Des Moines Register. May 10, 2018
Iowa lawmakers did some good, but not nearly enough
Granted, lawmakers were able to agree on a mental health reform bill that should help fill gaps in care for vulnerable people. But the new law relies heavily on funding from Medicaid, a program regularly under assault by the GOP, which currently controls the government in Iowa and Washington, D.C.
Legislators also shepherded through some relatively noncontroversial changes, including expanding the “safe haven” law for infants, prohibiting fees for Iowans freezing their credit reports and requiring ignition interlocks for all drunken drivers. And Iowans can be grateful that efforts to redirect public education dollars to private education were not successful.
Yet the lack of action on important issues and the damage done in other areas in a mere five months are far greater than the few gains made. If leaders continue refusing to generate revenue to fund Iowa government and the environment, the damage will be exacerbated in future years.
Voters may well express their discontent in November. And there are plenty of issues that may affect what they do at the ballot box. These include:
Medicaid...The 2016 privatization of Iowa’s Medicaid health insurance program has created numerous problems for low-income Iowans and health care providers. There is no good evidence taxpayers are benefiting. Lawmakers, who set appropriations, have incredible power to intervene. They could refuse to fund the program until it is returned to state oversight or they receive accurate, current estimates about the cost.Instead, with no information on how much the program will cost in the upcoming year, they increased spending by $55 million. The expense could be much greater than that after the state eventually wraps up another round on negotiations with for-profit managed care companies.Women’s rightsThe latest move by Republicans obsessed with the reproductive choices of their female constituents came in the form of a “fetal heartbeat” bill signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds. It bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which may be heard in the sixth week of development and before a woman knows she is pregnant. The new law is considered the strictest ban on abortion in the country.Taxpayers may foot the bill for the inevitable court fight. GOP politicians who claim to champion less intrusive government placed the state squarely in the uterus of every Iowa woman.Mother NatureOnce again, lawmakers refused to raise the sales tax a fraction of a penny to provide revenue to the voter-approved Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Voters from every walk of life overwhelmingly supported the creation of this trust fund. The revenue generated would be constitutionally protected to use exclusively for the