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 Statehouse News

 
Time just won’t slow down here in the Legislature!  Week 7 has come to a close and it was a busy one.  We’ve started to see bills moving faster in order to “stay alive” past the first funnel deadline at the end of next week.  

This week also marks the end of Black History Month.  One of the best things all month has been being in the House Chamber for the daily speeches and introductions of notable Iowans as we celebrate black history.  As we close out the month, it’s important to consider how much of our nation’s history hasn’t been written, or hasn’t been properly acknowledged, in the official books and how much work we all must do to rectify that. We all have a lot to learn from each other so we can grow together.  

As you may remember, I serve on the International Relations Committee, which meets every other Monday. That’s the reason I had to change my office hours by the way!   This week we were fortunate to be joined by Mr. Xhavit Gashi, the Consul General of the Consulate of the Republic of Kosovo.  We learned more about the sister state relationship Iowa has with the Republic of Kosovo. Fun fact: HD38 has a local connection with Iowa’s sister state program with DMACC.   I was happy to learn recently that DMACC has a partnership with Kosovo in helping to start a new vocational academy and that DMACC has a sport exchange program with Japan.  Being a member of this committee has been a great learning experience!
 
In other committee news, the SAVE bill or the bi-partisan plan to extend funding for school infrastructure improvements, has made it out of the Ways and Means Committee and is headed to the House floor for debate and a vote. This is good news for public schools across the state and has been a major priority for school leaders; I’m hopeful we can get it done this session.

It’s no surprise to anyone that Iowa continues to struggle with our mental health care system. Our adult system is underfunded and we have virtually no system for children. We face dire workforce shortages and not enough beds for patients in need of care.  Too many Iowans still suffer under the stigma of mental health.  I made a commitment to my constituents that I would do whatever I could to address these challenges. I am pleased to join with my House Democratic colleagues in co-sponsoring a bill that takes an important first step for a children’s mental health system in Iowa.  Our bill, which will be filed early next week, focuses on specific policies relating to provider shortages, expanding access to mental health professionals, suicide prevention, and support services for adverse childhood experiences.
 
Here are a few of the highlights. Our bill would expand the current health care workforce support initiative to include a mental health professional fellowship program. The program will provide for collaboration between Iowa institutions of higher education and mental health professional programs to address the mental health shortage in this state.  The primary emphasis will be on educating mental health professionals who focus on youth clinical experiences. The bill will also provide contract incentives for the mental health professionals to practice in shortage areas around the state.  We need to fundamentally address the provider shortage if we are going to make a difference on mental health services in Iowa.     

We also need to ensure that mental health professionals are at the forefront of the teams helping those in need of care.  Iowans in need of care work with a “PMIC” team (Psychiatric Medical Institute for Children) but current law doesn’t require a mental health professional to be part of that team, only that services are under the direction of a mental health professional.  This bill will require PMIC teams to include mental health professionals for psychiatric, social, and rehabilitative services.

This bill also requires school districts to create suicide prevention committees in each school. When a young person tragically commits suicide, the ripple effect can be devastating for a community. These committees are meant to build awareness for increased child suicide attempts and develop strategies that focus on both prevention and postvention. The bill also allows school districts to develop and implement mental health services within each school in order to help kids in a place where they are most comfortable with the least disruption to their schedules.

This is a complicated issue and our bill is just one step. Implementing these policies will require funding beyond what is already allocated to current mental health systems and our K-12 schools. I urge the Health and Human Services Budget Committee to prioritize funding for our adult mental health regions and any new children’s mental health system. I know this isn’t easy when budgets are stretched. But quite frankly, we can’t afford not to provide the care so desperately needed to the Iowans who have for too long been left behind.

We had so many visitors to the Capitol this week on a huge range of issues.  We took a ton of pictures but unfortunately I am limited to 10 in this newsletter!   I want to thank everyone who took the time to call me out of the Chamber for a conversation – particularly the citizen lobbyists who took time away from work or school to be advocates.  It means a lot to hear from you!  
     
As a reminder, my office hours have moved to Friday mornings from 9 – 10:30am at Main Street Café in Ankeny. Please come with any questions or concerns; I would love to meet with you!



Representative Matson and her clerk, Shannon Sankey, enjoy Cold Stone Ice Cream at an ice cream social at the Capitol on Wednesday, February 28, 2019. It took seven weeks, but they finally got a photo together!


Representative Matson speaks with DMACC Dental Hygiene students on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. She showed them around the House Chamber and all the students were excited to get a chance to take a seat in the Speakers chair.


Representative Matson speaks with John Fisher, a Board Member of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation at a legislative breakfast in the Capitol on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.


