Posted on

Legislative forum covers variety of issues

State Sen. Waylon Brown (left) and State Rep. Todd Prichard talk about one of the issues facing lawmakers during a forum in New Hampton on Saturday. Tribune photo by Mira Schmitt-Cash
State Sen. Waylon Brown (left) and State Rep. Todd Prichard talk about one of the issues facing lawmakers during a forum in New Hampton on Saturday. Tribune photo by Mira Schmitt-Cash
By Mira Schmitt-Cash, New Hampton Tribune

The area’s two state representatives — Sen. Waylon Brown, R-St. Ansgar, and Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City — addressed constituents Saturday at the first of three legislative forums hosted by Chickasaw County Farm Bureau.

Prichard, the House minority leader, said he wants to work with Gov. Kim Reynolds on a proposed children’s mental health system parallel to the adult one which is funded by property tax.

“We’re still hearing too many providers are not getting reimbursed (or not) timely,” Prichard said regarding Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system.

Prichard noted the Floyd County Medical Center requested $500,000 from the Floyd County Board of Supervisors, partly due to reduced reimbursement under privatized Iowa Medicaid.

Prichard advocated a 3 percent increase for supplemental state aid to schools this year, after the governor recommended a 2.3 percent increase.

Brown, who is among the assistant Senate majority leaders, noted priorities to attract young people to rural areas and fill high-demand jobs.

A former first responder, Brown also said he just finished drafting a bill that would address “in my eyes, a better way to deliver our Medicaid system; also working on a third-party fraud and audit system for our Medicaid system … both … in a bipartisan manner.”

Prichard fielded a follow-up question about legislation in the aftermath of the contested house race in Winneshiek County, after noting it was behind them.

In District 55, Democrat Kayla Koether trailed incumbent Republican Michael Bergan by nine votes, and there were 29 uncounted ballots in the race.

Koether sued, and a judge sent it to the House to decide the outcome of the House race.

Prichard and other Democratic members have signed onto “some fixes we think should be applied,” he said.

He said 29 of the absentee ballots at issue were mailed on time, and “we know that because of the barcode that was printed in Waterloo at the (postal) processing center.”

“If you interpret the law the way the majority interpreted it in the House, which I think is the wrong interpretation, these envelopes didn’t have a circular postage mark, and they didn’t have this ‘Intelligent-capital I’ trademarked barcode,” Prichard said. “Well they had a barcode. It’s intelligent in that it tells you what you need to know, that the ballot was cast on time.”

Prichard said it was likely the uncounted ballots would not have changed the outcome and would have confirmed that Rep. Bergan, the incumbent, had won.

“But I don’t like the precedent,” he said. “I don’t like that … ballots that we know have data that say they were mailed on time appropriately didn’t count.”

Attendee Rick Holthaus noted absentee ballot use was on the rise.

“We’re trying to make those changes so it doesn’t happen again,” Prichard said.

Doreen Cook said she agreed with the judge’s decision on the issue, because he followed the law and “was not legislating from the bench.”

But now that that incident is over, it’s time to fix the law, she said.

Superintendent Jay Jurrens asked for updates on extending the “SAVE” (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) penny sales tax for school infrastructure.

“It passed on subcommittee, and it looks like there’s a lot of support in the Senate for it,” Brown said.

Prichard said it passed the House last year and with 22 new house members but the same leadership.

“I would expect it would still go through the House,” he said.

Brown said he thought the bill started as a 10-year extension. He said there were other language changes, but he was unsure of their fate in the final bill.

Prichard said the governor has been noncommittal as to whether the state will continue to backfill property taxes expected by local governments since lawmakers have decreased property tax income to localities by increasing rollback percentage.

“We should go in and still (cap) what that is going to be so we can control that backfill amount so we can give local counties and jurisdictions assurance of what the revenue is going to be,” he said. “If we take away the backfill at the state level it’s going to be catastrophic for everybody.”

Prichard said the governor spoke of corporate income tax rates, and in January he has heard talk of changes to residential tax rates.

“I haven’t seen any specific bills filed and I’m not hearing much from colleagues,” he said.

“… That’s the thing that needs to be corrected from that ’13 bill — it shifted onto those other categories, away from commercial,” Prichard said.

Each legislator has also introduced a bill called Logan’s Law in their respective chambers.

The intent of the bill is to place organ donor information, which is currently on Iowa driver’s licenses, on hunting and fishing licenses as well in honor of Charles City teenager Logan Luft, who died in an ATV accident in 2017 and whose donated organs have helped save lives.