ACTION ALERT Number Three
April 11, 2014
The Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
Legislative Advocacy Team
End of the Legislative Session Actions
Thank You for all you did to help get strong, positive Human Trafficking Legislation passed this year. Through strong bi-partisan support and helpful initiatives from both the House and the Senate, Human Trafficking laws for Iowa were strengthened and those who are the victims of human trafficking were recognized as victims instead of criminals. There is still more to accomplish to assure that victims are given the long term care they need to recover from their experience, but we are happy with what has been sent to the Governor. Thank you for taking time to learn about the issue and to support appropriate legislation. Please take time to thank your representatives and senators for supporting this legislation.
BILLS THAT NEED YOUR ACTION
There are several important bills (including some appropriation bills) that will be considered next week that need your attention. We will list the Committee and Committee leaders (and/or members) to whom we believe you would be most influential in contacting. We will list their phone numbers. If you prefer contacting them by e-mail, their legislative e-mail address is very simple to compose. You simply type the first name of the legislator you wish to contact (all small letters, ie., dick) place a period, and then type the last name, ie. dick.dearden and then type @legis.iowa.gov (please note periods after legis and iowa) so the entire e-mail address would look like this: email@example.com It is important to contact your own legislator to voice your concerns. Thanks for whatever you choose to do.
LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM ( LIHEAP)
This program is administered by the Community Action Agencies in the state to assist qualified families with their winter heating bills. After April 1 of each year, utilities can be disconnected from homes where the families are not current on their bills. With the unusually cold winter, many low income families need help. (The information on the next page from the Community Action Association describes the problem. It was compiled by Lana Ross, who was previously the Legislative Advocate for the United Methodist Church.)
The Senate has passed a supplemental appropriation for $2 million. The House has considered $1 million supplement. Please call your representative and senator and encourage them to vote for the largest amount fiscally possible. Call Governor Branstad to urge him to sign the supplemental LIHEAP appropriation. Senators: 515-281-3371. Representatives: 515-281-3221 Governor: 515-281-5211.
Facts and Data Relating to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
· December 2013 - Community Action Agencies (CAA)s made 43 emergency deliveries of Propane to LIHEAP Households ($35,019)
· January 2014 – CAAs made 531 emergency deliveries of Propane to LIHEAP ($236,804)
· February 2014 - CAAs made 955 emergency deliveries of Propane to LIHEAP ($489,996)
Investor Owned Utility issue:
According to the Iowa Utility Board
· The total revenue owed to IOUs February 2014- $46,029,616, the highest level ever reported for any month
· The total revenue owed to IOUs for LIHEAP recipients is $11,720,985, the seconded highest ever recorded for January
· Past due accounts for LIHEAP recipients generally peak in February or March so we should anticipate the worst is yet to come.
This information justifies a state appropriation to support households struggling to maintain a stable home environment. Iowa does not invest state funds into LIHEAP. This year, some of our neighboring states have made a state appropriation, including Missouri and Minnesota. The harsh winter temperatures have played havoc on low income households and the worst is yet to come.
When the 35,000 LIHEAP recipients come to a community action agency to get emergency help catching up on their utility bill in April when the moratorium ends, there will very little resources available to assist them. Typically a CAA can use Emergency Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) to help but more than $700,000 of these funds have been used to assist propane households due to the severe winter and high propane costs.
Typically the state has just over $5 million for start up costs (including pre-purchase of propane in the summer) as states don’t get the federal funds until after the program begins but these start up funds have been decreased to around $3 million, which hinders CAAs ability to prepare for next year.
Lana Ross- 515-681-9298
(The Senate bill that was passed was SF 2110. However, now the supplemental appropriation will be special legislation. When you talk to your legislators and the governor’s office, just tell them you are calling to support supplemental money for LIHEAP.)
(The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 2012, has two resolutions which encourage us to support actions such as this: Resolution 3392 “Rural Communities in Crisis” and Resolution 4091 “Principles of Welfare Reform”.)
MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA
The 2012 Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, Resolution 3042, “Alcohol and Other Drugs,” states
Some studies indicate circumstances in which marijuana can have an important palliative medicinal effect unavailable through other means. The medical use of any drug, however, should not be seen as encouraging recreational use of it. We urge all persons to abstain from all use of marijuana, unless it has been legally prescribed in a form appropriate for treating a particular medical condition. (page 209)
There was an excellent article on the Opinion Page of the Des Moines Register on Thursday, April 10, written by two women who describe how medical use of marijuana can help their epileptic children.
Senator Mike Gronstal, Majority Leader of the Senate, has agreed to offer a bill for the medical use of marijuana, but it can only be passed this late in the session if the Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Bill Dix, agrees to co-sponsor it.
We support the medical use of marijuana and urge you to call Senator Dix to encourage him to cosponsor a bill to legalize it. His home number is 319-885-6790, and his office at the senate is 515-281-3560. We do not support recreational use of marijuana. Also call your representative and senator to urge their support.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES APPROPRIATIONS (HF 2463)
Children’s Mental Health Waiver
1,615 Iowa children currently need immediate access to the Children's Mental Health Waiver. The waiver provides a comprehensive support system that allows children to remain in their home as opposed to more costly institutions that are often far away from their communities. Without this waiver, most families cannot afford the many needed evidence-based therapies that are not covered by insurance, they cannot afford needed respite, or locate basic services such as childcare that will work with children with severe mental illness.
The Iowa House of Representatives announced a commitment of appropriating $4.8 million towards this issue for the seven (7) home and community based waivers (of which, the children’s mental health waiver is one). This is a great "start" and for that advocates can be proud of their efforts and grateful to policy makers who are attempting to address these critical needs.
