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 Statehouse News

This past week I was thankful to have so many visitors from my district come and see me at the Capitol about the issues that matter most to them.  Civic engagement and outreach is a top priority of my time as a legislator and I try to make myself as available as possible to my constituents.  It makes my heart happy to see so many people become advocates for what they believe in.

This past Wednesday was IA Voters for Companion Animals Day here at the Capitol. A few different bills are making their way through the legislative process and these advocates were here to talk about them. I met Debbie Cooper for the first time while canvassing; we had a lovely conversation over a fence during the summer.  This week she came to the Capitol as a first time “citizen lobbyist” for animal rights. I was thrilled to show her and Animal Rescue League of Iowa’s Chief Executive Officer Tom Colvin the House Chamber and got a picture with them at the Speaker’s Chair.  I was honored to be a part of Debbie’s first day as a citizen lobbyist – and a bonus, ARL is in HD38!

Debbie and Tom weren’t the only ones to come and see me. A few others advocating for animal rights, Jana West and Nancy Harvey, met me in the Capitol and we got some great pictures together. As a dog owner myself, I have such compassion for the well-being of our pets and hope to see action taken on bills relating to the protection of companion animals this session. I also saw new faces at my weekly office hours at Main Street Café and am happy so many people show up to speak with me at these events.

I’m proud to share that I filed my first piece of legislation this past week to address the problem with delayed deposit loans, also known as payday lending. The bill, HF 440, would cap interest rates for these loans at 36%, pursuant to the federal Truth in Lending Act. The bill would also require lenders to enter into extended payment plans upon request of the borrower.  During the time of a repayment plan, the lender would be prohibited from initiating debt collection, court proceedings, or charging extra fees.  Reasonable repayment plans will give borrowers a chance to pay off their loans without going further into debt.

So, why is this important? A key component of my message to voters in the last election was the critical work we need to do to ensure economic security for all Iowans.  No matter where I was in the district – from Ankeny to Norwoodville – it was abundantly clear from thousands of conversations that too many Iowans face a tremendous amount of insecurity when it comes to making ends meet.  

Addressing economic insecurity often requires acknowledging and then breaking down the systemic barriers that stop people from getting ahead.  Did you know that 57% of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency expense?  Imagine your car breaks down or you have a medical emergency and you are still days or weeks from your next paycheck?  What happens when you don’t have enough in savings to feed your family and handle an emergency?  You seek out a delayed deposit loan, otherwise known as payday lending.  

Unfortunately, these loans, while easy to access, aren’t always in the best financial interest of the borrower.  While there are some caps on fees, there are no specific caps in Iowa Code for the interest rates on payday lending itself because they are considered two week transactions with “low” dollar amounts.  But when you take into account the fact that so many people need to take additional loans to pay off the previous loan, and that 8% of users need to take out these loans every two weeks, that could add up to an interest rate as high as 360% APR.  

I believe this is unacceptable. Borrowing money is something we all need to do from time to time, but would you ever agree to an interest rate of over 300%?  Those of us who have other banking options would never accept this proposition, and no Iowan should ever have to.  This is an important step in attempting to break the cycle of poverty, get Iowans off the debt treadmill, and give members of our community the tools they need to get ahead.   

In other news, the House Judiciary Committee took action Wednesday on HSB 110, the bill to inject politics into the judicial nominating process in Iowa. The majority party introduced and passed an amendment on the bill to keep our current system for district nominating commissions. But the bill would still allow party leaders to select members for the state nominating commission, which of course means justices for the Supreme Court. This begs the question: if the current judicial nominating process is good enough at the district level, why not at the state level? Even with the current nominating system, judges still have retention elections, voters must vote “yes” in order for these judges to keep their seats. House Democrats on the committee stood strong on protecting our independent judiciary and our long history of a fair, merit-based nominating selection process.  The majority party passed the bill with only Republican support and it now advances to the House floor for a vote.

Unhappiness over recent Iowa Supreme Court rulings may point to a reason for the proposed changes to the judicial selection process. In today’s hyper-partisan times, the last thing we need is for politics to take over Iowa’s judicial system as well.  The bill under consideration this year is a power grab that threatens the checks and balances of our system of government.  If you agree that our process must be protected, please encourage your friends and neighbors to contact their legislators too!  

