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Iowa Legislative Update PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Peggy Huppert   
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 11:19

Unfortunately this was another week of not much progress on our priority issues.  The Iowa House still has not taken up the Health & Human Services appropriations bill, so now it looks like the Senate will move a bill first next week. The good news in this development is that the Senate bill contains $5.3 million for tobacco prevention and cessation programs compared to $0 in the House bill and $2.8 million this year.

The Iowa House passed a bill this week that usually gets little attention – the annual Insurance Division bill, made up of changes to the law that the state Insurance Commissioner recommends. This year a number of amendments to the bill made it controversial. One, dealing with navigators in the health insurance Exchange (which has not yet been established by the Legislature), is of particular concern to us.

This amendment is plainly bad public policy, and here’s why:

 

  • It creates the potential to raise the cost of the navigators, thereby resulting in higher than necessary consumer out-of-pocket or premium costs.

 

  • The new federal regulations allow the states to set up a licensure process for navigators, but the process in this amendment would be very similar to that of insurance agents and brokers, essentially making them de facto agents and brokers.

 

  • The licensure process, fees and bond requirements in the amendment, none of which are required by federal law, will be a barrier for nonprofit organizations and individuals other than agents and brokers who may want to become navigators.

 

  • The core function of the navigators is supposed to be to help consumers understand the range of options for which they are eligible within the Exchange, including public programs like Medicaid and S-CHIP. Navigators are also required to offer assistance with the tax credits available for anyone with an income below 400 percent of the federal poverty level. There is no mention in the amendment of these duties, nor the training required to carry them out.

 

  • The amendment is an unnecessary, backdoor way of tying the hands of an Exchange in Iowa without creating a state Exchange.  The Exchange is the entity that has the obligation to establish the navigator system, train them, contract with them, and fund them.

 

  • If this amendment becomes law, Iowa would be the first and only state to create a navigator licensure provision without having first established an Exchange.

 

In summary, this amendment could result in higher health insurance premiums, limit access to free navigator services, and potentially violate federal law. There is no question that it violates the principles agreed to by the Iowa Health Advocates, a coalition of patient and consumer groups of which the Cancer Society is a part.

We will be working to get this objectionable amendment removed from the bill or add language to make it more advantageous for patients and consumers. Stay tuned for an Action Alert early next week.

As always, feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns – This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Governor Quinn Announces $1.4 Million Roadway Improvement Project for West Central Illinois PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 09:23

Project Will Pave Way for NTN-Bower Corporation Expansion; Create 80 New Jobs

MACOMB, IL – April 6, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $1.4 million roadway improvement project along Bower Road in the city of Macomb. The project supports economic growth in West Central Illinois by paving the way for NTN-Bower Corporation to expand its Macomb facility, creating 80 new jobs over the next two years.

“Illinois has one of the best transportation networks in the country, and we are committed to strengthening our infrastructure,” Governor Quinn said. “This project will help ensure the city of Macomb and the entire West Central Illinois region can continue to compete and attract investment.”

“When I visited NTN-Bower a few months ago, I was impressed by its strong leadership and potential for growth. Strengthening the infrastructure around this growing company is the right thing to do. By upgrading the roads to manage the increased heavy truck traffic in the area, the state of Illinois and the federal government are helping to lay the groundwork for the company’s expansion and the good paying jobs it will create,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The roadway project includes widening and resurfacing an intersection of Bower Road and U.S. 136 (Jackson St.), adding signals, a south leg, and a turn lane for traffic on U.S. 136. Work also involves extending the right storage lane for southbound traffic on Bower Road and resurfacing a shoulder northward on Bower Road to support increased traffic brought on by NTN’s expansion.

NTN, a manufacturer of tapered and cylindrical roller bearings, is investing $100 million to construct a new plant directly east of their existing operations at 711 North Bower Road in Macomb.  Additional production lines will also be purchased and installed in the new plant. The new plant will be approximately 200,000 square feet and will create 80 permanent, full-time jobs. Construction on the building is scheduled to begin in May 2012, with completion slated for April 2013. Roadway construction is expected to begin in mid-August 2012, weather permitting, and is scheduled to be complete by the end of November.

“I am pleased NTN-Bower’s expansion will receive funding from the Community Development Assistance Program, the Truck Access Route Program, and the Economic Development Program.  This expansion will create jobs, which is my top priority,” stated Sen. John Sullivan (D-Macomb).

Funding for the project is made possible through nearly $1.2 million in grant funds from the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Economic Development Program and Truck Access Route Program. The city of Macomb also received a $231,000 grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) Community Development Assistance Program.

