Washington Evening Journal
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Collins Capitol Connection
By State Rep. Taylor Collins
Mar. 30, 2023 12:33 pm
It’s the eleventh week of the legislative session and floor debate continues on many bills as we now begin considering pieces of legislation sent over to us by the Senate. As we soon enter the last month of work at the Capitol we will also begin working through the details of the state budget, and ensure Iowans tax dollars are being spent responsibly
DSM Register Polling Released – Iowa Parents are with House Republicans
Over the past two weeks, the Des Moines Register and Mediacom have been releasing the results of their most recent poll on many issues in front of the Legislature this session. As you look at the data they collected, one trend becomes clear. House Republicans are on the side of Iowa parents. Much of what we have focused on in the House this session and for the past few years has been focusing on parents’ rights. Below are some key results to point out from the most recent Iowa Poll:
•Iowa parents with children under 18: The way the Iowa Legislature is handling its job — 52% approve, 30% disapprove.
•Iowa parents with children in public school: The way the Iowa Legislature is handling its job — 47% approve, 35% disapprove.
•Iowa parents with children under 18: A ban on public schools teaching students about gender identity in kindergarten through sixth grade – 60% approve, 39% disapprove.
•Iowa parents with children under 18: Ban public schools from teaching students about sexual orientation in kindergarten through sixth grade — 57% approve, 40% disapprove.
•Iowa parents with children under 18: Ban gender-affirming medical treatment such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgeries for transgender or nonbinary youth under 18 – 50% approve, 44% disapprove.
•Iowa parents with children under 18: Relax child labor laws to allow teens to work in previously restricted jobs and work longer hours so long as they are part of an approved training program – 57% approve.
•Iowa parents with kids in public school: Cut property taxes, limiting what local governments could spend on services – 67% approve, 28% disapprove.
•I’m always hesitant to put too much stock in public polling, however it is one helpful snapshot to provide some insight on Iowans’ attitudes. It’s clear from this poll that House Republicans and Iowa parents are on the same page on many of the issues facing our state.
House Moves to Protect the Rights of Property Owners
This week the House passed a bill to protect landowner rights as three major CO2 pipeline projects are in the works in Iowa. This bill gets at the crux of the issue – eminent domain should not be used for private gain. It requires that carbon capture pipeline companies to reach voluntary easements for 90% of the land on their route before they could seek to use eminent domain. It also creates an interim study committee that will make recommendations to improve eminent domain policy in Iowa. That study committee will take a look at the following issue that have been discussed at length throughout this process:
•Standards for entering land for surveying purposes
•Review of land restoration standards
•Review of eminent domain public benefit and private use tests
•Engineering study analysis
•Land compensation practices and procedures
•Iowa Utility Board perspectives
I understand that this bill may not be seen as perfect by folks on either side of this issue. We want to support the ethanol industry while ensuring private property rights are respected. We think this bill strikes that balance. This is not about opposing the pipelines, but about opposing the use of eminent domain to construct the pipelines. These companies should not be able to use the heavy hand of government to trample on the rights of landowners.
House Passes Teacher Empowerment Bill
This week the House also passed House File 604 which is the teacher empowerment bill in a bipartisan manner. Early in session House Republicans met with teachers from around the state who asked for help in managing behavioral issues in their classrooms. Teachers spoke about the issues of violence in the classroom, disruptive behaviors, lack of support from the administration, and numerous trainings they felt were useless, redundant, or unnecessary. HF 604 is a direct response to that meeting.
Multiple teachers have relayed stories of their classrooms being destroyed by out of control behavior along with getting physically assaulted or hit in some manner. According to the Department of Education, there were 63,667 instances of students being removed from classrooms in the 2021-2022 school year. Of those, approximately 36,970, or 58.1%, involved violence or a potential violation of Iowa law. Those are just the numbers that were actually reported!
According to the teachers who met with our members, they are being told to sweep things under the rug, or to keep things to themselves. Which means these numbers may be low. If violent incidents are not accurately reported, teachers, students and parents are the ones who suffer the consequences.
The bill that was passed by the House gives teachers a place to make a complaint if their administration is failing them. Teachers can file a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office and the ombudsman will forward their findings on to the Board of Educational Examiners or the Department of Education. The bill also gives whistleblower protection for teachers who do make these complaints. Administrators cannot penalize them for sticking up for themselves or reporting what is going on. The bill lets teachers know they do have rights when they are being attacked or someone else is being attacked. It will be clear to teachers that they don’t just have to sit there and take it.