Representative Dave Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant), Chair of the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, expressed disappointment, in not being able to appropriate more than $4.8 million, but he did what he could within his budget target.
We are grateful for this. However, the reality is that the waiting lists (more than 7500 people) have become grossly unreasonable in size and in duration of wait. Neither $4.8 million, nor even double that would eliminate the lists in one year’s time. For proper caring of mentally ill and disabled, we need to do more.
Action: Call Rep. Heaton and thank him for the $4.8 million to start reducing the Waiver waiting lists. Continue to encourage him to seek and support $8 million. Home 319-385-9342 Cell 319-931-4792. (Also talk to Rep Heaton on Broadlawns funding—see next item.)
Sen. Appropriations: Call Chair: Sen. Jack Hatch (515-243-4675) and Ranking Member: Mark Segebart (712-269-4519) asking them to support the $4.8 million to reduce Waiver waiting lists and increase amount to $8 million.
Broadlawns Hospital Expansion of Mental Health Programs
DESCRIPTION of BROADLAWNS PROJECT
(This is an email from NAMI Greater Des Moines advocating for the appropriation of $6 million dollars (over multiple years) to help with the mental health care facilities expansion for Broadlawns Hospital. )
The legislative efforts for the redesign of the mental health system – up to this year – have been setting the stage for building services in the state, increasing access, and building workforce capacity in the Iowa mental health system. The Broadlawns project takes the next step.
• Building services – Iowa is 47th in the nation for # of hospital beds for persons with mental illness. Talk to any county sheriff and you will find out they are transporting people to acute care beds across the state and out of state because there are so few of them. Acute care beds are full every day and people are being turned away.
Broadlawns has maximized space in the Sands unit by recently adding 4 acute adult mental health beds. The Broadlawns project will add 15-20 adult inpatient beds as part of their project.
· Increasing access – Broadlawns has doubled their clinical staff but lacks efficient and adequate space to meet with clients. Right now there are 5 locations within the hospital for mental health care – it is not patient friendly, and lacks space for all practitioners to meet with clients on a regular and full-time basis. The second part of the Broadlawns request is to build a mental health clinic with sufficient space for present practitioners and for future growth. They can see more patients with more space.
· Increasing Workforce capacity – In partnership with Des Moines University, Broadlawns is accredited as a teaching hospital. As a part of the proposal, they intend to add a psychiatric residency program – 3 the first year, 3 the 2nd year, and 3 the third year (to start with). This will increase licensed mental health professionals in Iowa (build capacity). Statewide, right now, there is only 1 program at U. of Iowa for psychologists and 1 for psychiatrists.
o Iowa is 46th in the nation for # of psychologists.
o Iowa is 47th in the nation for # of psychiatrists.
In addition, a telehealth project of expansion to the rural areas for mental health care assistance is part of the proposed project.
The total Broadlawns project is estimated to cost $15,850,000 – of which only $6 million is being asked from the state. Private fundraising has already started. The attraction of other large donors, however, hinges on the support shown by the state via the $6 million dollar request spread over two years.
The Broadlawns project will build services (with statewide benefits), increase access (for an increasing statewide population seeking services as a result of Medicaid expansion) and build workforce capacity (for the benefit of both urban and rural areas).
The Iowa Senate has approved the Broadlawns project. The Iowa House committee has removed this project from the RIIF (Rebuild Iowa) appropriations.
ACTION: Contact Rep. David Heaton to ask for his support of this project--$3 million in 2014 and $3 million in 2015. (SF 2349) Home 319-385-9342 Cell 319-931-4792 Contact your own representative to ask for their support. There is bipartisan support for this. Contact: Chuck Soderberg Approriations Chair asking him to reconsider and support the Broadlawns project. 712-546-6136 (H) 712-546-4141 (O)
Contact Sen. Hatch (515-243-4675) and Ranking Member: Mark Segebart (712-269-4519) asking them to support the $6 million appropriations. Ask your senator to support the Broadlawns project.
STATE CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
SF 2251 This senate bill changes the eligibility standards for poor families from having to work at least 28 hours per week to “employed or are participating at a satisfactory level in an approved training program or educational program. The Senate version of this bill puts these new standards in effect state wide.
S 5080 is the House version which accepts the same standards but for the first year only implements the standards in four counties as a pilot project. The department of human services shall implement a pilot project in Hamilton, Lee, Pottawattamie, and Scott counties for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 9 2014.
Action: Thank your representative and senator for supporting the new eligibility standards as it recognizes the importance of education and new training to help low income families get out of poverty and become self-sufficient.
Contact Rep. David Heaton (see phone info above) to ask him to support the state-wide implementation of these standards.
The Legislative Action Team sees value in both approaches, but believes that the Senate version helps families in the whole state. If the plan for allowing some hours for education is sound, than it should be a state-wide standard.
PAYMENT OF WAGES USING DEBIT CARDS (SF 2350)
The bill regulates debit cards/pay cards as a relatively new method of payment for wages. Unfortunately, abuses are taking place. Some workers are reporting getting shorted on their pay, not receiving pay stubs and being required to pay sizable fees to find out how much money is on the pay card. Many of these abuses are already against the law.
Pay cards are not bad in and of themselves, however, they seem to be more opaque to users and may be more easily abused by some unscrupulous employers. Workers must be paid what they're due. This bill gives the worker the right to choose which way he/she is paid. It also regulates fees charged for use of debit cards.
Action: Encourage your representative and senator to support S 2350.