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Cornfields, Common Sense and Community

March 14, 2018
By State Senator Jeff Edler - R-State Center , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

We had another busy week in the Senate. As we move ever closer to the second funnel legislators are busy ensuring priority bills keep afloat in the legislative process.

The Senate also passed a billto improve the safety of Iowa schools. The bill requires all schools have a high-quality emergency operation plan in place that includes a protocol for active shooters and natural disasters. To develop these comprehensive plans, schools are required to consult with local law enforcement and may also take recommendations from the Department of Education.

The bill, Senate File 2364, says school security plans will not be subject to open records requests in order to keep our children better protected. The emergency response plan will also be reviewed and updated annually, while also requiring school officials be trained on the plan once per year.

Article Photos

State Senator Jeff Edler
R-State Center

Senate File 2371 addresses the crime of human trafficking. The bill raises the penalty for knowingly trafficing a victim under the age of 18. This bill is one step we can take to combat the depraved crime of human trafficking, severely punish anyone guilty of this crime, and protect Iowans from the increasing number of these incidents in our state.

Private

Health Insurance

This week we passed two bills related to the private health insurance marketplace. This was a huge priority for Senate Republicans and many Iowans. Iowa's individual health insurance market has changed drastically with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. Since the ACA became federal law nearly eight years ago this month, insurance premiums have soared, and more Iowa insurance companies have elected not to participate and offer individual plans in Iowa. The ACA has created significant difficulties and hardships for many Iowans. Iowa's individual market is in a state of collapse due to skyrocketing premiums and few options.

As more Iowans lose access to the existing plans, they have made repeated pleas for the legislature to create new access to health insurance plans.

These pleas have not gone ignored. After the federal government failed to make changes to the ACA, Iowa Senate Republicans began working on several plans to provide Iowans with access to affordable individual health plans. One of those options was Senate File 2349, which passed this week. It is a bill to help address access and cost. Just as important, it gives Iowans options when it comes to purchasing health insurance.

The bill provides an option for small businesses and sole proprietors to join forces and work together to purchase health insurance if they so choose to do so - rather than rely on the individual market.

This new option would eliminate some existing restrictions on creating a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA) under current law and require the MEWA have membership stability as defined by a rule. The second component of the bill requires the Commissioner of Insurance to promulgate rules to allow for the creation of association health plans that are consistent with the potential changes to U.S. Department of Labor regulations.

Additionally, the Senate also passed Senate File 2329, which would allow agricultural organizations to offer health benefit plans. These would not be considered insurance under state or federal law, taking these plans out of the ACA requirements. It also requires these organizations self-fund these plans and have a third party administrator manage these plans.

The goal of these plans is simple: to provide Iowans with options. We want Iowans to have healthcare options for them or their families. As the federal government searches for a solution, we have a plan hard-working Iowans can afford.

Student Debt

This week the Senate passed SF 2361 to address the stubborn problem of rising student debt in Iowa. The bill requires public higher education institutions to publicize the employment data, starting salary, and average debt accumulated in that field of study.

SF 2361 also requires students to take a financial literacy class prior to graduation. Too frequently college students take out loans without a full knowledge of the cost of repayment, the interest rate, the repayment years, and monthly costs.

Additionally, this bill requires public universities in Iowa to provide a plan for current and prospective student to graduate from their field of study in three years if the student wishes to do so. This tool allows them to reduce their costs and enter the workforce faster. It enables them to reduce the amount of loans they take and reduce the interest paid on their loans.

A college education should prepare young Iowans for success in their careers of choice, not be an albatross of debt weighing them down for decades. SF 2361 shines some light on the issue of college education, debt, and opportunity.

 
 

 

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