The 2021 Iowa legislative session lasted three weeks past its scheduled end date, and much has been accomplished, according to lawmakers serving Webster County.
“I think 2021 is going to be one of the most productive years of our generation”, State Senator Jesse Green, R-Harcourt said.
Green and State Senator Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, and State Representative Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, spoke about the session’s accomplishments at an Eggs and Problems forum on Saturday at Iowa Central Community College.
They also spoke about some of the priorities they will pursue when the legislature meets again in January 2022.
Eggs and Issues is sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and the Iowa Central Community College.
A new law that requires electronic visits to mental health providers to be treated the same as in-person visits for insurance purposes was cited by Meyer as a major victory for this year.
She described the measure as “Parity for telehealth in mental health”.
This law, she said, will create opportunities for Iowa residents to see mental health professionals in other communities and even other states.
“We have more access to mental health care providers now” she said.
Kraayenbrink agreed that the telehealth parity law is one of the elements of the 2021 session that will have an immediate impact for residents.
Another of Meyer’s priorities that was adopted this year is what she calls the “The cliff-edge effect of childcare”. The state offers assistance to eligible parents who need assistance paying for child care. But once these parents reach a certain income level, they suddenly lose all of their child care support.
“They would reach a certain level of income and fall off the cliff of benefits,” Meyer said.
The bill she drafted provides for what Meyer calls a “Graduated output ramp” the childcare assistance program. From now on, this assistance will be gradually reduced as the parents’ income increases.
The elimination of the local property tax that paid for mental health care was a big success of the session, according to Kraayenbrink.
He said mental health care will now be financed from the general state fund. He added that the legislature added an additional $ 10 million to the mental health budget on top of what was already spent.
Kraayenbrink also touted the decision to phase out state inheritance tax. He said it will benefit family farmers and small business owners.
The senator also said the legislature removed conditions, commonly known as triggers, in a move that paves the way for faster tax cuts.
Kraayenbrink said the state government will end the current fiscal year on June 30 with $ 500 million in the bank.
Green cited what he called “Constitutional door” – a law that eliminates state licenses for gun owners – as a major accomplishment of the session.
He also listed a bill he has championed that will provide grants to help small meat traps thrive. The bill also calls for the creation of a new curriculum for use at community colleges to professionally train the next generation of meat cutters.
Green participated in discussions during the last session on bottle bill reform, which includes a 5-cent deposit to encourage beverage container recycling. He said he plans to work on it again next year.
He said he plans to follow through on the meat locker bill with new legislation that will create meat cutting apprenticeships for high school students.
Kraayenbrink said he plans to tackle what he sees as the silence of conservative voices on Regents college campuses.
“We need to find a way to make instructors and teachers accountable”, he said.
Meyer said tort reform is a big issue she wants to tackle.
She supports a proposal that would put a cap of $ 1 million on the amount that could be awarded for pain and suffering as a result of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
This plan, she said, would put no limit on the amount that could be awarded for economic losses or punitive damages.
She said that medical providers’ liability insurance premiums are “out of control.” This, she said, is hurting efforts to recruit and retain doctors in the state.
“I think this is a huge problem for our medical community”, Meyer said.