News from the State House

by Iowa State Representative Patti Ruff

The start of week 11 at the State House was an interesting one as I woke up Monday morning not expecting to have to dig out from 13 inches of snow! It proved once again how diverse, even in weather, our state can be.
Activity at the Capitol included the House passing another option for receiving stipends under the Mental Health Professional Shortage Area Program. House File 534 allows stipends to support psychiatric positions at non-profit agencies that have a licensed psychiatric medical institution for children which provide outpatient mental health services if at least 50% of the children receiving outpatient services are covered by Medicaid.
The program is designed to support psychiatrist positions with an emphasis on securing and retaining medical directors at community mental health centers, providers of mental health services to county residents, and hospital psychiatric units located in mental health professional shortage areas.
Four students from Postville representing Youth Substance Abuse Prevention came down for a news conference and to lobby at the Capitol. In speaking with the students, they informed me that marijuana is still very prevalent in our schools. They also said that in most cases it is easier and cheaper to access drugs than alcohol.
The group presented a fact sheet highlighting a survey given to students in Allamakee County. The results from the survey show that 19% of 11th graders have used marijuana, with 10% using in the last 30 days. It is great to see students working against drugs and their use in our schools.
The conference committee on school aid did meet this week with the Republicans making an official motion to accept 1.25% increase. The vote was five to five and the motion did not pass. I have not received a notice on when the conference committee will meet again.
On Wednesday, there were parents and students rallying at the Capitol in support of 4% supplemental state aid and adequately funding our districts. I continue to hear from educators, administrators and parents urging us that education continue to be our state’s number one priority.
The House passed out the school start date bill with it being a hard date of August 23. It does allow an exemption for year round schools. The bill is still being considered in the Senate.
Dr. Hoffmann from Guttenberg was in town for the Family Physicians Breakfast. We discussed how continued support is still necessary for the incentives for rural physicians. It is important that we have doctors available for all Iowans. Dr. Hoffmann also spoke on the importance of telemedicine as rural Iowa continues to see decline in population as well as easy access to medical services.
Thursday Waukon eighth graders made the annual trek to tour the Capitol. It is a great opportunity for kids to see the governmental process and also see the grand ol’ building.
I hope everyone has a blessed Easter!