Representative Matson spoke with three iJAG classes at Saydel High School on Friday, February 22, 2019.  She spoke with them about the Legislature and emphasized how important civic engagement is for young people. She encouraged them to reach out to lawmakers at every level about issues important to them.  Rep. Matson also appreciated the opportunity to hear from the students about their experiences with iJAG and how what they are learning is making a difference in each of their lives.


Representative Matson visits with Brandon Rohrig, advocacy committee co-chair for IPHA at Iowa Public Health Association's Day on the Hill on Tuesday, February 26, 2019. They discussed the importance of Iowans knowing why public health matters.


Representative Matson meets with Blank Children’s Hospital Manager Chaney, Pediatric Nurse Practioner Jennifer Sleiter (a constituent!) and Medical Director Ken McCann as well as Representative Mark Smith in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. They spoke about the importance of children’s mental health around the state and how to address the problem of health care deserts in Iowa.


Representative Matson learns about Iowa’s Sister State program and our relationship with the Republic of Kosovo during a committee meeting on Monday, February 25, 2019.  Members of the International Relations Committee were photographed with Mr. Xhavit Gashi, Consul General of the Republic of Kosovo in the Senate Chamber after the meeting.


Representative Matson meets with friend and constituent Linda Johnson-Lundquist in the House Chamber on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. Linda is a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors-Iowa or NAIFA-Iowa and was at the Capitol for their lobby day.


Representative Matson welcomed her constituent Derald Holtkamp into the House Chamber on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. Derald was at the Capitol as a citizen lobbyist with the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association for their day on the Hill.  


Representative Matson meets with Des Moines Water Works Engineering Services Manager Mike McCurnin for breakfast at the Capitol on Thursday, February 28, 2019. They spoke about different water management projects going on around Polk County.


News from the Statehouse


Tax Credits, Free Tax Filing Assistance Available to Iowans

State and federal income taxes will be due soon.  Iowa state income tax returns are due on April 30, which is a Tuesday while federal income taxes still need to be filed by April 15th, which is a Monday.

The Department of Revenue offers several options for filing your taxes, including some free options for low and moderate income filers, elderly, and those with disabilities.  The options to “File for Free” for tax year 2018, which must be filed by April 2019, can be found at https://tax.iowa.gov/tax-year-2017-file-free.  

In addition, the Department of Human Services works with partners to provide tax preparation services to eligible individuals.  The federal Internal Revenue Service provides a lookup for free tax preparation services available at http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep.  AARP also offers free tax preparation to anyone over age 50.  Additional information on the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide can be found at https://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/.  

Iowans can track their refund online through the Department of Revenue.  Taxpayers will need their Social Security Number, the tax year they wish to track, and the refund amount.  Using this information, the status of a refund can be tracked at https://www.idr.iowa.gov/wheresmyrefund/.  

Earned Income Tax Credit

Iowans that qualify are encouraged to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit.  The credit is available for working individuals and families that meet certain income restrictions.  If you worked at any time in the last year you could be eligible for the credit.  If you file for the federal EITC, you likely qualify for a state credit as well.  The credit does not affect eligibility for public benefits such as Medicaid, FIP, Child Care Assistance, or subsidized housing.  Additional information on the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit can be found at https://dhs.iowa.gov/EITC


Plan for School Infrastructure Improvements Moves Ahead

The Iowa House is working on a proposal this year to extend funding for school infrastructure improvements for another 20 years.

A top priority of school leaders across Iowa for several years, the plan under consideration would extend the one cent local sales tax for school infrastructure (SAVE) through 2051 instead of expiring in 2031. The plan has advanced through two committees in the Iowa House.  

The bill increases property tax relief to school districts with low valuations and creates a new fund for property tax relief to all school districts.  A separate Career Academy competitive grant fund is established to help build job training facilities.  

More transparency is provided in the plan by allowing voters to reapprove the district’s revenue purpose statement.  If SAVE funds are going to be obligated for 20 years, boards must hold a public hearing and give citizens an opportunity to petition for a direct vote of the people.

Details still need to be addressed on the Career Academy fund and the percentage set for the property tax relief.  

The House bill has advanced to the House floor, and a similar bill is in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.


Read More News from the Statehouse


GOP Lawmakers Try to End Health Education Funding
Iowans Support Expanding Use of Medical Cannabis
Legislation Advances to Benefit Beginning Farmers
House Expands Access to Eye Health
Chronic Wasting Disease Update



Contact Representative Heather Matson

MatsonforIowa.com

Capitol
1009 Grand Ave
Iowa House of Representatives
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-3221
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1802 SW Prairie Trail Parkway
Ankeny, IA 50023
515-201-1877
 
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