Ragan Report

Help for Iowans in need, more sunshine in government

A core Iowa value is taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. This week the Iowa Senate voted for a Health and Human Services Budget that will improve the safety and quality of life for Iowa seniors, children and others who look to us for help.  

House File 2463 provides state funding for local elder abuse support services for the first time. In addition, it will be easier for seniors to get the services needed to continue living in their own homes, rather than moving to expensive nursing facilities.  The Senate amendment also hires two ombudsmen for seniors in nursing homes. Iowa currently has only half the number of long-term care ombudsmen recommended in national best-practice standards.

Every Iowan will benefit from a boost in funding to emergency medical service (EMS) providers. HF 2463 provides additional money for EMS training and an increase in the amount the state pays through the Medicaid program for local ambulance and other emergency services. Iowa’s rates are among the lowest in the country and significantly below those paid by private health insurance. Some Iowa communities will be in danger of losing EMS services if providers are unable to recoup their costs.

The Senate's Health and Human Services Budget also helps children and at-risk Iowans by:

• Expanding childcare assistance to parents receiving further education and working part time.

• Improving lives of children and adults by increasing at-home access to specialized health and support services.

• Protecting Iowa’s redesigned mental health services by fully funding state commitments.

Iowans also value an open, transparent government. That's why the Government Oversight Committee in the Senate has approved Senate Study Bill 3221, a thoughtful response to recent revelations of hush money payments in employee settlements, questionable hiring practices and the treatment of whistleblowers.

Bipartisan investigations have revealed serious shortcomings in state government accountability. Our goal is to craft a comprehensive response that gets to the root of what we have learned so far. SSB 3221 will: ban hush money, expand protections for state employee whistle blowers, require the auditor to investigate prior secret settlements, prevent no-bid contracts for state jobs, outlaw cronyism in hiring, mandate disclosure of state worker bonuses, restrict and reform the use of the state “do-not-hire” database.

This legislation makes sense because our constituents are telling us that state government needs more sunshine, more accountability, more whistleblower protections and a solid rededication to clean government.

Additional information

This is a legislative column by Senator Amanda Ragan, representing Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/ragan. To contact Senator Ragan during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise she can be reached at home at 641-424-0874. E-mail her at amanda.ragan@legis.iowa.gov. Senator Ragan is an Assistant Senate Majority Leader, chair of the Human Resources Committee and vice-chair of the Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee. She also serves on the Appropriations, Natural Resources and Environment, Rules and Administration and Veterans Affairs committees.