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Update from Iowa Democrats

The following is an update from Iowa Democrats on issues impacting the state:

State Auditor to Review Failing Iowa Medicaid Program

The State Auditor has launched a new investigation into Iowa’s Medicaid privatization fiasco as state officials can’t explain how much — or if — privatization has saved any tax dollars.

Ever since the Governor unilaterally privatized Medicaid in 2016, the results have been disastrous for the people of Iowa. Iowans have been systematically denied critical care and essential medical equipment as services have severely been reduced or cut altogether. This was shown in the most recent State Ombudsman report, where there has been a 157% increase in Medicaid-related problems reported to the agency in 2017.

Since privatization began, questions have been raised about the supposed savings to that state. Before the Branstad/Reynolds Administration unilaterally privatized Medicaid, they estimated it would save the state $232 million by this budget year. In December, the Department of Human Services (DHS) indicated in a report that the cost savings was only around $47.1 million.

In a letter recently released by DHS, the amount of savings changed again but Reynolds Administration officials were unable to explain how this number was calculated. After this latest unverified savings, the State Auditor launched her investigation into Medicaid.

Even more troubling, Iowa’s Medicaid Director Mike Randol, previously held the same position for five years in Kansas. In the past month, it was found through an independent audit of the Kansas Medicaid program that there was insufficient and unreliable data to determine the actual savings to the state.

This audit process was only initiated because a Democratic lawmaker requested a review of the Medicaid program due to all the inconsistent data being released by DHS.

Medicaid provides health care to 600,000 Iowans, including those in nursing homes. According to recent estimates, about 70% of Medicaid dollars are used for the elderly, severely disabled, and poor.

Tariff Threats Hit Iowa Producers

Iowa Pork Producers have lost $560 million so far as a result of the growing threat of a global trade war launched by the Trump Administration. These losses occurred before Mexico, the largest importer of U.S. Pork, announced their tariffs.

Earlier this year, the President announced a worldwide 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum. While allies such as the European Union, Canada, and Mexico were originally spared from the tariffs they were later included. These actions led to additional retaliatory tariffs, including a 10% tariff on ham and pork shoulders.

Previously, the President’s decision to impose $60 billion in tariffs caused the Chinese to announce a 25% tariff on pork, an increase on the tariff on Ethanol and a potential tariff on soybeans.

Mexico and China are the two biggest markets for U.S. pork in the world. The United States exports $1.5 billion in pork to Mexico and the Chinese market purchased $1.1 billion in U.S. Pork last year. Iowa is the number one in pork production, number one in production of ethanol, and number two in soybean production.

During the 2018 legislative session, Iowa Republican lawmakers refused to join others and send a strong bi-partisan message to the Trump Administration about the economic harm that would come to Iowa producers because of tariffs.

Sports Betting Could Happen in all 50 States

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the federal ban on sports betting in the states is unconstitutional, but Iowans will have to wait at least another year before they can bet on their favorite teams in the state.

The case heard by the Supreme Court was brought by the state of New Jersey who has voted to legalize sports betting but had faced legal challenges to their new law. States across the country approved language to legalize sports betting anticipating that the Supreme Court will legalize sports betting across the country.

An Iowa House Committee approved legalizing sports betting in the state under the jurisdiction of Iowa’s existing casinos, but the legislation failed to become law.

Iowa Casinos, which have supported the legalization of sports betting in Iowa, are happy to offer another form of entertainment to their patrons, but it is facing opposition from some of the professional sports leagues across the country, as well as in Iowa. The leagues, such as the NBA and MLB, are worried that without certain “integrity” clauses that are not in the proposal it could hurt the integrity of their games.

Iowa Finance Authority Costly Move

After months of delays, the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) Board will finally conduct a review of a $17 million proposed move to a new office building. In February, the Executive Council agreed to lease a new office, but it has since come to light the former IFA director failed to disclose renovating the current office would cost $6 million less than moving.