As a reminder, I am holding another listening post this Saturday from 9:30 – 10:30am at the Ankeny Library.  Please come with all questions and concerns as I would love to speak with you.  As another reminder, starting March 1, I am moving my office hours to Fridays from 9:00 - 10:30am at Main Street Café in Ankeny. This means I will not be there this Monday, but will see you Friday, March 1 for the start of my new office hours.

Representative Matson met with Jane Warren and Tony and Marcia Vola from AARP on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at the State Capitol in Des Moines. Representative Matson was pleased to vote the CARE Act out of committee on Thursday and looks forward to a vote on the House floor.

Representative Matson chatted with Chief Executive Officer of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Tom Colvin and animal rights advocate, Debbie Cooper.  Debbie is a constituent and the ARL is located in HD38. Representative Matson was happy to speak with them about the different animal abuse laws in Iowa.

Representative Matson met with Jana West, an animal rights activist and constituent, in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Mrs. West is a great advocate for our companion animals!

Representative Matson listened to Wendy Tufflin, an advocate and mother from Ankeny outside the House Chamber on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Mrs. Tufflin’s 16 year old son has autism and she came to advocate on his behalf.  Representative Matson was honored to hear their story.

Representative Matson met with Executive Director at Iowa Women’s Foundation Dawn Oliver for breakfast at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 19, 2019. Representative Matson continued her conversation about the importance of providing high quality child care to all areas of the state.

Representative Matson stood with the Democratic Caucus in the House Chamber on Tuesday, February 19, 2019. Blue was the inspiration for this picture.

Representative Matson joined the rest of the Democratic women for a picture in front of the Speaker’s Chair on Tuesday, February 19, 2019. This year, the Democratic Caucus has the most women members in its history.

Representative Matson filed her first piece of legislation on Tuesday, February 19, 2019 to address interest rates and repayment plans for delayed deposit loans, also known as payday lending.

Representative Matson spoke with Marie Andre, Brett Burk, Garang Majouk, Iris Tun and Tin Lia during Refugee day at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 19, 2019. They all spoke at length about the refugee communities across Polk County and their experience living in America so far.

News from the Statehouse

Working Families Face Child Care Challenges

With more than 700,000 Iowans living in a child care desert, a new report out this week found working families continue to struggle with finding dependable childcare.

According to Early Childhood Iowa (ECI), 63% of parents report that child care costs influence the direction of their careers and working parents miss work nearly two weeks per year because of child care issues.  Iowa also has one of the highest rates of two parent working families in the nation.

Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) is a collaborative system of Iowa partners that work to develop strong early childhood services.  ECI supports a variety of literacy programs and services for children such as providing books, literacy based activities, preschool, and services to families enrolled through Women Infant and Children (WIC) Clinics.  There are 38 ECI boards in Iowa that provided services to 1,555 children last year.  In 2017, ECI funding was cut by lawmakers and in 2018 ECI provided financial assistance to 2,000 children to attend preschool.  This, however, is 361 less preschool scholarships than two years ago due to the funding cuts.  

Lawmakers are working on several bills this year to help families with childcare, including increasing the child care provider reimbursement rate and raising the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

For more information about the report visit:

Alert Program for Missing Veterans-At-Risk    

A program designed to help find missing veterans-at-risk recently passed the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The Green Alert Program will use the same notification system that sends out emergency mass messages to the citizens of Iowa. In this case, the system will be used to alert people when there is a report of a missing person, who is also a veteran considered to be at-risk.

This system is especially important with the high rate of veteran suicide. In 2014, there was an average of 20 suicides per day by service members or veterans.  Two-thirds of these deaths were veterans age 50 and older.

Read More News from the Statehouse

House Republicans Release Budget Targets
House Committee Advances Bill Politicizing Judicial Selection
Electric Scooter Legislation Moves Forward
Program Helps Students Save on Textbook Costs
World Food Prize Opportunities for High Schoolers
“Pass or Get Out of the Way Bill” Moves Forward

Contact Representative Heather Matson

1009 Grand Ave
Iowa House of Representatives
Des Moines, IA 50319
1802 SW Prairie Trail Parkway
Ankeny, IA 50023
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