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Capitol Notebook: Iowa lawmakers advance Reynolds’ wide-ranging health care bill
Also, House passes bill to replenish veterans trust fund
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
Feb. 2, 2023 6:53 pm
A subcommittee of Iowa House lawmakers this week advanced Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ wide-ranging health care bill.
House Study Bill 91 would:
- Provide $2 million to pregnancy resource centers that counsel against abortion, and add programming for fathers.
- Allow Iowans to receive prescription-free birth control from a pharmacy.
- Limit the amount of money Iowans could receive through medical malpractice lawsuits.
- Shore up rural health care with a new rural emergency hospital designation and new OB-GYN fellowships.
- Offer paid parental leave for Iowa state employees.
Some of the ideas received broad support at a legislative subcommittee Wednesday, while others — namely the medical malpractice limits and funding for pregnancy resource centers — did not.
Abortion rights advocates oppose the funding for pregnancy resource centers, saying they mislead women about their options and misrepresent themselves as legitimate medical providers.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, in a statement, noted the hearing comes on the heels of House Republican lawmakers introducing a ban on medication abortion, House File 146.
More than half of abortions in Iowa are medication abortions, which the FDA has found is safe and effective, with a 0.4 percent risk of major complications. The FDA recently loosened restrictions allowing patients to be prescribed the two-dose regimen without an in-person visit.
House increases grant money in veterans fund
Iowa House lawmakers this week unanimously voted to increase the annual budget for grants awarded from a state fund to provide emergency financial assistance to Iowa veterans.
The $500,000 allotment for the current budgeting year ran out last fall. This would make $800,000 in grants available each year if the bill becomes law.
Available funds from the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund were depleted in October for the first time in more than a decade.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this week approved the transfer of $440,000 in federal pandemic relief funds to cover the backlog of trust fund grants that were approved before the program was temporarily suspended due to insufficient funds.
Line of succession amendment
The Iowa House also this week passed a joint resolution that will ask Iowa voters to clarify the line of succession in state government.
When then-Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds took over as governor in 2017 when former Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China, the state attorney general issued an opinion that the state Constitution did not give Reynolds the authority to name Adam Gregg as her lieutenant governor.
The proposed amendment to Iowa’s Constitution makes clear new governors have the authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor if the need arises.
Eighteen Democrats voted against the proposal, with Rep. Adam Zabner, D-Iowa City, arguing a new governor’s choice for lieutenant governor should be subject to Senate confirmation.
Should the Iowa Senate approve the House-passed resolution, Iowans would vote on the amendment in the 2024 general election.
Domestic abuse bill
Supporters say a House-passed bill adds new protections for domestic abuse victims.
House File 112 eliminates a section of code that said if a previous conviction or deferred judgment for domestic abuse occurred more than 12 years before the date of a second violation, it shall not be considered a second offense.
A representative for the Iowa County Attorneys Association — which is registered in support of the bill — noted Iowa code does contain the same “arbitrary look back” provision for drug offenses.
Providing for a higher-level offense will hold individuals accountable for continued abusive behavior and allow for continued court supervision and intervention and support programs.
Critics worry the bill will effectively eliminate second chances. The bill passed 77-21.
Broadband grant application
Communities can apply for areas to be prioritized when the next round of broadband internet expansion grants are released by the state program Empower Rural Iowa, according to a news release from Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office.
Applications are being accepted via the state Department of Management’s office of the Chief Information Officer, according to the news release.
Providers also can apply for grant funds to increase service to Broadband Intervention Zones.
“This is a first of its kind program, and it relies directly on Iowa communities to inform the state where opportunities exist to expand broadband access,” Reynolds said. “Empowering local communities will help lay the foundation for future success and access to broadband statewide.”
Instructions on how to apply for a grant can be found at the Chief Information Officer’s website at https://ocio.iowa.gov/invitation-qualify-001