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 Statehouse News

As week 12 comes to a close, we have reached the point of session known as the second funnel. At this point, bills that have not passed out of a chamber AND passed through a committee in the other chamber are essentially “dead” for the session. This does not include bills that come out of the Appropriations, Ways & Means, or Government Oversight committees.  There is also an option for leadership to move some bills to the “Unfinished Business” calendar even if they didn’t meet the funnel requirements.  

There are several bills I am happy are still moving forward, including but not limited to, allowing industrial hemp production (HF 754/ SF 599), cracking down on puppy mills (HF 738), creating a children’s mental health system (HF 690/ SF 479), and making it easier for Iowans to get treatment for substance abuse disorders (HF 623/ SF 565).  I am also happy that SAVE is still alive, but it appears to be stalled in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. After 3 weeks in committee, it was finally passed through a subcommittee this week. I encourage you to contact members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee to pass it out of the full committee as soon as possible.  

There are also several bills I am relieved are NOT moving forward after this week! Some of them include work requirements for Medicaid recipients (SF 538), a personhood bill (SF 523), allowing concealed firearms in gun free zones (HF 636), and a constitutional amendment to ban abortion (SJR 21).  

Another bill I want to bring your attention to is SF 438, which would have removed requirements for health screenings in schools by moving the reporting to the Department of Public Health.  I served on the subcommittee for this bill and fought hard against it.  I believe that our schools – and school nurses – are critically important partners in ensuring our kids get vision, dental, and blood lead test screenings.  Keeping schools connected to parents when it comes to ensuring our kids are healthy and able to learn is paramount.  I am thrilled that with a lot of hard work, we were able to stop this bad bill from moving forward this week.  

And of course there are a few bills I am disappointed are still moving forward. Some of them include politicizing our judicial nominating commissions (HF 503/ SF 237), prohibiting the DNR from using state funds to acquire public lands for parks, bike trails, hunting, fishing or other recreation (SF 548), and the sunshine tax/ solar bill which would hurt our small business that do solar installations and penalize Iowans who have invested in solar technologies (HF 669/ SF 583).  

This week we also got started on the budget bills. First up was the Education Budget bill.  There were a couple things I was happy to see in the budget, including increased funding for community colleges and the iJAG program.  I was also able to work with Representative James from Dubuque to co-sponsor an amendment to add an additional $50,000 to the Health Care Loan Repayment Program to help ensure mental health professionals are able to access funds to help repay student debt.  I was very happy this amendment was accepted by the majority and was included in the budget.  However, these budgets are huge with a lot of line items.  In truth, I remained deeply concerned about the overall budget and because I believe our greater education needs aren’t being met by this appropriation, I voted no.  

I have two major concerns about the budget bill.  First, our Regents universities didn’t receive the recommended level of funding.  Democrats offered, and I voted for, an amendment for the recommended amount of $18 million.  The Regents indicated that with the requested amount, tuition would remain flat at UNI and that the increase would be up to 3% at ISU and U of I.  At the level proposed by House Republicans, tuition would go up somewhere between 3-5%.
Here’s the thing: since 2011, tuition and fees have gone up at U of I by 19%, at ISU by 20%, and at UNI by 21%.  The cost of higher education at our public universities continues to be put on the backs of Iowa families.  I made a commitment to my constituents to work on reversing the trajectory of how we fund higher education. I have heard from so many students and parents who are fearful of the rising cost of tuition and what that will mean for the debt they take on in the name of a college degree.  We have to do better.

I am also frustrated by the continued de-appropriations of our Area Education Agencies.  This budget would have cut another $15 million.  I supported an amendment to keep the current level of AEA funding, but it was rejected by the majority party.  AEA’s do a lot of work in our schools, including supporting mental health care needs.   As we work towards creating a children’s mental health program in this state that needs to be funded, it doesn’t make sense to me that we actively work against programs which would help provide much needed assistance to our kids.
Finally, I want to touch on UnitedHealthcare’s decision to leave our state’s Medicaid program.   UHC is the second MCO to abandon Iowans because they want more taxpayer dollars and don’t want to be held accountable for their decisions to deny payment for care that patients need and deserve. To make matters worse, contract negotiations with these for-profit companies are secret, and the lack of transparency in privatized Medicaid contributes to the failure of the system.

You may remember that House Democrats sponsored a bill to address the failures of Medicaid privatization. Our bill would move the LTSS population (long term support and services) away from the MCOs and put them back under a state run system. These are our most vulnerable Iowans because of a disability, aging, or chronic illness; often needing help with everyday tasks like bathing, eating, and dressing.  Their complex health needs haven’t been met or have been flat out denied, and therefore have been disproportionately affected by privatization.

It’s important for you to know that this bill, sponsored for 46 legislators, didn’t even receive a subcommittee meeting.

So where do we go from here?  UHC’s departure means that 425,000 Iowans, two-thirds of our Medicaid population, are faced with uncertainty yet again in their health care coverage. Will the next company work their doctors? Will the next company decide services previously covered are no longer necessary? How long will it take to build trust with the next company’s case managers?  These are the legitimate concerns I have heard from the numerous constituents who’ve emailed me in the last week.  

The truth is I’m not surprised by this development. I am frustrated because we are continually told by the majority party everything is fine when it’s clearly not. I am angry because the Governor and her party are not only refusing to acknowledge the shortcomings of privatized Medicaid, but they are actively working against any improvements that could be made to it.