“The city of Macomb is grateful for the funding assistance provided by the Illinois Departments of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Transportation for improvements to U.S. 136 and Bower Rd,” said Macomb Mayor Michael Inman. “These improvements were important in securing the expansion of NTN-Bower’s operations in Macomb. The funding will allow Macomb to meet the increased demand for traffic volume, brought about by NTN’s expansion.”

DCEO administers Illinois’ CDAP program, which is known nationally as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and provides federal funding for a variety of community-based projects to communities with populations of 50,000 or less.

“This project demonstrates the power of federal, state, community and private partnerships,” said Antonio R. Riley, HUD’s Midwest Regional Administrator. “We are pleased to see CDBG funds being leveraged to create jobs and spur economic development in Illinois.”

The purpose of IDOT’s Economic Development Program (EDP) is to provide state assistance in improving highway access to new or expanding industrial distribution or tourism developments, and to create new employment opportunities. The department’s Truck Access Route Program (TARP) is combined with funding for Economic Development Program projects and helps local governments upgrade roads to accommodate 80,000 pound truck loads.

For more information on why Illinois is the right place for any business, visit www.illinoisbiz.biz.

 

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Illinois National Guard, Nation Honors Gold Star Wives Day PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Capt. Dustin Cammack, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs   
Friday, 06 April 2012 12:52

SPRINGFIELD, IL (04/05/2012)(readMedia)-- For only the third time since 2010 the country officially recognizes the contributions, dedication and sacrifices of military widows with "Gold Star Wives Day" April 5.

Passed in December 2010, a Senate resolution designated Dec. 18, 2010 as a day to honor and recognize the contributions of the members of the Gold Star Wives of America, an organization of widows and widowers whose spouses died while on active duty or as the result of military service. The day has been honored April 5 in both 2011 and 2012.

"It's nice to be recognized and remembered in that way, but I don't want to be put on a pedestal. Living in the small community I'm from, it's not just one day," said Larissa Melton of Germantown, and widow of Staff Sgt. Joshua Melton. "They know who I am and what he did. That's all I ask is for people to remember the sacrifice he made. It means a lot to me that people still remember his name."

Larissa said she felt it was important to give their daughter, Aubrey, who was 8 months old when Melton died, strong memories of him before his death.

"Every night after Joshua left for Afghanistan, I would show her a picture of the three of us and point to her dad. She would look at the picture and say 'good night daddy, I love you,'" Larissa said. "I would point out things to her like his favorite color, and still today she will see something and say 'that's what daddy likes'. She still remembers."

Melton, 26 and assigned to Illinois Army National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry based in Marion, was killed in action June 19, 2009 in Afghanistan.

Rasa Stream of Mattoon, widow of Sgt. Scott Stream, has found being a Gold Star Wife challenging.

"My life changed completely. I moved here from Europe to be with Scott, and then he got deployed and was killed. I came here with a husband and then I was all by myself," Rasa said. "With Scott's family in Kentucky, me living in Illinois, and my family still in Europe, it's difficult for me because I don't want to be a burden on them – I know it's hard for everyone."

Their daughter Laura, who was 6 at the time of Scott's death, struggles even three years later.

"Laura is 9 years old now, but the more she grows, the more I think she suffers from the loss of her father. There is an empty place where her daddy used to be," said Rasa. "We have a house full of pictures, and we talk about him a lot. But she sometime will say to me 'please tell me more about daddy, I feel like I'm forgetting.'"

Rasa, too, feels the importance of honoring Gold Star Wives.

"It is important to have this day. As time goes by, I think regular people forget about us and our struggle," she said.

Stream, 39 and assigned to Illinois Army National Guard's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry based in Effingham, was killed in action Feb. 24, 2009 in Afghanistan.

For Kim Smith of East Peoria, widow of Sgt. Paul Smith, the hardest part of being a Gold Star Wife is moving on with life.

"I have felt a lot of heartache going through the transition. It's an everyday struggle. Life continues, and there is some happiness, but it's just not the same," she said. "I was an older wife when I lost my husband of over 20 years. If I'm struggling how are the younger wives handling it?"

Kim also thinks honoring Gold Star Wives is important, but wishes more emphasis is given to the day in the future.

"It's a great honor, but I think the Gold Star Moms get more recognition, more so than the wives. I know the moms have lost a son, but we lost our husbands. I don't think there is as much attention given to the Gold Star Wives," she said.

Smith, 43 and assigned to Troop C, 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry based in Aurora, was killed in action June 19, 2009 in Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. William Enyart of Belleville, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard shared his admiration of the Gold Star Wives.

"While these brave Soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our great nation, it is the wives they left behind who have endured the tragedy of losing a loved one to war," he said. "The Illinois Gold Star Wives hold a special place in my heart and will always be part of our military family."

