House passes mental health bill for kids; Iowa economy up over last two years

CAPITOL LETTERS

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE DAN A. HUSEMAN

R-District 3, Aurelia

March Madness is upon us and last weekend Des Moines was host to some opening round games. On Wednesday, Wells Fargo Arena was open so fans could come watch all eight teams who are competing this weekend practice. It was FREE, and I couldn’t believe how many people showed up. This is good because it shows national officials that Iowans are glad to have some of the games here, and it is a chance for us to promote our state. People love basketball. One of my little granddaughters filled out her brackets, and she has the Hawkeyes winning the tournament. Oh well, stranger things have happened.

Because of the extensive flooding in Western Iowa, several lawmakers were unable to make it to Des Moines on Monday and Tuesday so floor debate was limited this week. We did pass a dozen or so non-controversial bills and had a full slate of committee meetings. Even though the  schedule was altered, it was a busy week.

The Legislature continues to focus on the Governor’s priority bills and by the time session is over, I believe she will have accomplished most of her goals. Some of these things take a lot of time and effort to put together, and sometimes when it appears a bill is ready to run, a red flag pops up and  it is temporarily pulled from the calendar. That happened last week with the Governor’s mental health bill. We were set to debate it Tuesday or Wednesday, but a funding question came up at the last minute so it was tabled. That’s okay. It is better to get it right the first time. More behind the scenes discussions were held between the Governor and key human services legislators. On Thursday, the House passed the children’s mental health bill.

Acting on recommendations from mental health providers, advocates, and parents, the House bill develops the framework for a community-based mental health system specifically designed for Iowa’s kids. The bill focuses on building the infrastructure necessary by bringing together mental health professionals, parents, and advocates, as well as educators and other representatives from Iowa’s K-12 system.

The bill also ensures that parents can easily seek help when their child needs mental health support. Each mental health region will have a local care coordinator dedicated to assisting parents connect with providers near their community to find treatment for a child with a mental health issue. A statewide 24-hour crisis line will also now be available to assist with finding mental health treatment options for both children and adults. The bill passed on a bi-partisian vote and I supported the legislation.

Revenue estimation

The state body charged with predicting state revenue held its March meeting on Friday, making very small changes to the revenue forecasts for Fiscal Year 2019 and FY 2020.

The three-member Revenue Estimating Conference is required by law to meet during the legislative session to revise their projections from December and to make an initial estimate for FY 2021. As is their tradition, each member started the meeting with how they view the state of Iowa’s economy.  All three members of the committee said that Iowa is experiencing economic growth, but not at the pace set in spring 2018. And while economic forecasters and national talking heads continue to predict gloom and doom for the national and global economy, all three members of the REC said the signs of a recession have yet to emerge in Iowa and no one can accurately predict when a slowdown would occur. 

Iowa’s economy is performing significantly better than it was in 2016 and 2017. According to the Iowa Business Council, two-thirds of the businesses they surveyed expected sales growth in 2019. The survey also found that 60 percent of these businesses were expecting to be hiring additional workers this year.  But that statement also points out the biggest issue facing Iowa’s economy – the lack of workers looking for jobs. That is why the Governor and legislature is exploring options to help train and educate Iowa’s workforce.

You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home is 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, IA 51005. If you have email, please contact me at dan.huseman@legis.iowa.gov.