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Weekend open thread: Water problems edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Oct 04, 2015 at 11:37:33 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I spent most of Friday at the Iowa Environmental Council's annual meeting, where as usual, I learned a lot from the conference speakers. (I've long been an active volunteer for the non-profit.) Chad Pregracke gave an inspiring and entertaining keynote address this year. Raised on the banks of the Mississippi River, Pregracke spent hours a day under its surface diving for mussels shells as a summer job. In his early 20s, he became obsessively committed to getting trash out of the river and cold-called businesses in the Quad Cities until he had enough funding for his first cleanup project. Favorable coverage from the Associated Press helped Pregracke raise more awareness and money. He later created the non-profit Living Lands and Waters, which has pulled a mind-blowing amount of trash out of waterways in twenty states. I am looking forward to reading Pregracke's memoir From the Bottom Up: One Man's Crusade to Clean America's Rivers.

Several speakers at the Iowa Environmental Council conference discussed the Des Moines Water Works' lawsuit against drainage districts in northwest Iowa's Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista Counties. The unprecedented lawsuit has angered many Iowa politicians, including Governor Terry Branstad, who has said the Water Works "ought to just tone it down and start cooperating and working with others [...]." (Priceless response from Todd Dorman: "Tone it down? Tell it to the bloomin' algae.")

The most informative single piece I've seen about this litigation is Sixteen Things to Know About the Des Moines Water Works Proposed Lawsuit, a speech Drake University Law Professor Neil Hamilton gave at the 2015 Iowa Water Conference in Ames this March. The director of Drake's Agricultural Law Center also wrote an excellent guest column for the Des Moines Register in May debunking the "strenuous effort" to convince Iowans that "the lawsuit is unfair and unhelpful."

Last weekend, the Associated Press ran a series of well-researched articles on water infrastructure problems across the U.S. As a country, we were foolish not to invest more in infrastructure during and since the "Great Recession," when interest rates have been at historically low levels. The AP reports underscore the mounting hidden and not-hidden costs of hundreds of municipalities deferring maintenance on water mains and equipment at treatment plants. After the jump I've posted excerpts from several of the stories, but if you want to be educated and appalled, click through to read them in their entirety: Ryan Foley, "Drinking water systems imperiled by failing infrastructure" and "Millions remain unspent in federal water-system loan program"; Justin Pritchard, "Availability of clean water can't be taken for granted anymore"; and John Seewer, "Cities bear rising cost of keeping water safe to drink."

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What's the end game for conservation funding in Iowa?

by: mhauge

Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 21:57:33 PM CDT

(Thanks to Matt Hauge for flagging this little-noticed but significant shift by the Iowa Corn Growers.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

(Author note: Thanks to DesMoines Dem for permitting this cross-post originally published on Medium.) 

At its annual policy conference in August, the Iowa Corn Growers Association joined the Iowa Soybean Association in supporting Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWLL), a sales tax increase that would provide in excess of $150 million annually to environmental protection and natural resources in Iowa.

Official support for IWLL from both the corn and soybean organizations is significant because a bill in this year’s legislative session to enact the tax increase, SSB1272 (succeeded by SF504), drew opposition from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s agribusiness lobbying powerhouse.

While it received very little attention in the media, this action by the Corn Growers — just maybe — is a sign that something is changing in a good way for clean water in Iowa.

Even if not, at least the Corn Growers’ decision presents a good opportunity to look at what’s going on as Iowa struggles for better conservation performance of its globally significant soil and water resources.

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Dear U of I, backroom dealings are nothing new.

by: ahawby

Sun Sep 27, 2015 at 12:42:57 PM CDT

(Many thanks for this detailed analysis of machinations behind the scenes to orchestrate and sell the public on closing the Malcolm Price Laboratory School at the University of Northern Iowa. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Malcolm Price Laboratory School was a small K-12 school attached to and operated by the University of Northern Iowa.  MPLS was primarily used by the teacher education program to train teachers.  It was a critical part of UNI, "the teacher's college".  Year after year, however, with mounting budget pressures at UNI, talk would take place about closing MPLS.  Tired of this annual worry, supporters of MPLS through the help of their local legislatures, pushed for and obtained legislation creating the Iowa Research & Development School at MPLS.  This group thought the days of threats of closure were over since their existence was now statutory.  In 2012 they found out they were wrong.

