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

Legislative Updates Blog

Iowa House Republicans Propose Much Lower Budget than the Governor and Iowa Senate Democrats

Here are the budget targets from Governor Branstad, Senate Democrats, and House Republicans:

Administration and Regulation:
Governor Branstad: $53,176,922
Senate Democrats: $51,892,994
House Republicans: $49,800,000

Agriculture and Natural Resources:
Governor Branstad: $44,611,995
Senate Democrats: $43,111,995
House Republicans: $42,000,000

Economic Development:
Governor Branstad: $44,500,763
Senate Democrats: $44,275,763
House Republicans: $41,400,000

Education:
Governor Branstad: $1,022,443,864
Senate Democrats: $1,025,960,305
House Republicans: $977,578,044

Health and Human Services:
Governor Branstad: $1,930,649,292
Senate Democrats: $1,904,413,758
House Republicans: $1,843,743,333

Justice System:
Governor Branstad: $744,346,090
Senate Democrats: $742,213,713
House Republicans: $728,082,345

As you can see, Iowa House Republicans budget targets are extremely low. They are not only much lower than Iowa Senate Democrats; they are much lower than the amounts proposed by Governor Branstad!

These funding levels will lead to cuts in many services that Iowans rely on.

House Republicans are further squeezing state agencies through an unfair budget trick. Five years ago, Governor Culver implemented the State Employee Early Retirement Program (SERIP). SERIP never received dedicated funding – each year agencies simply had to absorb the cost of the program. With the program scheduled to end, Departments should have been able to reclaim part of their former budget that they had to spend on SERIP. These funds could have been put towards paying salary costs. Instead, Iowa House Republicans slashed it from their budget and misleadingly called this “SERIP savings.”

The primary reason there is a budget standoff is Iowa House Republicans. The Governor and Iowa Senate Democrats are close on many things. However, Iowa House Republicans have proposed an extreme budget that would hurt many Iowans.

Working Families Summit

The Working Families Summit will be held at the Scheman Buidling in Ames on Saturday, May 16, 2015 from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Robert Reich will be the keynote speaker. This summit will be an opportunity to meet with other Iowans with progressive values who are focused on raising wages, protecting civil rights, and making work family friendly. Attendees will learn from each other and prepare each other to go out and change Iowa and the nation for the better. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 is a proud sponsor of the Working Families Summit and AFSCME members are strongly encouraged to attend this important summit. You can RSVP here!

Budget Update
Iowa Senate Democrats and Iowa House Republicans have each released their budget targets. Iowa Senate Democrats proposed spending $7.341 billion in the upcoming fiscal year. This number is the same as the Governor’s budget; however, funds are allocated differently than in the Governor’s budget proposal.

Iowa House Republicans have proposed spending $7.175 billion in their proposal. This extremely low budget will hurt many services that Iowans rely on. Senate Appropriations Chair Senator Bob Dvorsky said that the Iowa House Republicans’ proposal “would be a devastating blow to Iowa’s families.”

Four AFSCME Members Testify on Mental Health Institutes
On Wednesday, State Senator Rob Hogg held a Senate Government Oversight Committee meeting about Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda Mental Health Institutes. Four AFSCME members testified at the committee meeting: Sue Rehwaldt Hays, Ann Davison, Anna Short, and Cindy Fedler.

The witnesses noted that the facilities have been renovated many times and dismissed the incorrect characterization that the facilities are antiquated. All four spoke about how the mental health institutes provide much needed services.

Anna Short, a drug abuse counselor who has been laid off from Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institute, said “there will always be a need” for the care these two facilities provide.

Sue Rehwaldt Hays, an occupational therapist at Clarinda Mental Health Institute, spoke about how the closures would hurt those who had been receiving treatment because “they are being disrupted and told they have to move.”

Ann Davison, a nurse clinician at Clarinda Mental Health Institute, spoke of the excellent work done by all the staff and said “we take our jobs very, very seriously.”