IFA’s director David Jamison pushed for the move but was fired in March due to sexual harassment. At the end of the legislative session, Democratic lawmakers offered a plan to terminate the new lease because of the misinformation. Once the review on the two plans is completed, IFA’s Board will review the costs of the plans and make a decision on whether or not to move.

School Security Plans Update

During the legislative session, a bill was passed that mandates all Iowa school districts and accredited non-public schools develop a high-quality emergency operations plan by June 30, 2019. It will include response to active shooter training and natural disasters. The school is to consider any recommendations from the Department of Education (DE) and consult with local emergency management coordinators and local law enforcement agencies in the development of the plan.

Now, DE will be working with Area Education Agencies, the Federal Department of Homeland Security and Iowa Department of Homeland Security to help schools and school districts begin the emergency operations planning process. This will include behavioral threat assessment training, hiring a contractor to help with the emergency operation plans, and workshops. DE has announced that this fall, training will be offered at every AEA to get schools started on the emergency operations planning process.

“See Something Say Something” Campaign Starting

The Iowa House defeated a proposed amendment during the school security debate that would have created a tip line within the Department of Public Safety to report illegal activity around a school including threats of suicide and violence. This has been done effectively in at least seven other states and has been credited with saving lives and stopping threats of violence at schools before they happen.

However, now, through federal legislation, all Iowa schools public and nonpublic will receive “See Something, Say Something” Iowa posters to display within their schools. All Iowa high schools will also receive banners. It will include a social media and public service announcement campaign. The goal is to raise awareness on reporting of local terrorist activities including school shootings.

Reporting an incident would be through a 9-1-1 call as opposed to having a tip line which could have allowed a little more questions and answers in reporting a suspected incident before it was reported to proper authorities.

Suicide Rates Increasing in Iowa, Nationally

A report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that suicide rates in Iowa and across the nation have risen by nearly 30% since 1999. Iowa currently ranks 31st in the U.S. for suicides, and the annual suicide rate per 100,000 has gone from 11.8 in 1999 to the current rate of 16.

One big contributing factor in this alarming increase is mental health conditions. Iowa lawmakers took action this year to begin reforming the mental health system. While the bill is a great first step to improve the system, many Iowans and lawmakers are concerned it does not include any additional investment from the state, causing a bigger strain on existing services and resources. In order to truly make meaningful and lasting changes to the system, it needs to be fully-funded.

Other contributing factors to the increase in the suicide rate include relationship problems, substance abuse disorders, a decline in physical health, job troubles, financial and legal issues.

In the report, the CDC also identified several protective factors to help lessen the risk for suicide. These factors include:

      • • Feeling connected to others – joining community or other groups that promote a feeling of belonging.


      • • Learning coping and problem-solving skills – this could include parenting or family relationship classes, or other learning opportunities.


      • • Reducing excessive alcohol use – this includes supportive community policies.
    • If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please visit

    • for a free and confidential help by online chat, text, or phone.

Tips to Reduce Summer Energy Bills

As summer temperatures increase, so do energy bills. The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) reminds Iowans of cost-effective ways to lower summer energy bills while remaining safe and comfortable, and can take several steps to help reduce energy usage during the cooling season:

      • • Service or check air conditioning (central or window units) regularly; clean or replace filters often. Keep air registers clean and clear of obstructions. Clean outside air conditioning coils and keep plants or other objects at least 12 inches clear on every side.


      • • Block out direct sunlight whenever possible. Close shades, blinds and draperies or use sunscreens over windows and patio areas during the day.


      • • Use fans to increase indoor


      • air circulation. Only run fans when a room is occupied. Elderly persons and those with health concerns should check with their doctor before dramatically changing the temperature in their homes. • Close air vents/doors to unused portions of a residence.


      • • Open windows to take advantage of breaks from the hottest and most humid weather, especially during the cooler evening hours.


      • • Install/use a programmable thermostat to set the indoor temperature a few degrees higher when you are sleeping or away from your residence.
    • For more tips visit:

    • or



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