In light of the recent events at the University of Iowa regarding the president selection process, I think it appropriate to share a narrative I drafted back in 2012 when UNI closed MPLS and other programs.  It was the fruit of an open records request for email.  The intended audience was the parents and supporters of MPLS.  

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More signs Bruce Harreld had inside track for University of Iowa presidency

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 24, 2015 at 22:21:17 PM CDT

As if the "fix was in" camp needed any more ammunition: weeks before the nine members of the Iowa Board of Regents interviewed finalists to lead the University of Iowa, Board President Bruce Rastetter arranged for Bruce Harreld to meet with four other regents at the Ames office of Summit Agricultural Group. Rastetter is the CEO of that company. Earlier in July, he and three search committee members had met Harreld for lunch in Iowa City after Harreld spoke to senior staff at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, at the invitation of the search committee chair.

Follow me after the jump for more on today's explosive revelations, as well as yesterday's decision by a University of Iowa's faculty group to censure Harreld "for his failure of professional ethics."  

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Iowa State University seeks water quality assessment coordinator

by: frankly

Mon Sep 21, 2015 at 21:29:38 PM CDT

(Guest author highlights inconvenient truths about an important but challenging job. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowa State University has announced a new position in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences focused on assessing the effectiveness of Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy - an all-voluntary state plan to reduce chronic runoff pollution that is the state's most vexing water quality challenge.

Think you might be up to the challenge?  There's more after the jump.

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Weekend open thread: Brazen acts

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 20, 2015 at 11:01:09 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

After the jump I've enclosed clips describing some brazen behavior. Many Iowans think of corruption in public procurement as a problem for other people, like our neighbors in Illinois. But a former Iowa Department of Public Safety employee's involvement in state contracts awarded to Smith & Wesson raises red flags. I was surprised to learn on Friday that no ethics case will be pursued regarding the possible conflict of interest.

Todd Dorman's latest column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette highlights comments by "America's Longest Serving Ironist" (Governor Terry Branstad) about Syrian refugees possibly being resettled in Iowa. Dorman noted that "The master of blindside edicts" now wants "transparency" from the federal government.

His piece reminded me of Branstad's hypocritical (or non-self-aware, if we're being charitable) remarks to Clare McCarthy for her feature about refugees for IowaWatch.org. Speaking to McCarthy on July 7, the governor described how refugees from Burma need mentors from within their community to help them adjust to life in Iowa--perhaps forgetting that only days before, he had vetoed funding for a pilot program to train "leaders from the refugee community to help other refugees work through challenges."

When it comes to political leaders shamelessly doing whatever they want, then failing to take responsibility, Branstad's got nothing on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. desmoinesdem directed my attention to a classic anecdote about Putin pocketing a Superbowl ring belonging to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Karen Dawisha related the story in her 2014 book Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? Scroll to the end of this post to read the tale.

UPDATE: A reader commented that former State Representative Renee Schulte also committed a brazen act by shifting gears in a matter of days from being a contractor for the Iowa Department of Human Services to a consultant for a company bidding on contracts to manage Medicaid.

SECOND UPDATE: Not Iowa-specific, but certainly brazen in an "evil genius" way: a "a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager" bought the rights to a life-saving drug last month and "immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars," Andrew Pollack reported for the New York Times.  

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Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit over Branstad closing mental health facilities

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 17, 2015 at 12:56:29 PM CDT

Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal ruled yesterday that a lawsuit challenging Governor Terry Branstad's line-item vetoes of mental health facility funding can move forward.

A group of Democratic state legislators and AFSCME, Iowa's largest public employee union, filed the lawsuit in July. Last month, attorneys for the state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit or force the plaintiffs to "recast" (revise and resubmit) their court filing.

But in a thirteen-page ruling, Judge Staskal rejected the state's arguments that "the plaintiffs lack standing, have failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and that the case presents a nonjusticiable political question." He found that AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan has standing because he represents the interests of state workers who were laid off when the state government closed in-patient mental health facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. The judge also noted that state legislators "have standing to challenge the propriety of the Governor's exercise of his veto authority." Judge Staskal found plaintiffs had stated a claim: "a challenge to the Governor's exercise of his line-item veto authority." As for the political question, the ruling noted, "Whether to close Clarinda and Mount Pleasant is a policy matter for the other branches of government. Whether the Governor's particular use of his line-item veto power is constitutional is a matter for the courts."

