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 Statehouse News

It’s hard to believe that week 11 is already coming to a close!  While I can’t say I am happy with the outcome of every vote this week, I am particularly happy that several good pieces of legislation were passed by the House with strong bi-partisan support. It’s also notable that some long fought battles are what finally made their way to the House floor!  I’d like to mention three bills I was proud to support.

I was thrilled to vote for HJR 14, the proposed constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.  Former Governor Vilsack had signed an executive order in 2005 to restore voting rights, but that order was rescinded by Governor Branstad in 2011. Currently, it’s up to the Governor to restore voting rights on a case by case basis. HJR 14 needs to be passed by both chambers in two consecutive General Assemblies before being put to a vote of the public.  This is a long process, but as a passionate supporter of voting rights, I am pleased the Iowa House has taken the first step.

Another big win was HF 737, a bill regarding animal mistreatment, abuse, neglect, and torture. This may be the issue I have received the most emails about so far this session!  As a dog owner myself, I completely appreciate the advocacy on this issue and I am grateful that so many Iowans spoke out! The bill greatly expands the definitions of mistreatment and increases the penalties for abuse of our companion animals.  The bill also creates a new crime for tampering with a rabies vaccination tag as well as tampering with an electronic handling device.  Finally, the bill allows courts to mandate a person undergo evaluation and treatment after they are convicted of animal abuse.  Advocates have worked passionately on this issue for years and I’m pleased that it passed 96-0.  I’m hopeful the Senate will take it up soon.

We also took a big step forward on health care options with HF 732, a bill to expand Iowa’s medical cannabis program.  For many Iowans seeking access to treatment, creating and expanding access to medical cannabis has been a roller coaster ride.  While there were high hopes for a cannabidiol program started in 2014, it was so restrictive that many Iowans were left unable to access medicine which could greatly improve their quality of life.  In 2017, the Legislature made some fixes by allowing access to Iowans suffering from the following conditions: cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, seizures/Epilepsy, AIDS/HIV, Crohn’s disease, ALS, Parkinson’s disease and untreatable pain.  It also allowed for the licensure of 2 manufacturers and 5 dispensaries.  The program is limited to the production of oils, capsules, and creams.     

I am pleased that after years of delay, the House finally took action.  Among other things, HF 732 expands access through changing Code definitions by replacing “untreatable pain” with “severe or chronic pain”.  The bill also eliminates the current arbitrary 3% THC cap and replaces it with a 25 gram over 90-day period maximum disbursement.  Additionally, the bill allows licensed physician assistants and registered nurse practitioners to join physicians in certifying a patient’s eligibility in the medical cannabis program.  These are good steps and I am thrilled that they received bi-partisan support.

Even with these advancements, however, we can do more.  Health care is intensely personal.  I believe decisions are best made between a patient and doctor and treatment options need to be accessible no matter where you live. I hope that after the Senate approves this bill, we can continue to work on expanding eligibility as well as increasing the number of manufacturers and dispensaries.  Nearly 80% of Iowans support expanding access to medical cannabis.  Let’s work together to put the health care needs of Iowans first.

As a reminder, I will be holding a listening post this Saturday from 9:30 – 10:30am at Woodside Middle School, 5810 NE 14th St, Des Moines (Saylor Township). I hope to see you there! 

Representative Matson and Representative Derry meet with Des Moines Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Foly and Board Member Kerty Levy at the Capitol for breakfast on Wednesday, March 28, 2019. They spoke about the new terminal planned for the Des Moines Airport which will make traveling easier for Iowans across the state.

Representative Matson meets with Amy DeGroot-Hammer in the House Chamber on Wednesday, March 28, 2019. Amy is participating in Emerge Iowa, a training program for Democratic women who are thinking of running for office.   Amy shadowed Rep. Matson for the day to learn what it’s like to be a freshman woman legislator in the Iowa House.

Representative Matson stands with Saydel High School iJAG students McKenzie Myers and Nathan Dykstra and their teacher Daryle Wright in the House Chamber on Monday, March 25, 2019.  McKenzie and Nathan were at the Capitol to lead the House in the Pledge of Allegiance as well as advocate for additional funding for iJAG programs.

