The following is a legislative update from State Senator Amanda Ragan, representing portions of Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties:
The 2021 legislative session is now in overtime. Although the scheduled end date was April 30, the vast majority of the state budget still must be finalized. There are also many outstanding policy issues.
It’s time to finish our work on behalf Iowans. My focus all session has been on a COVID Recovery Plan<https://www.senate.iowa.gov/democrats/2021/01/our-covid-recovery-plan/> to get our state back on track following the upheaval of the pandemic.
Whether it’s small businesses, front-line health care workers or our public schools, Iowa needs all the help we can get to put the pandemic behind us and get our economy going again.
That’s why I was baffled to learn the Governor had sent $95 million in coronavirus relief back to the federal government instead of giving schools the option to use it for COVID-19 testing that would keep students and educators safer.
Democrats on the House and Senate Oversight committees have requested meetings to review the handling of Federal COVID relief funds, which should be used to the benefit of Iowans.
Iowans deserve to know where their tax dollars are going. As legislators, we should responsibly monitor funding that comes our way to ensure it’s used as intended. It’s the only way we can build back better, bigger and stronger than ever.
The pandemic has made us even more aware of the need for all Iowans to have access to high-speed Internet in their homes—for health care, education, work and staying connected to loved ones. It’s become a key component of our economy and quality of life.
On April 28, a bill that aims to expand high-speed Internet throughout the state (HF 848<https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=89&ba=HF848>) was signed into law, following unanimous approval in the House and Senate. The legislation creates a grant program to provide service where it’s needed most.
Funding to support the grant program is expected to be a part of budget bills yet to be passed by the Legislature. In addition, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is expected to provide significant funding above what the Legislature approves.
Expanding pharmacy services
Pharmacists are well-trained on how medications interact and have expertise with a variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, putting them in a good position to efficiently prescribe, test and consult with patients on managing chronic diseases and diagnosing acute infections.
SF 296<https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=89&ba=SF296> will help expand convenient access to health care—particularly in rural areas—by authorizing pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines to patients 18 and older. In addition, pharmacists may provide testing and treatment for the flu, strep A and COVID-19, as well as other potential public health emergencies, for patients ages six and older.
The bill also permits collaborative practice agreements, which increase access to health care by allowing doctors, nurse practitioners and other prescribers to delegate certain patient-care functions to a pharmacist, and ensure that the pharmacist is properly reimbursed for their services.