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The column I meant to submit last week

Published: Monday, April 22, 2013 11:22 a.m. CST

Editor’s Note: Rep. Dan Kelley was having computer issues last week, and the column he submitted for Friday’s opinion page was from a year ago. The following is the correct column he intended to run instead.

With just two weeks left in the legislative session, we’re finalizing bills with consensus and sending them to the Governor’s desk. On issues where we still have significant differences, many are heading to bi-partisan conference committees to work out a compromise.

That’s the case for several of the budget bills that we must approve before we adjourn and for several other significant items this year. We’re still working to find consensus on education proposals.

Different versions of the property tax bill have been approved by the House and Senate and it will also head to a conference committee. It’s also likely Medicaid expansion will end up in a conference committee sometime next week.

Iowans had the opportunity to share their thoughts on health care expansion this week in a public hearing held in the House Chamber. We heard from folks from all walks of life who shared stories and opinions about the importance of health care for Iowans.

My guest on the House floor for the Medicaid Expansion Public Hearing was Bonnie Pitz of Newton. Bonnie is the State President of the League of Women Voters. Also in attendance was Mark Frymoyer, an emergency medical paramedic from Kellogg. It’s always nice to see people I represent attend functions at the Capitol.

If you’ve never attended a public hearing in the House Chamber, you should consider coming to one. It’s a great example of democracy in action. All Representatives and Senators are present in the chamber.

Iowans have an opportunity to offer their thoughts on the topic of the hearing. I’ve participated in all the public hearings held during my first two terms. They’ve covered topics such as education, workers’ rights, equality and healthcare.

I’d like House leadership to hold public forums on many more issues such as water quality, property tax reform, and drug abuse prevention.

On Tuesday night, we heard from Iowans who desperately needed health care, but couldn’t get it until it was nearly too late. We heard from doctors who shared stories of patients in the emergency room with conditions that are easily cured early on but are expensive if patients can’t get treatment.

Most of the speakers arrived at a simple conclusion after reviewing the facts: TerryCare would cover fewer Iowans and cost more than simply expanding Medicaid. Of all the input from speakers and those who submitted testimony online, 87 percent supported Medicaid expansion and 13 percent supported Branstad’s plan.

Despite strong public support for Medicaid expansion, the House majority party is still insisting on the Governor’s proposal. It’s an issue that has to be decided before we adjourn for the year because the health care plan we have today expires later this year.

If we don’t take action, about 63,000 Iowans will lose the health care they have right now.

According to the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Iowa is ninth in the nation when it comes to being physically, emotionally and mentally healthy. This is a great improvement from the 16th-place position we previously held.

However, we must make the right choice. Expansion of Medicaid will be a big step forward. TerryCare will move us backward.

This session, Rep. Art Staed, Rep. Chuck Isenhart and I, along with Senate Democrats, are addressing another issue critical to a healthier Iowa. Hunger is devastating the lives of many Iowans. It is hard to believe that one in eight Iowans is food insecure while one in every five Iowa children does not have enough to eat.

It’s an embarrassment. Iowa leads the world in agriculture, yet we have kids who go to bed hungry. Reps. Staed and Isenhart are co-sponsoring a bill that would give tax credits to farmers who provide fresh produce for our food banks.

I’m helping with their efforts and I’ve sponsored a bill that would add a “checkoff” to the tax form for Iowans to donate a dollar to Iowa’s food banks. While neither bill passed through the funnel deadlines, we will push for passage of our bills next session.

Thirty-eight states provide financial support for their food banks — Iowa doesn’t, yet. Since Iowa is one of the few states that do not provide direct support to food banks, Senate Democrats have proposed spending $2 million annually for community food banks.  

Last year, the Legislature approved $500,000 but it was vetoed by the Governor. I’m hopeful Gov. Branstad realizes we must do the right thing and provide support to our food banks if we are to truly make Iowa the “Healthiest State.” To learn more about hunger in Iowa visit www.foodbankiowa.org.

I’m proud to represent Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Mingo, Kellogg, Prairie City, Lambs Grove, Ira, and Valeria.  Feel free to contact me anytime at (641) 521-9260 or dan.kelley@legis.iowa.gov.

Visit my website at www.electkelley.com. “Friend” me on Facebook and “follow” me on Twitter. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

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