The teacher has to report incidents of violence or property damage to the principal within 24 hours and the principal has to report it to the parent or guardian 24 hours after that report was made to them. If the teacher feels like the administrator is not following up, the teacher may contact the parent or guardian themselves.
An important piece of this bill is laying out an escalated discipline policy. First, at all times, a teacher may remove a disruptive student from the classroom under the supervision of a School Resource Officer or administrator. For the first offense when a teacher removes a disruptive student, the district shall facilitate a counseling session between the student and the school counselor and place the student in one day of in-school suspension after the counseling session. For the second offense, facilitate a counseling session and place the student in five days of in-school suspension. For the third offense, the school district may permanently remove the student from the classroom but they must consider an alternative learning environment for that student.
Teachers have reached out thanking us for this bill. House Republicans and House Democrats worked together, along with the Iowa State Education Association, and other education groups to come up with a bill that supports Iowa’s teachers.
Mental Health Legislation Moves Forward
The Iowa Legislature continues to prioritize expanding access to mental health care in the state by passing bills to recruit and retain mental health providers in every corner of the state. Below is a list of bills that help expand access to mental health care and where they are at in the process:
•Medical Malpractice – House File 161 limits the total amount of non-economic damages for a medical malpractice claim at $2 million for causes of action involving a hospital, and at $1 million for all other causes of action. This bill was signed by the Governor on last month.
•Rural Emergency Hospitals – Senate File 75 establishes licensure in Iowa for Rural Emergency Hospitals. Federal law created this designation in 2020, and has allowed this new hospital designation to begin Jan. 1, 2023. This bill also requires ambulatory surgical centers to be licensed in Iowa. This bill has passed both chambers.
•Mental Health Non-Competes – House File 93 prohibits noncompete agreements with mental health providers, allowing the provider to stay with their patient. This bill awaits consideration in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
• Psychologist Prescribing – House File 183 removes the requirement that a psychologist complete certain requirements within 5 years of being issued a conditional prescription certificate. This bill also changes that the physician supervising does not need to be board-certified in specific specialties. This bill awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
•Psychiatrist Public Fellowship – House File 274 revises the state-funded psychiatry residency program that was established last session, to include two fellowship positions. The program will annually graduate nine psychiatry residents and two psychiatry fellows. This bill awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
•Physician Assistants – House File 424 repeals requirements that physician assistants practice under the supervision of a physician, and instead requires collaboration. This bill awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
•Commitment Hearings – House File 466 allows health care providers who have examined a patient involved in a substance abuse or mental health commitment to testify by video. Current law only allows for telephone testimony. This bill awaits consideration in the Senate HHS Committee.
•Mental Health and Disability Services – House File 471 comes from the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to specialize the Independence Mental Health Institute to behaviorally complex youth and the Cherokee MHI to acute and forensic adults, makes changes to the Regional MHDS Governing Board makeup, and adds competency-based restoration to the core service domains of the MHDS Regions. This bill awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
•Substance Abuse – House File 621 requires DHHS establish a rate structure for Medicaid reimbursement for substance use disorder residential and intensive outpatient treatment services. This bill awaits a subcommittee being scheduled in the Senate.
•Mental Health Loan Forgiveness – House File 151 expands the current program to include prescribing mental health providers. This bill is being considered in the House Appropriations Committee.
There is still a lot of work to do in the areas of mental health, but these bills are another great step!
Ways & Means Committee Approves Veterinary Practice Code Changes
Last week the House Ways & Means Committee passed House File 670 by a unanimous vote. The bill updates the state Veterinary Practice Code for the first time in over 25 years. Much of the legislation codifies regulations which the Iowa Veterinary Board has adopted to deal with the evolution of the profession during the last three decades. The provisions in HF 670 represent a consensus of the parties involved. The new Code language will recognize and specify the scope of veterinary services that veterinary students, veterinary technicians, and auxiliary veterinary personnel can perform and their relation to supervisory veterinarians. This bill was one I heard about from Farm Bureau Members frequently this session so I'm glad to see this bill is continuing to move through the legislative process.
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