Judge Staskal did find in favor of one argument advanced by state attorneys, releasing Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer as a co-defendant: "The Director [Palmer] plainly has no authority to veto legislation and there is no allegation that he did veto legislation. Therefore, there is no conceivable set of facts upon which relief could be granted on the claim that the Director exercised an improper veto."    

The legislators who joined this lawsuit are State Senators Rich Taylor, Tom Courtney, Janet Petersen, Tony Bisignano, Herman Quirmbach, and Dick Dearden, and State Representatives Bruce Hunter, Curt Hanson, Jerry Kearns, Mark Smith, Art Staed, Ako Abdul-Samad, Jo Oldson, Ruth Ann Gaines, Sharon Steckman, Todd Taylor, Mary Gaskill, Kirsten Running-Marquardt, Timi Brown-Powers, and Dave Jacoby.

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Nursing home receives pitifully small fines for mistreating former Clarinda patients

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 16, 2015 at 09:41:35 AM CDT

This Sunday's Des Moines Register carried another front-page story by Tony Leys about the substandard treatment some patients have received since being transferred from the now-closed state mental health facility in Clarinda. Leys reported last month that eight former Clarinda patients were sent to nursing homes "rated 'below average' or 'much below average' on a federal registry," and that two of the patients "died shortly after their transfers."

"Transfer trauma" can endanger a frail person's health even if the new facility offers excellent care. Unfortunately, the Perry Health Care Center's handling of three former Clarinda patients left much to be desired, according to an Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals report cited at length by Leys. Failure to monitor and care appropriately for one man led to severe dehydration and breathing problems, and eventually his hospitalization. The man died two weeks later. Staff carelessness caused a shower accident that broke a woman's leg. A third woman did not receive a blood-clot prevention medication for six days in a row. Click through for many more depressing details. The whole 28-page inspector's report is embedded at the bottom of the page. The company that owns the nursing home rejects the inspector's findings and will appeal the fines, its manager told the Register.

From where I'm sitting, the nursing home is fortunate to face only $13,500 in fines for the long list of documented problems. I'm shocked that failure to administer a medication for six days, or to inform the prescribing physician that the patient had not received the drug, resulted in only a $500 fine (pages 24 and 25 of the report). Failing "to provide adequate supervision when transferring a resident from a shower chair," leading to a broken leg, resulted in only a $5,000 fine (pages 16 to 23).  

Most stunning: the nursing home will receive only an $8,000 fine for repeated staff failures to properly assess or treat a man who was becoming lethargic and dehydrated. Nor did staff always provide supplemental oxygen as indicated when the man's saturation levels dropped below 90 percent. The brother of the (now dead) man told Leys that a doctor at Mercy Medical Center "said she'd never seen a person so dehydrated in her life."

Eight years ago, an Iowa nursing home received state and federal fines totaling $112,650 for failing to change a woman's wound dressing for 25 days, resulting in gangrene and amputation of the affected leg. A settlement later reduced that fine to $75,397.

I don't know how much discretion state inspectors have in assessing penalties. Iowa nursing homes can't be fined at all for some of the most common health and safety violations, under a law Governor Chet Culver signed in 2009. The Iowa House and Senate had unanimously approved that bill, ignoring concerns raised by some advocacy groups, the Iowa Department of Elder Affairs, and the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Leys reported that the woman who failed to receive her anti-clotting meds has moved "a more highly rated nursing home near Bloomfield, which specializes in treating elderly people with mental illnesses." The woman whose leg was broken would like to move from the Perry facility but has no place to go.

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Iowa AG Miller to GOP lawmakers: No authority to investigate fetal tissue transfers

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 04, 2015 at 17:59:34 PM CDT

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has informed 56 Republican state legislators that his office has neither "jurisdiction over transfers of fetal tissue" nor the "authority to investigate or demand information about the transfer of fetal tissue." In a letter dated today, Miller noted that "Iowa does not have any state laws governing the transfer of fetal tissue," which means that only offices of U.S. Attorneys are able to enforce federal laws in this area.