Formed during World War II, the Gold Star Wives of America is a congressionally chartered, non-profit veteran's service organization that provides support for the spouses and children of those who lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces. Eleanor Roosevelt was a member and one of the original 15 signers when the organization was incorporated in New York in 1945.

For more information on the Gold Star Wives of America visit http://www.goldstarwives.org/.

For more information, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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OLSON’S OBSERVATIONS PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Steven Olson   
Friday, 06 April 2012 12:43

The legislation to ban traffic cameras passed the House after lengthy debate. The vote, a 58-42 spilt, bans all traffic cameras and requires cities to remove them by July 1st. Of course, it remains to be seen if the Senate will take this bill up and if it will survive their vote.

One of the reasons the debate was so lengthy is that it was delayed by more than three hours after a letter containing a mysterious white powder was opened on the House Floor. Rep. Abdul-Samad’s clerk opened the letter around 3:30pm and sent the Iowa Capitol into a lockdown. Preliminary testing noted the substance was not toxic and upon further testing the Capitol gave an “all clear” at around 7:50pm but debate had already resumed in the House Chamber.

HF 2229 is legislation that allows a veteran to request that their driver’s license or non-operator’s identification card be marked with the word “VETERAN” to indicate veteran status and it just passed the House. If you are an honorably discharged veteran you can take advantage of this upon renewal of your driver’s license by presenting your honorable discharge papers.

Both chambers approved a bill that would give developers incentives worth up to $16.5 million to build the Dyersville Sports Complex at the site of the “Field of Dreams” movie. This package is much like incentives given the Iowa Speedway in Newton several years ago.

As this column is written on Wednesday debate is scheduled to take place late this afternoon on the Mental Health Reform Program. While it is my own opinion, it appears session could be wrapping up in the next couple of weeks. This would be a refreshing change from last year.

If you have concerns or questions I can be reached at the Capitol by emailing
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
AMERICA NEEDS FARMERS PROGRAM TEAMS WITH IOWA HAWKEYES AND IOWA FOOD BANK ASSOCIATION TO HELP EASE HUNGER IN IOWA PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Laurie Johns   
Friday, 06 April 2012 08:56

Hawkeye Fans Invited to Help Replenish Johnson County Crisis Center and Statewide Food Banks by Bringing Donations to April 14 Spring Practice

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA -- April 4, 2012 -- As farmers begin the 2012 planting season in Iowa, the growing problem of hunger in Iowa is on their minds.

“Iowa farmers lead the nation in livestock and crop production and they’re proud that their hard work and innovation brings more food and more choices for all Americans; that’s why it’s unacceptable to have a 30 percent increase in the number of families who visit food banks,” says Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) President Craig Hill.

The Johnson County Crisis Center distributes 60,000 pounds of food a month and they’re facing a critical shortage in both food and donations.  The Iowa Food Bank Association, a collaboration of the eight food banks which collects, coordinates and distributes food and essential supplies across the state, sees similar shortages.

“That’s why IFBF is proud to support the ANF/ Food Bank Drive April 14 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City when fans of the UI football team get their first look at the 2012 Iowa football team.  We hope Hawkeye fans and all Iowans will show that they believe in taking care of their neighbors and friends in need,” says Hill, a fourth generation livestock farmer from Milo.

Those who work with food banks in this state are grateful for the donations and the chance to spotlight a growing problem of hunger in Iowa.  “The current economy has brought higher mortgage rates, medical and fuel costs to more Iowans at a time when they’re finding it tough to find a full-time job with benefits. It all adds to the problem of hunger in Iowa,” says Jordan Vernoy, director of the Iowa Food Bank Association.  Many food banks are seeing a critical shortfall. “But, we want Iowans to know that it’s so easy to help our neighbors in need; every one dollar donated can help us gather $15 of food donations,” says Vernoy.

To encourage donations, the first 1,000 Iowa Hawkeye fans who bring a donation of cash or canned food to the Hawkeyes’ open-to-the-public practice can receive ANF items.   There is no admission charge to attend the scrimmage and the gates open at 11 a.m.

ANF was first launched in 1985 during the height of the Farm Crisis, by legendary Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry, who wanted to show an increasingly urban nation why agriculture matters.  For more information about the Iowa Farm Bureau/U of I ANF partnership, click on www.americaneedsfarmers.org.

To learn more about the growing number of Iowans in need and ways to help, click on http://iowafba.org/.

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About Iowa Farm Bureau

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots, statewide organization dedicated to enhancing the People, Progress and Pride of Iowa.  More than 153,000 families in Iowa are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve farm and rural prosperity.  For more information about Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit the online Newsroom page at www.iowafarmbureau.com.

 
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