Government

Saving eagles, retirement savings, tying Medicaid to work: Iowa Capitol Digest, Jan. 24

State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald (left) explains his proposal for a self-sustaining, state-managed retirement savings plan for Iowans who do not have access to an employer-sponsored plan during a Wednesday news conference in his Capitol office. State Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, joined Fitzgerald to talk about his legislation calling for a study of portable benefits programs for non-traditional workers, such as those in the “gig” economy. (James Q. Lynch/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald (left) explains his proposal for a self-sustaining, state-managed retirement savings plan for Iowans who do not have access to an employer-sponsored plan during a Wednesday news conference in his Capitol office. State Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, joined Fitzgerald to talk about his legislation calling for a study of portable benefits programs for non-traditional workers, such as those in the “gig” economy. (James Q. Lynch/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018:

RETIREMENT SAVINGS: State Treasurer once again is promoting a retirement savings plan aimed at helping the 42 percent of Iowans working in the private sector who do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan.

He cited AARP data that 31 percent of all Iowans reported having no retirement savings plan, that 63 percent of all employees in small businesses do not have access to an employee-sponsored plan and that 47 percent of workers with only a high school education do not have retirement plan.

Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, joined Fitzgerald at a Statehouse news conference to promote his bills, Senate File 2087, which calls for a study of portable benefits programs for non-traditional workers, such as those in the “gig” economy, and Senate File 2088, Fitzgerald’s retirement savings plans.

The GOP-majority Senate did not take up Fitzgerald’s plan last year.

“We’re for the little guy,” he said. “They’re for the big guys.”

Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, didn’t see the bill faring any better this year than last.

“It really hasn’t really gained a lot of traction. I think generally most people feel the private sector is filling that void fine,” he said, adding it would be hard to find funds for the $500,000 startup cost.

TYING MEDICAID TO WORK: Jerry Foxhoven, director of the state Department of Human Services, told a conservative group Wednesday that Gov. Kim Reynolds has asked him to assess the Iowa impact of requiring able-bodied Medicaid participants to work while receiving program benefits.

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However, he expressed doubt that such an approach would be cost-effective, given that most Iowans work — even those receiving government support.

Foxhoven told members of the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale that about 90 percent of Iowans participating in the family investment program have a job and about 20 percent of them have two jobs.

“If we’re to the point where 95 percent of the people are working full-time already, and it would cost us more to implement than it would to really save anything because they’re already working, then we probably won’t,” he said.

But, Foxhoven said his agency is analyzing the impact of implementing the new Trump administration guidelines “because the federal government, the president, indicated that they are open to hearing a request to add a work requirement to Medicaid.”

SAVE THE EAGLES: A bill to increase the penalty for illegally taking a bald eagle was approved unanimously by a House Natural Resources subcommittee Wednesday.

House File 2037 would increase the penalty from $50 to $2,500 — the same as the federal penalty.

A Department of Natural Resources spokesman said there have been 40 cases over the past three years of people taking eagles. Most are unsolved.

“This is our way of saying we value eagles in Iowa,” said Rep. Terry Baxter, R-Garner.

Tammie Krausman of the DNR was aware of three or four cases being prosecuted. Some are handled in federal court, some in state court. Generally, she said, extenuating circumstances factor into how the cases are prosecuted.

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WATER QUALITY UPDATE: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey highlighted the Iowa Water Quality Initiative 2018 Legislative Report during a presentation to the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday.

The 8-page report highlights key progress on water quality efforts underway across the state, including:

• 56 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices.

• $4.8 million obligated to match the $8.7 million farmer/landowner investment to install cover crops and other infield practices to reduce nutrient loss.

• More than $250,000 in contributions from private entities to advance water quality initiative-based projects and new public-private partnership, with two companies created to advance conservation planning in three targeted watersheds.

The report can be found at IowaAgriculture.gov or cleanwateriowa.org/news-latest/.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s a bait and switch and Iowans aren’t going to stand for it. Iowans want real water solutions. Instead you’re washing your hands of this issue.” — Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, talking about a water quality bill the Legislature has sent to the governor

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