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Week Twelve

As session is drawing towards a close, we have remained very active this week, debating bills on the House floor and working with colleagues from the Senate on bills as they make their way back and forth from each chamber.

Agriculture

On March 28, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued a press release stating that emerald ash borer (EAB) has been identified in a residential tree in Newton, Jasper County.

While this is not in my legislative district, it is important to spread information like this to stop the spread of extremely dangerous insects. The main ways EAB make their way to new areas is through the transportation of infested firewood, nursery plants or sawmill logs. An adult beetle can also fly short distances, approximately 2 to 5 miles.

If you are suspicious of EAB on your property, contact the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Forestry Bureau.

Environmental Protection

On Wednesday, April 2, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced that the Watershed Improvement Review Board approved six applications for grants to support projects that will improve water quality in the state. One of the approved grants went to the Hickory Grove Lake Watershed in Story County. The Story County Conservation Board will receive $233, 095.

Human Resources

On Wednesday, the House Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee met and passed the FY2015 budget. The Health and Human Services Budget includes the Department on Aging, the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Services. Notable changes from the governor’s budget include:

Department of Human Services

• Medicaid – The governor funded Medicaid at the low end of the forecasting range. The governor’s budget spends $1,531.2 in total State funds and funds Medicaid by 42.4 million below the midpoint estimate of the Medicaid forecasting group. The House version of the bill funds Medicaid at a much higher rate. The House budget appropriates $1,548.7 million in total State funding and funds Medicaid within the range of the Medicaid forecasting group midpoint.

• Miller Trusts – The House bill appropriates an additional $252,000 as a result of the passage of HF 2159. HF 2159 raised the Miller Trust upper limit to 125 percent of the average statewide cost of nursing care. This will allow more people to utilize the Miller Trust option to pay for their care without having to take extraordinary measures, such as divorce, to lower their income to receive Medicaid.

• HCBS Waiver Waiting List Buydown – Last year, the conference committee report appropriated over $8 million to DHS to help get people off of waiting lists for home- and community-based services. This money was vetoed by the governor. The waiting lists continue to grow. As a result, the House put $4,847,559 to help reduce the waiting lists.

Department of Public Health

• The House added $50,000 for community water fluoridation education.

• The House increased the appropriation for the donated dental services program by $43,043. The House bill eliminates the specialty care collaborative because these people will now receive insurance through the Iowa Health and Wellness plan.

Veterans Affairs

Last week the House passed Senate File 303 by a vote of 94 to 2. The bill was a compilation of several House files that were amended together on the House floor to create an inclusive, pro-veteran legislative package. The bill contained the following provisions:

• Exempts federal retirement pay received for military service from the state individual income tax retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014.

• Exempts military survivor benefits from Iowa income tax.

• Eliminates the special plate issuance fees ($25 or $35) charged for certain special motor vehicle registration plates associated with military service, but requires the $5 annual validation fee to still be paid.

• Clarifies that property owned by veteran associations can be rented or leased irregularly without jeopardizing their property tax exemption.

• Allows private sector employers to grant a preference in hiring and promotion for veterans and some spouses. (Permissive, not mandatory)

• Requires community colleges and regent universities to file certain reports on educational credits awarded to veterans.

• Requires all professional and occupational licensing boards to adopt rules to provide credit towards licensure for veterans with appropriate military education, service, and training.

• Makes changes to County Commissions of Veteran Affairs, including adding to the list of responsibilities of the director of the County Commission, making changes to recordkeeping and making changes to policies dealing with care and maintenance of graves.

Multiple policy committees looked at the various parts of the bill before it was voted on the House floor. Senate File 303 is now in the Senate for further consideration.

As always, feel free to contact me at rob.bacon@legis.iowa.gov.

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