The Behn Report

Jerry Behn (R), Boone

March 9, 2018

This week was busy as we worked to send Senate bills over to the House ahead of our next legislative deadline. Most days were filled with long debates on a number of bills, spanning a wide variety of topics.

One of these was Senate File 2243, which prohibits false or misleading caller identification information to any person with an Iowa area code and is physically located in the state.

This targets the increase in phone calls Iowans have received allegedly from the area, but the calls are actually a telemarketer, salesperson, or scammer not based in the state. It passed the Senate unanimously.

The Senate also passed a bill to improve the safety of Iowa schools. The bill requires all schools have a high-quality emergency operation plan in place that includes a protocol for active shooters and natural disasters. To develop these comprehensive plans, schools are required to consult with local law enforcement and may also take recommendations from the Department of Education.

The bill, Senate File 2364, says school security plans will not be subject to open records requests in order to keep our children better protected. The emergency response plan will also be reviewed and updated annually, while also requiring school officials be trained on the plan once per year.

Senate File 2371 addresses the crime of human trafficking. The bill raises the penalty for knowingly trafficking a victim under the age of 18, or if the victim is under 18 and the perpetrator physically restrains, threatens, or benefits from the services of the victim from a class C felony to a class B felony. This bill is one step we can take to combat the depraved crime of human trafficking, severely punish anyone guilty of this crime, and protect Iowans from the increasing number of these incidents in our state.

Finding healthcare solutions for Iowans – Iowa’s individual health insurance market has changed drastically with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. Since the ACA became federal law nearly eight years ago this month, insurance premiums have soared, and more Iowa insurance companies have elected not to participate and offer individual plans in Iowa. The ACA has created significant difficulties and hardships for many Iowans. Iowa’s individual market is in a state of collapse due to skyrocketing premiums and few options.

As more Iowans lose access to the existing plans, they have made repeated pleas for the legislature to create new access to health insurance plans.

After the federal government failed to make changes to the ACA, we began working on several plans to provide Iowans with access to affordable individual health plans. One of those options was Senate File 2349, which passed this week. It is a bill to help address access and cost. Just as important, it gives Iowans options when it comes to purchasing health insurance.

The bill provides an option for small businesses and sole proprietors to join forces and work together to purchase health insurance – if they so choose to do so – rather than rely on the individual market.

This new option would eliminate some existing restrictions on creating a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement under current law and require the MEWA have membership stability as defined by a rule. The second component of the bill requires the Commissioner of Insurance to promulgate rules to allow for the creation of association health plans that are consistent with the potential changes to U.S. Department of Labor regulations. These new Department of Labor regulations rules could provide new opportunities for small employers and sole proprietors by allowing sole proprietors to be considered as employers and by removing the restriction that employers be in the same industry.

Additionally, the Senate also passed Senate File 2329, which would allow agricultural organizations to offer health benefit plans. These would not be considered insurance under state or federal law, taking these plans out of the ACA requirements. It also requires these organizations self-fund these plans and have a third party administrator manage these plans.

The goal of these plans is simple: to provide Iowans with options. We want Iowans to have healthcare options for them or their families. As the federal government searches for a solution, we have a plan hard-working Iowans can afford.

Solutions for student debt – The cost of higher education has outpaced the rate of inflation like few other commodities. The continued increase in the cost of education, the rise in the amount of student debt, and the lack of understanding by some students left many of them saddled with what can amount to decades of debt.

This week the Senate passed SF 2361 to help address the stubborn problem of rising student debt in Iowa. The bill requires public higher education institutions to publicize the employment data, starting salary, and average debt accumulated in that field of study. Students remain free to pursue any course of study they wish. However, it is reasonable and appropriate to ensure people studying to earn a diploma know what opportunities are available to them after graduation.

SF 2361 also requires students to take a financial literacy class prior to graduation. Too frequently college students take out loans without a full knowledge of the cost of repayment, the interest rate, the repayment years, and monthly costs.

Additionally, this bill requires public universities in Iowa to provide a plan for current and prospective student to graduate from their field of study in three years if the student wishes to do so. This tool allows them to reduce their costs and enter the workforce faster. It enables them to reduce the amount of loans they take and reduce the interest paid on their loans.

A college education should prepare young Iowans for success in their careers of choice, not burden them with a huge debt. SF 2361 shines some light on the issue of college education, debt, and opportunity.

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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