AFSCME Iowa Council 61 - Every Day. Everywhere. Making Iowa Better.

Legislative Update & ACTION ALERT: January 29, 2015

Take Action: Contact Your State Legislators Today
During the early weeks of the session, two major issues have developed: the governor’s proposal to close Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Institutes and education funding.

Both of these issues have attracted public attention. At a recent public hearing on education funding 49 speakers spoke out against the governor and House Republican’s insufficient school funding proposal and just one speaker spoke in favor of it (an advisor to the governor). Forums held by legislators in Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda have been packed with supporters of the mental health institutes, many of them our members.

We need to keep these efforts going strong. You can look up your legislators’ contact information by clicking here. After you contact your legislators on these two issues, please encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Below we have included information on these two issues that will be helpful for you when you contact your legislators.

As always, please remember to contact your legislators using a personal phone/e-mail/computer during non-work hours from a non-work location.

Quick Guide: The Governor’s Mental Health Institute Closure Proposal
In the governor’s budget released earlier this month, Governor Branstad proposed closing the Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes. These facilities serve some of the most vulnerable Iowans with mental illness.

When contacting your legislators, here are some of the points you can emphasize:

  • The well-being of the clients who rely on Department of Human Services facilities must come first in any decision about those facilities’ future. Closing the facilities would put lives at risk.
  •  A Des Moines Register analysis found that closing these two facilities would eliminate more than half the inpatient psychiatric beds in the southern third of Iowa.
  • For many patients with the most difficult mental illnesses, the Mental Health Institutes are the most appropriate setting for their care; many have been refused admittance to other care settings.
  • Waiting lists are common throughout all aspects of Iowa’s mental health system. Iowans struggling with mental illness and their families are often desperate to find treatment.
  •  As Iowa’s mental health services have continued to fall short of Iowa’s mental health needs, those with mental health challenges often end up as the responsibility of law enforcement. This costs taxpayers and creates challenges for local law enforcement. Closing these two Mental Health Institutes will put a further strain our mental health system.

Important note for those living in the Clarinda area:
State Representative Cecil Dolecheck and State Senator Mark Costello have invited their constituents to a community meeting on this topic on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at the Clarinda Mental Health Institute Auditorium. Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer will attend the meeting. We urge any AFSCME members in the area who can attend to do so and show their support for Iowa’s mental health institutes.

Quick Guide: Education Funding
After Governor Branstad’s education funding plan was opposed by 49 of 50 speakers at a public hearing, Iowa House Republicans still brought the governor’s 1.25% allowable growth bill to the floor and passed it. The bill now goes to the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate, which will likely pass a considerably higher level of funding for our schools. The House and Senate will need to agree on a funding level before the bill can go to Governor Branstad.

When contacting your legislators, here are some of the points you can emphasize:

  • Iowa’s investment in education has been lacking in recent years. As result of this, Iowa has fallen to $1,600 below the national average for per-pupil funding. We need to invest more in education than what the governor and Iowa House Republicans are proposing.
  • Many school superintendents have said the governor and Iowa House Republican’s level of funding will result in increasing class sizes, teacher layoffs, delays in book and classroom material purchases, reduction in class offerings, and increases in property taxes.
  •  Education is an investment in the future of Iowa. A strong education prepares young Iowans to be involved citizens and talented workers. Investments in education pay off with a stronger economy down the road. We simply cannot afford to try to fund our schools “on the cheap.”

Legislative Forums
We strongly urge members to attend their legislators’ forums. We post links to legislative forum calendars on our website. We typically update this page on Wednesday or Thursday of each week.

If you attend a legislative forum this weekend, please make sure to tell your legislator that you opposing closing Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes and that you oppose the insufficient education funding passed by Iowa House Republicans.

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