Flood relief one of first bills passed this session

CAPITOL LETTERS

BY STATE SENATOR MARK SEGEBART

R-District 6, Vail

Congratulations to all the Kansas City Chiefs fans in the district. They say football is a game of inches measured in yards. The legislature is a game of parties measured in votes. I hope you showed up for your local caucus last week and cast your vote for the candidate of your choice. It is a tradition that I hope Iowa will be able to continue for along time.

I had a subcommittee this week on a bill, SF 2084, that would help parents with medication for children who have contracted an illness called PANDAS.

Stanford Children's Health describes the disease like this:

Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) is a clinical diagnosis given to children who have a dramatic – sometimes overnight – onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms including obsessions/compulsions or food restriction. They are often diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or an eating disorder, but the sudden onset of symptoms separates PANS from these other disorders. In addition, they may have symptoms of depression, irritability, anxiety and have difficulty with schoolwork. The cause of PANS is unknown in most cases but is thought to be triggered by infections, metabolic disturbances and other inflammatory reactions.

Like PANS, children with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) have an acute onset – within two to three days – of neuropsychiatric symptoms, specifically OCD or tics (involuntary, purposeless movements). However, PANDAS patients test positive for a recent streptococcal infection, such as strep throat, peri-anal strep or scarlet fever. Like PANS patients, they also may suffer from uncontrollable emotions, irritability, anxiety and loss of academic ability and handwriting skills. Although PANDAS was identified as a medical syndrome more than a decade before PANS, it has been classified as a subset of PANS. To date, PANDAS is the only known subset of PANS.

Medications for this disease can run as high $10,000 per treatment. If it can be treated early when symptoms of strep throat are evident. Parents should ask their doctors to get a strep test done. Early treatment with antibiotics often will stop the onset of this disease.

The issue here is when insurance denies coverage when the expensive treatments are administered and families are left with the bill. I signed the report to move the bill forward. It is recommended that the strep test be done on all children 18 or younger who show symptoms of strep throat. Keep in mind you may need to request the test be done by your doctor.

In the Legislature

Week four was another short week for us because of the Iowa caucuses on Monday. While the week was shorter, it also included the first, floor debate of the year.

Since we have been working on subcommittees for a few weeks now, committee work has also started to pick up as we get bills ready for floor debate. In my committees this week, we worked on allowing non-contiguous counties to share a county engineer or other professionals they may require to hire in local government. We had Kayla Lyons speak to us in Natural Resources, her appointment as director of the Iowa DNR is up for confirmation by the Senate this session. She was appointed by the governor last year, replacing Chuck Gibb after his retirement.

This week work also continued on finding solutions to one of the biggest issues in education, violent student behavior. SSB 3080 was approved at the subcommittee level and a number of changes were made during the Senate Education Committee to aid implementation, clarify intent and provide more specific allocation of resources for therapeutic classrooms. The goal of this legislation remains the same, giving schools districts options for placements of students with violent behavior, keeping teachers safe, and ensuring all students receive the education they deserve.

SSB 3080 is part of an education funding package we announced last week. Together with SSB 3097 and SSB 3096, these bills provide an additional $7.7 million for transportation equity, $5.8 million for per pupil funding, and $75.7 million for K-12 education. These bills would bring total new funding K-12 schools for the next school year to $91.7 million in addition to last year’s levels of funding.

Finally, Senate File 2144 provided funding in the current fiscal year for flood relief and funding to address issues at the State Resource Center in Glenwood passed the Iowa Senate. This supplemental appropriation directs $333,000 to the institution to improve operations and the facility, which has been the subject of a federal investigation. The bill calls for $137,000 to contract with experts for the direct consultation, evaluation, and planning for improvement in operations. It also calls for $102,000 to complete a comprehensive facility assessment as well as an OSHA consultation. Lastly, $94,000 is directed to contract with the UIHC for a peer review of patient care.

More resources for flood recovery

One of the first bills passed out of the Iowa Senate this legislative session appropriates $20 million in state funding for flood disaster relief in Iowa.

Iowa counties were ravaged by flood damage last spring when levees were breached due to ice build-up, winter melt, and spring rains. Many Iowans were forced out of their homes and had no choice but to suspend farming or business operations due to the unprecedented flooding.

The Senate voted to allocate $15 million toward flood relief before adjourning in 2019. The first bill debated of the 2020 session, Senate File 2144, was a supplemental appropriation to again go toward flood relief. This bill appropriates $20 million to the State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to be allocated to local communities to begin repairing levees to protect against potential flooding this spring.

The levels of state funding necessary to address the immediate need have been determined by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security in coordination with the governor and her staff. The Department of Homeland Security will continue to work with federal agencies to determine the amount of future federal funds anticipated to be received. Once the department has a clearer picture of the federal funds to be received, which they should know before the legislature adjourns, additional state funding may be required to help Iowans rebuild and get back on their feet. The legislature will look at appropriating additional funds at that time.

Funding for these emergencies has not created a budget crisis because Senate Republicans have carefully managed the state budget and provided a cushion to absorb this need for flood relief.

Since the natural disaster occurred last spring the state department of Homeland Security has been working with federal agencies to acquire available resources to assist displaced Iowans, rebuild roads and highways, work with fellow Iowans and communities in the southwest portion of our state.

I have no forums this weekend. Next Saturday’s forum is in Storm Lake at King’s Pointe 10 am.

I serve as the vice chair of the Human Resources Committee, as well as the Natural Resources & Environment and Local Government committees. Please feel free to contact me at 515-281-3371 or by email at mark.segebart@ legis.iowa.gov.

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