Last month, the GOP lawmakers asked Miller's office "to investigate current and planned abortion operations within Iowa to ensure compliance with the law." Their letter set out ten detailed questions regarding the disposal, donation, or possible sale of body parts following abortions. Miller directed the legislators to contact U.S. attorneys' offices in Iowa if they "have reliable information that federal laws relating to fetal tissue are being violated."

I enclose below the August 24 letter from Iowa House and Senate Republicans, today's written response from Miller, and a two-page letter Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provided to the Attorney General's Office regarding the lawmakers' query. Planned Parenthood's response noted that the organization "does not now, and has not in the past, participated in" any fetal tissue donation programs but adheres to "rigorous standards of care" and "compliance with all applicable laws and regulations" in every area of its work, including abortion services.

Many Iowa Republicans will be furious, not only because Miller will not act on their unfounded suspicions, but also because the Attorney General's Office responded to their query in what appears to be a textbook late-afternoon, pre-holiday-weekend news dump.

Also worth noting: Iowa House Speaker-select Linda Upmeyer and incoming House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow did not sign the August 24 letter to Miller, but House Speaker Pro-Tem Matt Windschitl, incoming Majority Whip Joel Fry, and Assistant Majority Leaders Zach Nunn, Jarad Klein, and Walt Rogers did. Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix did not sign the letter, but Minority Whip Jack Whitver and Assistant Minority Leaders Rick Bertrand, Randy Fenestra, Charles Schneider, and David Johnson did.

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Regents pick least-qualified candidate to lead University of Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 03, 2015 at 16:52:20 PM CDT

By a unanimous vote, the Iowa Board of Regents today named J. Bruce Harreld as the next president of the University of Iowa. Of the four finalists for the job, only Harreld had never worked in academic administration. Up to now, his experience at universities has been limited to some adjunct teaching.

I'm going on record now: this experiment will not end well.

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Iowa Board of Medicine and Governor Branstad finally ready to face reality on telemed abortions

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 02, 2015 at 16:52:06 PM CDT

Two months after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional a proposed state ban on using telemedicine for abortions, the Iowa Board of Medicine and Governor Terry Branstad are at last ready to accept the court ruling as the final word on the subject.  
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Insurance company insiders knew about Iowa's Medicaid privatization plans long before public

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 01, 2015 at 15:51:15 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad didn't run for re-election last year on a plan to let private insurance companies manage health care for some 560,000 Iowans on Medicaid. He didn't work with key state legislators to draw up his administration's "Medicaid Modernization" plans. The governor's draft budget, submitted in January, projected some $51 million in savings on Medicaid for the 2016 fiscal year. But key lawmakers like the chair of the Iowa Senate Health and Human Resources Appropriations subcommittee didn't learn that four private companies would be selected to handle almost all Medicaid services until the Iowa Department of Human Services made its request for proposals public in February.

Recent accusations of bias and conflicts of interest, as well as allegedly inaccurate scoring of insurers' proposals, have raised many questions about how the Iowa DHS selected the four companies now negotiating contracts to manage Medicaid for one-sixth of Iowans. Reports of campaign contributions by lobbyists and political action committees representing firms that sought Iowa's Medicaid business prompted one watchdog to decry "pay to play" politics.

Those news stories point to a conclusion that isn't getting enough attention: various insurance companies and their paid representatives knew what was coming down the pike long before the Branstad administration disclosed its plans to privatize Medicaid.

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Pella Electric Cooperative drops discriminatory charge for solar users

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 28, 2015 at 17:22:13 PM CDT

The Pella Electric Cooperative has told the Iowa Utilities Board it will no longer seek to charge some customers using solar panels a much higher "facilities fee," Karen Uhlenhuth reported today for Midwest Energy News. The rural electric cooperative had informed members in June that customers installing new solar panels after August 15 would be charged a monthly fee of $85, which is $57.50 higher than what most of the Pella Electric customers pay. Those who had already installed solar systems would be exempt from the higher fee for five years, but would have to start paying it in 2020.

