It was a short but busy week at the Capitol, with legislators out Monday to attend their local caucuses. We are now just a week away from the first funnel, the deadline for bills to be passed out of committee. There were well over a hundred subcommittees—an initial step in the committee process—scheduled between the two chambers, and, as you can see in the examples below, many were packed!

We'll be watching what comes out of funnel to get a sense of the majority party’s priorities moving forward.  

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Left, Rep. Kevin Koester (Ankeny) stays to talk with folks after a crowded subcommittee on a bill that would eliminate many of the reporting requirements—including data on prenatal and birth outcomes and chronic care management—for the managed care organizations administering the state's Medicaid program. We oppose this bill because it would reduce oversight and transparency, making it more difficult to track the program’s impact on quality of care and outcomes.

Right, well over 50 people squeezed into the House lounge for the subcommittee on Gov. Reynolds' Future Ready Iowa bill. We are continuing to monitoring this workforce development legislation and will continue to push for a missing component to help people work and/or go to school: child care.

Children's mental health

If a child falls on the playground and hurts her arm, her parents or caregivers probably know where to go for medical care and what will likely be done to diagnose and treat her injury. But if that child has a mental health issue? Often families and caregivers don’t know where to turn or what to expect. 

This gap has many causes, but an important one—and one many Iowans are surprised to learn—is that Iowa does not actually have a comprehensive children’s mental health system. In a new blog postCenter health policy associate Mary Nelle Trefz explains the state's current piecemeal mental health landscape, efforts to build the system Iowa children and their families need and current legislation addressing mental health issues. 

Here's an action you can take right now. Add your name to the list of fellow Iowans who want to fix mental health care in our state. A petition coordinated by the Iowa Hospital Association is asking for significant, long-term mental health care policy legislation that supports a comprehensive, statewide mental health system serving all levels of care. It will be presented at the Capitol on February 28. Sign on at

Medicaid work requirements

No one disagrees that helping people who can work get good jobs is good for families and good for Iowa’s economy. Imposing Medicaid work requirements is the wrong way to get there. 

A bill submitted last week, SF 2158, would require "able-bodied" adults (undefined in the bill) to work, look for work or attend school at least 20 hours a week. But the ironic truth is that this bill would do virtually nothing to promote work or personal responsibility. The fact is that the majority of adults on Medicaid—nationally, 60 percent—are already working, and 78 percent have at least one worker in the family. Nearly 80 percent of those not working are in school or have an illness or disability or caregiver responsibilities that keep them from doing so. 

In other words, those who can work, do. They simply make too little to afford coverage on their own, often in hourly jobs that don’t provide it. 

Ultimately, what work requirements do well is to put up an obstacle to obtaining coverage by dramatically ramping up the red tape required to get it. Work requirements are effective at taking health coverage away from the people who need it most, in turn making it even harder for them to maintain their health and independence—and be productive members of our workforce. 

The Center is opposed to this bill for all of these reasons. We also oppose it because taking away coverage from parents harms children. If parents are sick with no access to care, they can’t be the best parents to their kids. When parents are covered, their kids are more likely to be covered. And when kids are covered, they are more likely to get the care they need to succeed in school and in life.

As of this writing, the bill has been assigned to a committee, but a hearing has not been scheduled. We will continue to monitor its status with the aim of keeping this bad idea from becoming law in Iowa. 

Meanwhile, in DC ... 

It's weird to write it, but there's some good news out of Washington for Iowa children and families. Congress approved a two-year budget deal that includes some important provisions:

  • Community health centers are funded for two years. These local, non-profit health care centers provide primary care and preventive services in low-income communities where care is needed but scarce. The 13 community health centers in Iowa serve more than 181,000 people each year.

  • Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) sees five years of funding. MIECHV supports home visiting services that help children and families improve their health, education and ability to work to support themselves. Federal funding for MIECHV had expired more than four months ago.

  • Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) gets an extra four years of funding on top of last month's six-year extension. That came after the Congressional Budget Office found that a 10-year extension would save the federal government between $5 and $6 billion. CHIP, known here as hawk-i, covers over 80,000 Iowa children. 

  • Child Care Development Block Grant, the primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income families, gets a $5.8 billion increase over two years, which will allow Iowa to serve nearly 2,700 additional children in its child care assistance program. 

Lots to celebrate. But left out of the deal was an agreement on DREAMers, youth and young adults who were brought to the U.S as children and who are American in all ways except on paper. This group includes around 2,800 young Iowans. Legislation to protect them and give them a path to citizenship, must be high priority for Congress. 

When Center staff were in DC in December, we caught this photo of the interior courtyard of the Longworth House Office Building, where Rep. Rod Blum and Rep. Dave Loebsack have their offices. Despite sometimes intimidating architecture, the offices of our elected officials in DC are actually quite accessible—once through building security, you can walk the halls and easily visit. To identify your member of Congress and his office locations, check out our U.S. Congress lookup tool


Bill tracker

The legislation in our bill tracker is still growing. Here's an update on one bill we're watching. Thursday the Senate approved its Deappropriations bill (SF 2117) on a 29-21 vote, with all Republicans voting in favor, and independent Sen. David Johnson (Ocheyedan) voting with all Democrats against. It makes net cuts of $32 million to the current year's budget. Sen. Herman Quirmbach (Ames) offered an interesting amendment that would eliminate most of the cuts to community colleges, arguing for $1.75 million in relief that “mirrors the amount of a settlement” for a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a Senate staffer. It was voted down on party lines. Sen. Joe Bolkcom (Iowa City) offered an amendment reducing the per diem of legislators—the daily payments for expenses—to 85 days. His amendment passed 50-0. This is slated to be a 100-day session, so it might light a fire under legislators to wrap things up quickly!  

Find your legislator

Not sure who represents you? With 50 senators and 100 representatives, it can be hard to keep tabs. Visit our Legislator Lookup tool to find out who represents you in the state house and senate, biographical information about each one and a link to their legislative websites, which list contact information and committee membership. All you need to do is enter your home address and zip code. 


505 5th Ave., Ste. 404
Des Moines, IA 50309
(515) 280-9027 /

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