The Behn Report

February 4, 2017

Sen Jerry Behn (R)

With all the contentious bills we had this week, it was refreshing to have the FFA groups from Gilbert, Boone, and Webster City here at the Capitol. They were interested in learning the way government functions and they were interested in ag related issues.  Overall, they were a great group of kids and I enjoyed visiting with them.

State of the National Guard: The head of the National Guard, Major General Tim Orr, addressed the legislature on Tuesday. He noted that Iowa has 9,000 guard members in the state. Of those, 425 soldiers are currently in combat duty around the world.

He also noted that $353 million of federal funds were also used in the past several years to update all the National Guard facilities around the state. The quality of Iowa’s National Guard is nationally respected.  So much so, that they get called up with regularity.  Our thoughts and prayers go to the members and their families as they serve our state and we continue to pray for their safe return.

Education remains a priority: For years, we have been committed to providing responsible and sustainable funding for local school districts.  Our schools have been disappointed in the past when they were promised a certain amount of money, and then the Legislature was forced to make cuts. We cannot and will not do that to our schools. We want to set supplemental state aid (SSA) early in the session to help our school districts budget and plan. We want to promise them an amount we know we can afford, so they can effectively plan their budget.

The SSA increase for FY 18 makes a promise to local schools that can be kept.  Senate File 166 provides an increase of about $40 million in state aid to local school districts. This is a first step towards meeting our obligations to set school aid in a timely manner.

The methods of the past have placed Iowa schools in difficult situations.  Requiring SSA to be established before there are even revenue estimates is irresponsible.  This has caused the legislature to over promise and under deliver several times, and it is our goal to stop this practice.

It’s time to move forward so schools can create their budgets and conduct their primary business – educating our children.

Private sector employee drug testing: This week a bipartisan group of Iowa senators passed an important piece of legislation that permits employers to use hair to test employees or prospective employees for drug use. Current Iowa law provides for other options for drug testing, but did not specifically allow hair to be tested. This change will align Iowa with 47 other states that clearly permit the use of hair for drug testing and is a reasonable approach to employee drug testing.

This bill allows employers the flexibility to use hair, in addition to blood or other means, to test employees for drug use. Hair testing can be more accurate and provide results covering a longer period of time to make employers more confident in the test results. Studies have shown certain hair testing measures are 5 to 10 times more effective than other types of drug testing.

Many Iowa job creators supported this update to Iowa’s employee drug testing laws because they invest significant resources in identifying, training, and compensating their employees. Making one simple change to the drug testing laws allows them greater flexibility and confidence in the quality of their workforce. Updating this law enables Iowa job creators to compete in a national and increasingly international market.

Senate File 2 passes the Senate: Senate File 2 cleared the full Senate judiciary committee Tuesday and went to the full Senate for debate on Thursday. Since this bill was introduced on the first day of the legislative session, I have received numerous emails, phone calls and visits from constituents.

SF2 would create a new state family planning program, eliminating the current family planning waiver that currently goes to abortion providers. The new program opens up a host of new opportunities for people to receive all their primary health care needs from more than 200 Medicaid waiver eligible clinics. The only clinics excluded in this bill are those who perform abortions.

One of the reasons I supported this legislation is that it creates more access for women to receive their health care needs. These new providers are federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics. This would equate to more than 800 providers who billed for services and medications including hospitals, medical centers, clinics, gynecologists, primary care physicians, Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners and pharmacies, according to the Department of Human Services.

Senate File 2 only removes taxpayer money for abortion providers. As stated previously, what this bill does is transition the Family Planning Network to a state program and excludes abortion providers from that funding stream.

We are a pro-life caucus, and this has been our long-standing position. Senate File 2 offers many Iowans the confidence that their tax dollars are not being spent in a way that violates their conscience, while providing more healthcare choices for more women.

As always, I want to hear from you.  My Senate number is (515) 281-3371 and my home number is (515) 432-7327 or write me at:  State Capitol, Des Moines, IA  50319 or at my home address:  1313 Quill Avenue, Boone, IA  50036 or email me at jerry.behn [at] legis [dot] iowa [dot] gov

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