The cooperative's action provoked an outcry from renewable energy advocates as well as from the handful of Pella Electric customers who would have been immediately affected. Uhlenhuth noted that the non-profit Environmental Law & Policy Center intervened with the Iowa Utilities Board, saying "a fee levied only on customers with distributed generation facilities ran counter to two provisions in Iowa law." The Office of Consumer Advocate (part of the Iowa Attorney General's office) asked the cooperative to provide data supporting a much higher monthly fee for solar users. The cooperative had refused to release its "cost of service" study last month.

To all appearances, the coop backed down once leaders realized they were on shaky legal ground, much like Alliant Energy reversed its position on net metering for some solar projects, shortly after critics had intervened with the utilities board. Uhlenhuth quoted a statement released by the Pella cooperative, which sounds like an unconvincing attempt to save face. The coop's chief executive officer John Smith claimed it is "incorrect" to depict the higher facilities fee as "discriminatory." He is sticking to his story that charging solar users more was merely an effort to be "fair" to other customers. While not admitting that the cooperative was wrong, the statement said it is withdrawing the proposal "until such time that we can better educate our members and the community as to the fair and equitable recovery of fixed costs."

A press release from the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which I enclose in full below, notes that the Pella cooperative already benefits from solar panels installed by its customers, because it "buys excess solar energy at a rock bottom price" of 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour and "sells it at a premium" price of 10.1 cents per kWh. (I'm an active supporter of the ELPC, but I have no role in drafting their public statements or legal strategy.)

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Iowa's Medicaid privatization raising more red flags

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 26, 2015 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

The Branstad administration has justified its "Medicaid Modernization Initiative" with optimistic projections about more "efficient, coordinated and high quality healthcare" and greater "accountability in health care coordination," delivered at a savings to taxpayers.

Jason Clayworth shared a less encouraging perspective in the August 21 Des Moines Register: all four private insurance companies now negotiating contracts to manage Medicaid in Iowa have "faced serious charges of fraud or mismanagement" related to serving Medicaid recipients in other states. Some of those violations led to "hundreds of millions of dollars in fines" against the insurers.  

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Iowa won't have to repay HAVA funds used for voter fraud investigations

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 24, 2015 at 13:11:34 PM CDT

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has determined that spending $240,000 on criminal investigations of voter fraud in Iowa was an "allowable, allocable and reasonable" use of federal Help America Vote Act funds, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press today. I enclose the commission's two-page memorandum of August 13 after the jump (hat tip to Foley). A spokesman for the commission told the AP "he wasn't aware of other states using HAVA funding for similar investigations."

Former Secretary of State Matt Schultz made battling voter fraud a major theme of his four years in office. The full-time investigator, pulled from other work at the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations, turned up a few examples of improper registration and voting but no evidence of any large-scale voter fraud problem. Democratic State Senator Tom Courtney was among the leading critics of Schultz's use of HAVA funds for that purpose. In October 2012, he requested state and federal audits of the matter. Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins announced in December 2013 that his office's review could not determine whether criminal investigations were a proper or improper use of HAVA funds. He advised the Secretary of State's Office to "have a plan in place" in case Iowa needed to repay the money to the federal government later.

The commission's ruling is a lucky break for Schultz, who was elected Madison County attorney last November after losing the GOP primary in the third Congressional district. He's keeping busy now as state chair for Senator Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. When Schultz seeks higher office again, he can claim he was vindicated in using federal funds to investigate fraud.

For those wondering why it took federal officials so long to consider Iowa's use of HAVA money: because Senate Republicans refused to confirm President Barack Obama's nominees, the Election Assistance Commission didn't have the necessary quorum to take any official actions from 2010 until January of this year, when three new commissioners were sworn in. Senators had confirmed them during the December 2014 lame-duck session of Congress as part of a large bloc of nominees approved by unanimous consent.

UPDATE: Added below a statement from Courtney urging Secretary of State Paul Pate "to formally pledge not to use federal funds for any future voter purge effort" and to make clear "that Iowa is no longer one of the states where election officials use tax dollars to suppress voter turnout."

SECOND UPDATE: Schultz told the AP, "This was always about improving the administration of elections." Rita Bettis, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, called it "truly troublesome for our national democracy" that Schultz's "model of voter intimidation can now be exported to other states ahead of the 2016 General Election."

