Five terrible bills Iowa Republicans didn't pass in 2021

The Iowa House and Senate adjourned late in the evening on May 19 after finishing most of their work for this year. (Lawmakers will almost certainly come back for a special session to consider new maps of Iowa’s legislative and Congressional districts.)

In the coming days, Bleeding Heartland will closely examine several bills that passed in the late session rush. For now, I want to review the legislation that by some minor miracle didn’t make it to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk, in spite of support from powerful interests.

All of these bills are likely to return in some form during the 2022 session, so don’t celebrate too soon. House Republicans were unable to pass a “water quality” bill backed by agricultural groups in 2017. But the Iowa Farm Bureau and its allies spent the interim chipping away at the GOP holdouts. The bill sailed through the House early in the 2018 session. The same scenario could play out with any of the proposals discussed below.

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Governor endorses plan targeting Iowans on public assistance

A longstanding effort by Iowa Senate Republicans to reduce the number of Iowans receiving various forms of public assistance got a quiet boost last week from Governor Kim Reynolds.

For the first time, the governor’s draft human services budget included provisions that would create asset tests for federal food assistance and require the Iowa Department of Human Services to establish a new “eligibility verification system” for Medicaid and several other public assistance programs.

State Senator Jason Schultz has pushed similar legislation for several years running. Each session, Senate Republicans have approved the bills, which died in the House Human Resources Committee (see here and here).

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A call for responsibility, accountability, and compassion in the new year

Ras Smith represents Iowa House district 62, covering part of Waterloo. -promoted by Laura Belin

Christmas, for me, is a season of spiritual tradition, personal reflection, and service to
community. Because my mom is a pastor, I had the fortune of growing up in a faith-filled church community. Today, my own children are blessed to experience a closeness to this family faith that instills in them the importance of loving and serving our fellow humans. This makes the holiday season even more meaningful.

As I reflect upon the year, I think about the thousands of Iowans who stepped up to help one another during a global pandemic. I think about people pouring into communities to clean up, provide food, build shelter, and give moral support in the wake of the devastating derecho. I think about the sacrifices of so many essential workers across the state. This is the unbreakable spirit of Iowa, and why I love living here.

But as I reflect further, my heart also hurts for families across the state who experienced preventable suffering and loss at the hands of poor leadership.

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Most Iowans in Congress supported latest COVID-19 package

The U.S. House and Senate on December 21 approved a $2.3 trillion package to fund the federal government through September 30, 2021 and provide approximately $900 billion in economic stimulus or relief connected to the coronavirus pandemic.

No one in either chamber had time to read the legislation, which was nearly 5,600 pages long, before voting on it. Statements released by Iowans in Congress, which I’ve enclosed below, highlight many of its key provisions. The unemployment and direct payments to families are clearly insufficient to meet the needs of millions of struggling Americans. Senate Republicans blocked aid to state and local governments, many of which are facing budget shortfalls. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to push for a much larger economic stimulus package early next year.

The legislation headed to President Donald Trump’s desk includes some long overdue changes, such as new limits on “surprise billing” by health care providers for emergency care and some out-of-network care.

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Trump food program letter: Treat or trick?

Herb Strentz reports on how central Iowa food banks are handling an unprecedented letter from the president in boxes for the needy. -promoted by Laura Belin

Halloween will soon be upon us, and there is a “trick or treat” aspect to a flap involving President Donald Trump. I’m not referring to his planned campaign rally at the Des Moines airport, but to a controversy surrounding aid to our nation’s hungry.

Here’s the deal: Given that COVID-19 has cost farmers much of their commercial market and exacerbated food insecurity for millions of people, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advanced a $4 billion Farmers to Families Food Box Program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

Here’s the misdeal: The boxes that program provides to food banks around the nation–and then to food pantries– now include a letter in English and Spanish and adorned by the usual grandiose signature of Donald J. Trump. He takes a measure of credit for the program and writes, “I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”

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Lessons learned from our giving table

Todd Struthers chronicles “what went right, what went wrong, and the lessons we’ve learned running our 4H Giving Table in Waukee.” -promoted by Laura Belin

It started for us on May 26. The idea came from a post by Andy Slavitt, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama. He linked to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled, “After losing loved ones to virus, Maplewood woman makes her yard a lifeline for others.” 

Slavitt occasionally showcases people doing good in these “difficult times,” to quote an overused phrase. The feature was about a cancer survivor named Shana Poole-Jones, who lives in the suburbs of St Louis. She had family who died or had gotten sick with COVID-19, and she had created these grab and go tables where people can drop off or pick up food or toys. 

One thing she said resonated with me: “I realize that I’m a broken person and most of the people who to the table are broken right now. But all the broken pieces pieces come together and make a soft of community to survive this.”

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