Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Up until now, this Legislative Session has been one of extreme legislation mixed with mismanaged budgets and priorities. A bright spot from this week was seeing the autism services insurance coverage bill pass in the Iowa House of Representatives, a bill that I have worked hard on for multiple years. This bill, although not perfect, will provide insurance reimbursement for applied behavioral analysis therapy for many Iowa families who have young children with autism. This bill is now being considered in the Iowa Senate.
I will continue to stand and vote against extreme legislation that attacks hard-working, middle class Iowans. The following bills are a few examples of recently passed harmful legislation that is out of line with the priorities of Iowans: the devastating collective bargaining bill, the preemption bill (which struck the Linn County minimum wage increase) and the workers’ compensation bill, which attacks Iowans injured in the workplace.
As always, it is an honor to work for you and my gratitude for your support continues. If you have any comments or suggestions on issues, or need assistance with state government, please contact me by email Kirsten.Running-Marquardt@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at 319.330.9899. I look forward to hearing from you.
Upcoming Local Event
Saturday, March 18, 10:30-11:45 am
Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline
The Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline provides free and confidential services to victims and survivors. Advocates are available to assist Iowans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-770-1650 to reach the helpline.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)/Other Tax Prep Assistance
Individuals and families who earn less than $54,000 qualify for free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) in Linn County. You can now schedule your appointment with VITA by calling 2-1-1 or 319-739-4211 from a landline. If you have any questions or want to learn more about VITA, please contact Cliff Ehlinger at email@example.com or 319-398-5372 ext. 812. The Department of Revenue offers a variety of free options through Free File. A list of other free filing options can be found at https://tax.iowa.gov/tax-year-2016-file-free.
Cedar Rapids Transit
There will be some changes coming to public transit this July in the Cedar Rapids and Corridor. Please visit here for details of proposed changes. Check out the new RideCRT.com app to stay connected with CR Transit.
State Budget Goes in Red for 2nd Time This Year
The state’s non-partisan budget experts said the state budget is in deficit again and lawmakers will have to find another $131 million to keep the state budget balanced this year. The non-partisan Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met on Tuesday and reduced their projected revenue for fiscal year 2017 (FY17), which ends on June 30, 2017, to $7.1 billion. The Governor and Republicans are signaling that they plan on taking the $131 million shortfall from the state’s reserve funds, which are full at $738 million.
The members of the REC noted that the growth in Iowa’s economy is slow, but we still have unprecedentedly low unemployment rates, commodity prices seem to be stabilizing, and home sales remain strong. Two revenue items that didn’t meet their expected levels are sales taxes and income taxes.
Lower Wages for 65,000 Iowans Passes House
Instead of increasing the minimum wage, Republican lawmakers approved a bill last week that lowers wages for 65,000 Iowans, including 20,000 from Linn County.
Passed on a party line vote, the bill would preempt local ordinances on wages and products sold. After waiting for Iowa lawmakers to act for nearly a decade, four counties have recently increased the minimum wage in their own community to finally give a boost to the lowest wage earners. The bill, House File 295, takes away the minimum wage increases already approved in some Iowa communities. The bill will now go to the Iowa Senate for further consideration.
The Department of Revenue offers a free tool for Iowan’s to check their state income tax refunds. The status of a refund can be checked at https://www.idr.iowa.gov/wheresmyrefund. According to the Department of Revenue, because of new fraud protections built into the processing of returns this year it may take more time to process returns. The Department stated that while it is still focused on efficiently processing returns it is more important to protect taxpayer’s confidential information.
Medicaid MCO Re-Enrollment Period
Iowans on Medicaid will receive an enrollment packet with information about re-enrollment options with one of the three privately managed care organizations (MCO) this month. During the ninety day re-enrollment period, a member can choose to stay with their current MCO, or they can change to a different MCO to better meet their needs.
