Yet another Iowa Republican budget atrocity

The hits just keep on coming from the health and human services budget Iowa Republicans enacted this year.

As if big spending cuts to public health programs, child care assistance, social worker field services, the closure of four Planned Parenthood clinics, and ending on-site ombudsmen visits to nursing homes didn’t do enough to harm vulnerable people, that budget bill also called for short-changing Iowans who sign up for Medicaid.

The Reynolds administration is moving forward with the plan to end decades-long practice on covering health care for new Medicaid recipients.

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"We can do better": Deidre DeJear's case for secretary of state

Iowa Democrats are set to have their first competitive primary for secretary of state since 1998. Deidre DeJear launched her campaign last month on the 52nd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, to symbolize her commitment to increasing voter participation.

DeJear spoke to Bleeding Heartland at length about her candidacy, and I’ve posted highlights from that interview after the jump, along with the audio and full transcript of her remarks to a Democratic audience in Grinnell. You can follow her campaign on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

DeJear’s approach to the race is markedly different from that of Jim Mowrer, the other Democrat in the field. Mowrer came out swinging against Secretary of State Paul Pate, vowing “to say no to making it harder and more expensive to vote” and highlighting the failure to count nearly 6,000 votes in Dallas County last November. In contrast, DeJear says little about Pate in her campaign materials and stump speech. She didn’t bring up the Dallas County debacle in our interview either.

Pate is very unpopular among Democratic activists since pushing for new restrictions on voting that will create barriers for certain populations. Nor is the secretary of state well-liked by county auditors, some of whom have already endorsed Mowrer. I suspect many 2018 primary voters will be drawn to a candidate willing to take the fight to Pate, relentlessly.

On the other hand, DeJear’s more aspirational, positive message should resonate with Democrats who prefer candidates to talk about what they are for, not what they’re against. I look forward to following this race.

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Jerry Foxhoven charged with fixing the mess at Iowa DHS

The rumors were true: Drake University Law Professor Jerry Foxhoven will be the new Iowa Department of Human Services director, effective tomorrow.

The May 31 press release announcing Chuck Palmer’s retirement linked to a job listing for the DHS director position, to close on June 11. I would be surprised if Governor Kim Reynolds interviewed or seriously considered anyone else for this job, given the rapid turnaround. I never heard a rumor about any candidate other than Foxhoven.

I enclose below the full text of today’s announcement, including background on the new director. Foxhoven has a lot of relevant experience for the job, and I wish him the best of luck as he attempts to lead a department where big mid-year spending cuts will give way to even lower funding levels for the next fiscal year. Morale is reportedly poor among DHS workers, in part because of too-large caseloads. Medicaid privatization has proved disastrous for many vulnerable Iowans and service providers.

Speaking of which, Disability Rights Iowa filed suit yesterday against Reynolds and former DHS Director Palmer, seeking “to halt discriminatory cuts in services to 15,000 Iowans with serious disabilities,” Tony Leys and Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register. Roxanne Conlin is helping the plaintiffs, who will seek certification for a class action.

UPDATE: Lee Rood and Tony Leys interviewed Foxhoven for the Des Moines Register. I posted excerpts below, but you should click through to read the whole thing.

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Will Kim Reynolds change DHS policy, or just directors?

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer is retiring effective June 16, Governor Kim Reynolds announced today. Critics including Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy have called on Palmer to resign for months, charging that inadequate staffing at DHS facilitated more suffering and premature deaths among abused children. The department’s handling of Medicaid privatization has also drawn criticism. Despite Palmer’s promises to hold the line, the DHS agreed to pay private insurance companies more for managing Medicaid. In addition, DHS officials have downplayed numerous, ongoing reports of those companies cutting back on health care services and failing to reimburse providers promptly or adequately.

In keeping with Governor Terry Branstad’s playbook when Teresa Wahlert ended her disastrous tenure at Iowa Workforce Development, Reynolds didn’t acknowledge any problems with Palmer’s management of the DHS today. On the contrary, she and acting Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg praised Palmer’s work in the official press release, enclosed in full below.

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Will Governor Branstad's legacy be yours as well?

Matt Chapman shares comments he delivered at today’s Iowa House public hearing on Republican budget proposals. -promoted by desmoinesdem

So here we are again in public comments for the seventh time this year, discussing laws that are disproportionately pro-wealthy and anti-worker. These laws are also mostly split along party lines. And I have to hand it to your strategist, as the most damaging laws against workers, many who voted Republican in 2016, were gotten out of the way earlier in the session. And at the end of the session, we have the most divisive legislation brought to the fore in an attempt to appease the very voters you enraged with the destruction of Chapter 20, the union-busting bill.

This will be the governor’s legacy. Will it be yours as well? Let’s compare him to Governor Robert Ray.

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Iowa Republicans slash funds for sexual violence and domestic abuse survivors

Times won’t be equally tough all over when Republican cuts take effect in the justice systems budget.

The Attorney General’s Office receives only about 3 percent of state funding in this area (totaling some $559 million for the next fiscal year) but will absorb about 84 percent of the $2.9 million in cuts Republican lawmakers agreed on behind closed doors. The Department of Corrections, which consumes about three-quarters of justice systems spending, will face a net reduction only $1.6 million, and the Department of Public Safety, which costs six times more to run than the Attorney General’s Office, will see a small increase despite the bleak revenue forecast for the state as a whole.

Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Gary Worthan commented on April 12, “We would have liked to have done better with a lot of areas, but we’re forced to work with the realities of the budget.”

Fiscal constraints didn’t force anyone to inflict the deepest cuts on Iowans who have already experienced some of this world’s harshest realities. Republicans who put together this bill chose to spend 25 percent less next year on grants supporting survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

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