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Longer summer break for Iowa kids, but with less lake swimming

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 24, 2015 at 11:51:41 AM CDT

Thousands of Iowa children went back to school today, having enjoyed an extra week or two of vacation thanks to a new state law preventing K-12 school districts from beginning the academic year before August 23. In response to lobbying from the tourism industry, most state lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad sought to block local school administrators from starting in early or mid-August. However, as economist Dave Swenson explained here, "there is no evidence that early start dates interfere in any meaningful sense with the Iowa State Fair or with any other tourism activity in Iowa."

If only the governor and most of our state legislators were as tuned in to how dirty water hurts Iowa tourism.  

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Fallout from state's selection of companies to manage Medicaid for half a million Iowans

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 21, 2015 at 12:49:37 PM CDT

On Monday, the Iowa Department of Human Services announced the four private insurance companies selected to manage care for almost all of the 560,000 Iowans on Medicaid. Pending successful contract negotiations, Amerigroup Iowa, AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa, UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, and WellCare of Iowa will start managing care for Iowans on January 1, 2016. It's too early to say how the change will affect medical services. Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan expressed concern "that people will fall through the cracks" and said she hopes Iowans will contact state lawmakers "if problems develop" under the new system.

Some losers have emerged from the process already: namely, two companies now managing care for some Iowans on Medicaid, which were not selected to continue in that role next year. Follow me after the jump for background on the Medicaid privatization plan and the fallout from the Iowa DHS not choosing Magellan Health Inc and Meridian Health Plan as managed care organizations for 2016.  

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Iowa's Current Refugee Crisis

by: Roger Pedactor

Fri Aug 14, 2015 at 17:04:19 PM CDT

(Background and details on how "community navigators" serve refugee communities. Unfortunately, last month Governor Terry Branstad vetoed state funding for this kind of pilot program in Polk County.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Refugees from Burma (Myanmar) spend an average of 10-15 years in a refugee camp before coming to America. They get 3 days head's up before coming to the United States. They take out a government loan of several thousand dollars that they must pay back just to get here. They are then assigned a caseworker from a resettlement agency. This agency and the refugee(s) have 90 days to learn a completely new language and culture, understand school systems, public transportation, healthcare - everything from Winter clothing to brushing their teeth. After 90 days, the federal government stops supporting the refugees all together. The resettlement agency, due to overwhelming demand, must be off to assist the next incoming family. So who takes over?

People like me.

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Major utility's about-face is big win for solar power in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 11, 2015 at 06:59:41 AM CDT

One of Iowa's major investor-owned utilities has changed a policy that was impeding new solar power projects, Karen Uhlenhuth reported for Midwest Energy News over the weekend. Follow me after the jump for background and details on this excellent news.
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Calling Iowa's young leaders on clean energy

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 30, 2015 at 23:15:00 PM CDT

Midwest Energy News, a non-profit news website supported by non-profits focused on energy policy, is launching an award to recognize "emerging leaders throughout the region and their work to accelerate America's transition to a clean energy economy." The site will accept nominations for the "40 Under 40" designation here "until either 250 nominations are received or 10:00 p.m. CT on Monday, August 10." Eligible candidates include "midwest-based leaders and innovators from all sectors -industry, government, regulatory, business, academic, and advocacy."

I learned about the 40 Under 40 competition from State Representative Chuck Isenhart, who will serve on the selection advisory committee for Midwest Energy News. Isenhart is the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and has been a strong voice in the Iowa legislature on a range of environmental issues.

Through volunteering for various non-profits, I have become acquainted with several Iowans who deserve serious consideration for the new award, and I plan to encourage their colleagues to nominate them. The candidate who immediately came to my mind, though, is someone I've never met. Paritosh Kasotia is the founder and CEO of Unfolding Energy, a non-profit "founded on a premise that clean energy choices can safeguard the climate as well as create economic growth." She is best known as the highly capable former leader of the Iowa Energy Office; I enclose below more background on that part of her career. Late last year, leaders of the Iowa Economic Development Authority fired Kasotia for reasons never explained to anyone's satisfaction. Some suspected the dismissal was related to a $1 million solar power grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which Kasotia helped land but Iowa eventually relinquished after Branstad administration officials "amended an original proposal and insisted the grant not be used to evaluate solar energy policies - a change that utility lobbyists sought," Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press last July.

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