After multiple delays last year, Iowa’s Medicaid system was privatized by the Branstad/Reynolds Administration. Medicaid members, adults enrolled in the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan or the Dental Wellness Plan, and children enrolled in the HAWK-I Program were all assigned or selected a private managed care organization (MCO) as part of IA Health Link. As part of the program, enrollees are allowed to re-enroll annually, twelve months from their enrollment date. With the vast majority of the members initially enrolling in April of 2016, it is now time to re-enroll.
Iowa Medicaid Member Services can help members learn more about the re-enrollment process and the three MCOs they have to choose from. They can be contacted at 1-800-338-8366. In addition, members may contact each MCO through the following phone numbers: Amerigroup: 1-800-600-4441, AmeriHealth Caritas: 1-855-332-2440 and United Healthcare: 1-800-464-9484.
Session in Photos
Left: Representative Running-Marquardt welcomed family from Clinton to the Statehouse on March 16, 2017. From left to right: Representative Mary Wolfe, Tony Vath, Patty Vath, Tony Vath, Carly Vath, Rep. Running-Marquardt and Ellie and Sophie.
Center: Representative Running-Marquardt met with Vanessa Kim at the Statehouse to discuss HF215/SF400, a bill which provides insurance reimbursement for applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism. After many years of working on the issue with legislators, the insurance industry and Iowans, the bill passed in the Iowa House of Representatives on March 15, 2017.
Right: Officer Josh Bell of the Cedar Rapids Police Department recently met with Representative Running-Marquardt at the Statehouse to discuss law enforcement issues.
Left: Representative Running-Marquardt welcomed Girl Scout Troop 5815 from the College Community School District to the Iowa House on March 13, 2017. The young women visited the Capitol for Girl Scout Day. Rep. Running-Marquardt is pictured here with Troop Leaders Janelle and Jessica Beswick and Girl Scouts Nicole, Lexi, Ella, Jillian, Samantha, Ashley, Sierra and Catelyn.
Right: Representative Running-Marquardt recently met with students and staff from Kirkwood Community College at the Statehouse. They discussed the need to adequately fund community colleges, as recent budget cuts have led to tuition increases for Kirkwood students. Pictured from left to right: Dan Touri, Dave Hunt, Rep. Running-Marquardt, Will Mertens and Catherine Schaff-Stump.
Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt congratulated this year’s award winners at America’s SBDC Iowa Award Ceremony at the Statehouse on March 14, 2017. Alissa Roth of Bloom Works Floral in Council Bluffs was recognized as the recipient of the 2017 Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneurial Award. Steve and Leona Fogle of Fogle True Value and Hardware in Centerville were recognized as the recipients of the 2017 Neal Smith Entrepreneurs of the Year Award. Rep. Running-Marquardt is a member of the SBDC Iowa Board. From left to right: SBDC Iowa State Director Lisa Shimkat, Rep. Sheets, Steve Fogle, Leona Fogle, Rep. Hanusa, Alissa Roth and Rep. Running-Marquardt.
Representative Running-Marquardt met with students and future educators from Coe College on February 15, 2017. Students from across the state visited the Capitol for Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Day. From left to right: Cezar Carrillo, Lane Halupnik, Kelly May, Rep. Running-Marquardt, Rep. Mary Wolfe, Professor Christy Wolfe and Bailey Finken.
Representative Running-Marquardt met with students from Upper Iowa University in Fayette on February 15, 2017 as part of Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Day. Left to right: Ashten Wolff, Jill Wolf, Rep. Lundgren, Ashley Beringer, Ryan Goodenbour, Dr. Jill Buchan and Rep. Running-Marquardt.
Rep. Running-Marquardt met with students from Mount Mercy University who are studying to become teachers on February 15, 2017. These young leaders visited the Capitol with the Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education to meet with legislators about issues in education. Rep. Running-Marquardt is pictured here with Rep. Louis Zumbach, Professor Jennifer Schmidt, Annie Feltes, Maddy Blietz, Jessica Cook, Dia Porter, Kelsey Carson, Zach Ficker and Hilary Pospisil.