Iowans deserve health care that is reliable, affordable, and accessible. It’s time to admit that the system isn’t working and we need to fix it.  It is okay to admit that learning from mistakes makes us stronger.
House Democrats are calling on the Governor and our colleagues across the aisle to work with us on a solution. We need to recognize complex needs require complex care and return our most vulnerable Iowans to a state run system.  A system that had lower costs, was reliable for providers, and put the health of patients first.  If you agree, please sign on to our petition:

Iowans have been begging us to do something to fix this system.  I ask my colleagues – Democrats and Republicans alike – to go back to the drawing board so we can get this right. It’s long past time to put the health care needs of Iowans ahead of the profits of managed care organizations.    

Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns!

Representative Matson stands with Representative Kacena, Representative Gaskill and advocates from the American Association of University Women – Iowa  in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. They were at the Capitol for Equal Pay Day.  Did you know that  on average, women in the US have to work over 15 months to earn what men average in 12 months. American women lose out on $500 billion each year because of the pay gap.

Representative Matson meets with Grand View Student Body President Katelyn Martinson at IA College Aid Day on the Hill in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Katelyn and fellow students were advocating for the continued support of the Iowa Tuition Grant which provides scholarships to students attending Iowa’s private colleges.  College affordability is one of the major issues for young people as tuition continues to rise and federal funding for grant and scholarship programs continue to be cut.

Representative Matson meets with Youth Opportunity Center Program Coordinator Elizabeth Patten, advocates Angie Arthur, Andrea Dencklau and IHYC members Matthew and Johnny on Thursday, April 4, 2019.  Representative Matson was touched to hear from Matthew and Johnny, two young men who came to the Capitol to tell their stories of being homeless in Des Moines and how this program has helped them greatly.  Not pictured are a few other youth Rep. Matson was able to meet with later in the day who shared their stories of mental illness and homelessness.  It’s not easy to share personal stories with strangers, never mind legislators.  Rep. Matson was incredibly impressed by their bravery and is committed to fighting for affordable housing and mental health services.  Rep. Matson was also very happy that they invited her to tour Iowa Homeless Youth Centers in Des Moines and looks forward to taking them up on the offer as soon as possible.

Representative Matson meets with President of ITC Midwest, Krista Tanner, at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. They spoke about the electric transmission systems  running through Iowa.

Representative Matson signs a poster alongside of her colleagues at the Iowa Fraternal Alliance Day on the Hill on Thursday, April 4, 2019.  The poster was in support of the fraternal benefit societies making a donation of sundry products to Joppa, a local organization that helps the homeless survive, find affordable housing, and rebuild their lives. Fraternal benefit societies are formed to provide mutual aid or benefit for things like insurance for relief of sundry difficulties.

Representative Matson meets with DART CEO Elizabeth Presutti at Iowa Public Transit Association’s Day on the Hill on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. They spoke about the funding for DART and the value of public transportation in the Des Moines metro.

News from the Statehouse

Medicaid Mess Leaves 425,000 Iowans with Healthcare Disruption

On Friday, Governor Reynolds announced UnitedHealthcare was leaving Iowa's managed care program.   Not only were all 425,000 of UnitedHealthcare’s members caught off-guard by this announcement, but the Governor did not offer a plan for transition, and left mass confusion and frustration for these Iowans.

Since another managed care organization (MCO) just left Iowa last year, UnitedHealthcare now manages care for 70% of Iowans on Medicaid.  The departure leaves 425,000 Iowans facing another disruption in health care because many had just switched to UnitedHealthcare and have already had multiple case workers.

In response, Democratic lawmakers offered a plan this week to finally end Medicaid privatization and put Iowans back in charge of health care instead of out-of-state companies. However, GOP lawmakers refused to take action to end the uncertainty for Iowans.  

Though no details have been released, members with questions regarding this transition can contact the MCOs at:

Iowa Total Care: 1-833-404-1061
Amerigroup Iowa: 1-800-600-4441
UnitedHealthcare: 1-800-464-9484

Members can reach Medicaid Member Services at: 1-800-338-8366.  

For more information about the withdrawal of UnitedHealthcare, please visit

Restoration of Felon Voting Rights Passes House on Bipartisan Vote

An amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would restore the voting rights of certain people that have committed crimes passed the Iowa House recently.  

House Joint Resolution 14 would allow anyone convicted of a felony that has discharged his or her sentence to have the right to vote restored.  Under current law, anyone convicted of an “infamous crime,” or essentially a felony, can never vote again in the state without a restoration person’s rights.

HJR 14 passed the Iowa House on a bipartisan vote of 95-2.  The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it’s unclear if the committee will take up the bill this session. It will have to be voted out of that Committee by April 5th to remain eligible to be debated this legislative session.

The amendment will also have to pass during the current consecutive two-year General Assembly.  If the amendment then passed the next General Assembly, starting in January 2021, the amendment would be put before the voters on general election ballot in November 2022.  If a majority of the voters approved the change the Iowa Constitution would be amended.  The Constitutional amendment was proposed by Governor Reynolds.

Iowa and Kentucky are the only two states in the country that permanently prohibit felons from voting.  There are currently about 50,000 people in the state of Iowa that have lost the right to vote because of a criminal record.  The only way to restore the person’s rights under current Iowa law is for the Governor to do the restoration.

Read More News from the Statehouse

Iowa Care Act Passes Both House and Senate
Strengthening Animal Cruelty Laws Advances in House    
Sports Wagering Bills Continue to Change    
Paddling Safety Reminder

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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