Vander Linden Capitol Update for February 13th
First Pieces of Home Base Iowa Pass House Committee
The first pieces of the governor’s larger Home Base Iowa initiative are starting to see action. Last week House Study Bill 512 passed the House Veteran Affairs Committee unanimously. The bill allows private sector employers to grant a preference in both hiring and promotion to veterans and some spouses. The preference applies to veterans as defined in Iowa Code currently. Private employers will also be able to grant this preference to the spouses of veterans who have a permanent, service-connected disability or who lost their lives while serving on active duty during a time of military conflict. The preference is optional for private sector employers, and can only be granted as far as is consistent with federal law and regulations.
In addition to the private sector hiring preference, another part of the Home Base Iowa initiative cleared the House Veteran Affairs Committee unanimously this week. House Study Bill 615 requires that the boards of directors for all community colleges and the regent universities file an annual report on veteran education statistics starting December 15, 2015. The report is to be filed with the governor and the general assembly. The report is to include statistics and information related to the awarding of educational credits to veterans for their military education, training, and experience. The report is to include this information for the prior five academic years.
Both bills now advance for further consideration on the floor or by another House Committee.
State Patrol Data Released
The State Patrol has released statistical information on the department from 2012 and 2013.
In 2012 the Iowa State Patrol had 365 sworn staff, but lost ten individuals for various reasons and finished 2013 with only 355 staff. In 2013, sworn staff logged 410,751 trooper duty hours and 144,187 overall citations or arrests.
Along with regular State Patrol work, officers also assist local law enforcement agencies, averaging 23,500 hours of assistance a year. In the past five years more than 116,000 hours of support has been given to local departments. This support includes tactical team deployments, crash investigations, response to natural disasters and high risk incidents. The Iowa State Patrol is available 24 hours a day to assist other agencies with Aircraft support, K-9 Services, and crisis negotiation.
The Public Safety Committee has heard from Commissioner of Public Safety Larry Noble and Colonel Robert Garrison of the Iowa State Patrol. Both men explained the importance of staffing for the State Patrol and why strong financial backing from the State is essential to public safety in Iowa.
As the Iowa Legislative Session continues, Representatives and Senators will meet to discuss budgeting and personnel needs of the Iowa State Patrol and they will determine how much additional assistance can be provided by the state for the Patrol.
House Passed Bi-Partisan Bill Barring Webcam Abortions
Doctors would be prohibited from dispensing abortion-causing drugs remotely through a video-conferencing systems under legislation approved Tuesday in the Iowa House. The ban will affect Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which has a video-conferencing system that enables doctors in urban areas to interact with patients in outlying clinics and dispense pills that induce abortions of early-term pregnancies. Planned Parenthood has provided more than 5,000 webcam abortions in Iowa since 2008.
Lawmakers passed the bill on a 55-42 vote in a bipartisan manner after nearly two hours of debate. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Republican supporters stated that the bill is a step toward ensuring patient safety and the appropriate standard of care over the administration of medication abortions. Republicans also stressed that the bill does not limit health care access for rural women because the bill does not limit a woman’s ability to seek health care from a primary physician or health care clinic in a local area.
Last summer, the Iowa Board of Medicine approved new rules effectively banning telemedicine for abortion procedures, arguing in-person consultation by the prescribing doctor was necessary to ensure patient safety. Planned Parenthood sued to block the rule, and in November a Polk County district judge issued a temporary stay allowing the telemedicine practice to continue until the suit is resolved. However, a University of Iowa poll done in October of 2013 revealed that most Iowans support the Board of Medicine’s decision to ban telemedicine abortion. The poll revealed that 66.3 percent of Iowans support for the ban.
Supplemental State Aid
It must be an election year. Iowa Democrats are demanding an oversized 6% increase in school funding for fiscal year 2015-16.
This comes after the legislature approved 4% increases for both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years.
It wasn’t too long ago that under then-Governor Chet Culver this type of spending proposal resulted in a 10% across the board cut leading to teacher layoffs. Since 2002, the legislature has failed to keep its commitment to local school districts six times, to the tune of nearly $600 million.
The Democrats’ explanation for this huge spending increase is that Iowa lags behind other states in terms of funding per student.
The easy rebuttal lies in the funding for other states compared with the actual results. New York State spends more than $19,000 per student, but the graduation rate is only 74%. The District of Columbia spends $18,475 per student, but lags behind every state in the nation, with a woeful 59 percent graduation rate.
Conversely, according to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Education, Iowa ranks number one in the nation with an 88 percent graduation rate. We rank 27th, not 37th, as some claim, in terms of spending per student. Iowa ranks 30th in population.
There has been no budget estimate on what Iowa’s fiscal outlook will be in 2015-16. It is irresponsible for the Democrats to demand this enormous increase at this early stage.