penalties will be applied to those that use devices that read and record credit and debit card numbers of unsuspecting persons. The Bill creates a new criminal offense providing that a person shall not use or possess such a device. A person who violates this provision commits an aggravated misdemeanor. This bill passed the House 98-0.
• House File 2428 – Medicaid Recipient Work Requirements – This bill directs the Department of Human Services to request a federal Medicaid waiver to require Iowa Health and Wellness Plan (IHWP) members to participate in work activity to remain eligible for Medicaid. IHWP covers about one fourth of the Medicaid recipients in Iowa, roughly 150,000 individuals that are on Medicaid for financial reasons, not due to incapacity. To be eligible for IHWP, you must be an adult age 19-64 and have an income that does not exceed 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($15,282 for a single person, $20,628 for a family of two, $25,975 for a family of three, and $31,322 for a family of four). This bill passed the Human Resources committee 13-8 and is eligible for floor debate.
• House File 2305 – Telehealth – This bill will require health care insurance to cover Telehealth care just the same as it would cover a face to face visit between a patient and a health care professional. Telehealth uses audio-visual technology to connect a patient and health care professional. Allowing Telehealth helps rural Iowans increase their access to a doctor, saving travel time and expense. This bill passed out of the Commerce committee unanimously.
With the horrific events at the school in Parkland, Fla. last week, I have received questions on what security options our schools in Iowa have. Iowa schools can have armed security in the schools. While firearms are prohibited on school grounds per Iowa Code 724.4B, there are exceptions. 724.4B makes carrying any firearms, even concealed, a class D felony. The exceptions include police officers, those specifically authorized by the school (such as for training purposes), or a licensed private investigator or security agent. These exceptions allow schools to have someone hired to provide security or have an agreement with the local police to have an officer assigned as a School Resource Officer (SRO).
Schools can use general fund money for security equipment, and they can use funds from the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) on our property taxes. PPEL consists of a school board-approved portion (33 cents per $1000 of valuation) and a voter-approved portion ($1.34 per $1,000 of valuation). Per Iowa code, districts can use PPEL funds for the construction of buildings and to repair, remodel, improve, or expand buildings, all of which could include adding security features. Schools can also use the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) funds, a statewide one-cent sales tax that is sent to school districts for infrastructure purposes. The use of those funds overlaps with PPEL uses.
Currently the Senate is working on a bill, Senate File 2364, which would require school districts to have in place an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) by next year. Many districts already have such a plan in place, but not all do. The bill would require that the development of the plan include consultation with local law enforcement and local emergency management coordinators.
State Rep. Dean Fisher can be reached at 641-750-3594 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org