Representative Matson visited with Ankeny resident Paul Ferrone who serves on the board of the Iowa Cultural Coalition at the Capitol on Thursday, March 28, 2019. They agree the arts are more than just a "nice to have" when it comes to economic development. The arts & culture sector is a $3.8 billion industry in Iowa and represents 2.1% of the state's GDP.

Representative Matson speaks with Joseph Wall of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 28, 2019. They have a partnership with DMACC to run a program in Iowa that helps small business owners take their businesses to the next level. They are currently working with their first cohort of small business owners, including Ankeny’s own Plot Twist Bookstore. 

Representative Matson stands with Ankeny residents Megan Albaugh and Mary Lasky of Moms Demand Action in the House Chamber on Monday, March 25, 2019. Albaugh and Lasky were advocating for common sense gun safety legislation.  

Lawmakers gather around Governor Reynolds for a Vietnam Veterans proclamation in the Governor’s formal office at the State Capitol on Thursday, March 28, 2019. Representative Matson was proud to stand alongside her colleagues in honor of those who have served.

Representative Matson meets with CEO of the Greater Des Moines YMCA Leisha Barcus and Director of Aquatics Operations for the Greater Des Moines YMCA Frankie Hanson at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. They spoke the importance of the YMCA in so many communities.

News from the Statehouse

Children’s Mental Health System Legislation Passed House 

Iowa does not currently have a mental health system specifically designed for children.  

In April 2018, Gov. Reynolds signed an Executive Order creating the Children’s Mental Health System Board that was tasked with developing the system and laying out groundwork for future legislation. Last week, House File 690 passed the House and created an infrastructure for the system. The children’s system closely mirrors the adult mental health system that was created through legislation last year.  

First, the bill identifies what core services would be part of the children’s system. These services include prevention, early identification, education, behavioral health outpatient therapy, mobile response, crisis stabilization residential and community-based services, and a statewide 24-hour crisis hotline. The bill also makes some changes to the Mental Health and Disability Services Regions Governing Board to help integrate the children’s system into the current adult system. Finally, the bill provides eligibility requirements for those who are able to receive these services.

The most important recommendation suggested by the Board was to find a stable funding source for this system. Unfortunately, the bill does not address this issue. Funding is especially important because the mental health regions will be asked to fund most of this system without receiving any sort of financial assistance from the state.

In fact, it is estimated that the regions will have to pay over $3.2 million in FY 2020 and $5 million in FY 2021 just for the children’s system alone. The regions are already required to fund the vast majority of the adult mental health system, and in order to truly make meaningful and lasting changes to children’s mental health, the services need to be fully-funded without depending entirely on one source.  

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

House Approves Medical Cannabidiol Expansion

More Iowans with severe health problems and chronic pain will have access to medicine that could improve their lives after a bi-partisan bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis law was approved by the Iowa House.  

In 2017, the Iowa Legislature expanded access to medical cannabis to Iowans suffering from the following medical conditions: cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures; AIDS or HIV, Crohn’s disease; ALS, Parkinson’s disease; and other terminal diseases or untreatable pain. Currently, Iowa’s medical cannabis law is limited to the production of oils, capsules, and creams. Any production or sale of smokeable forms of marijuana is prohibited.

House File 732 was approved this week and would eliminate the current 3% THC cap and replace it with a 25 gram over 90-day period maximum disbursement.  If signed in to law, the bill becomes effective immediately.

Currently, Iowa Relief and MedPharm are the only cannibis manufacturers licensed to operate within the state. MedPharm products opened in December at five licensed dispensaries, in Waterloo, Davenport, Council Bluffs, Windsor Heights, and Sioux City. As of the beginning of 2019, there were 505 health care professionals in Iowa who have patients certified for medical cannabidiol.

In a poll released earlier this year, nearly 80 percent of Iowans support expanding access to the state’s Medical Cannabidiol program, according to the Des Moines Register.

HF 732 now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

Read More News from the Statehouse

Politicize Judicial Selection Process Bill Could be Debated Soon
State Budget Process Begins in the House  
Another Small Step to Improve Water Quality
Iowa Awarded with $9.5 million to Help Homelessness
Educator Misconduct Loophole Closed

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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