Cindy Fedler, a nurse clinician who has been laid off from Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institute, pointed out the larger picture by saying “we have a mental health crisis in Iowa right now,” even before the closure of these facilities further limits mental health services

A former patient also testified before the committee. She said that she “wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that place [Clarinda Mental Health Institute].”

Education Budget
Iowa House Republicans and Iowa Senate Democrats remain deadlocked on the issue of education funding with Iowa House Republicans sticking to a funding proposal that would dramatically underfund Iowa schools.

A Quick Guide to the State Budget, Education Funding, and Tax Credits
Today, State Senator Joe Bolkcom and Brad Hudson of the Iowa State Education Association held a “Moral Mondays” event to explain some key information about the state budget, education funding, and tax credits.

Here are some of the key points from their presentation:

  • The State of Iowa has a lot of funds in the bank. When you combine Iowa’s “Rainy Day” funds with the carry forward of surplus, the state has well over a billion dollars in the bank.
  • There is a healthy amount of funds available for education funding and other government services. The expenditure limitation calculated by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency minus existing appropriations and the estimated cost of a supplemental for Medicaid equals $365.5 million; more twice what Iowa House Republicans claim is available.
  • Iowa House Republicans’ math does not add up. Iowa House Republicans claim only $181 million is available for additional spending; however, they proposed a tax cut that would cost $482 million.
  • Iowa has a large number of tax credits that cost Iowans significantly. Iowa has over 40 tax credits that will cost the State an estimated $404 million in the upcoming fiscal year. While some of these credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, do valuable and worthy things; as a whole, they receive nowhere near the scrutiny that appropriated spending receives from the legislature. Some of these tax credits go to some of the wealthiest corporations. These credits should receive more scrutiny before education funding is short changed.

Mental Health Institutes Bill Needs Your Help!
Senate File 402 is legislation that would require Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes be kept open through the rest of the fiscal year and would require legislative approval of any closure after the end of the fiscal year.

This legislation has passed the Iowa Senate and needs action in the Iowa House. We need members, their family, and their friends to contact Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer and ask her to bring Senate File 402 to the floor before April 6th:

Email: linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov
Phone: (641) 357-8807
Capitol Phone: (515) 281-3221 (House Switchboard while House is in session. Ask for Representative Upmeyer.)

Please make sure to use personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts and to contact Representative Upmeyer from non-work locations during non-work hours.

Contact Iowa House Judiciary Chair about Community Based Corrections Boards Bill
Senate File 299 recently passed the Iowa Senate and is currently in the Iowa House. This bill would put a non-voting AFSCME representative on the Judicial District Department of Correctional Services Boards. This will give employees a stronger ability to communicate with their board members.

In order for the bill to remain alive for this session, it must pass the Iowa House Judiciary Committee by April 1, 2015.

We need members to contact Representative Chip Baltimore, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and ask him to pass Senate File 299 out of committee:

Representative Chip Baltimore:
E-mail: chip.baltimore@legis.iowa.gov
Phone: (515) 432.2732
House Switchboard: (515) 281-3221 (ask for Representative Baltimore while House is in session.)

Please make sure to use personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts and to contact Representative Baltimore from non-work locations during non-work hours.

House File 604 Tax Legislation
House File 604 would give Iowans the opportunity to use a so-called “flat tax” option. Iowa House Republicans could bring this bill to the floor of the House next week. Peter Fisher of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership described this legislation as “more millions for millionaires.” This bill will hurt funding for services that Iowans rely on. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 opposes this legislation. Please contact your legislators (look up here) and tell them you oppose House File 604. Please make sure to use a personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts from a non-work location during non-work hours.

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.

Mental Health Institutes and Education Funding
The future of Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes and education funding continue to be major unresolved issues at the Capitol. Please continue to contact your legislators and tell them you support Senate Files 333 and 402 (Mental Health Institutes bills) and that you oppose Iowa House Republicans’ proposed underfunding of Iowa schools.

You can look up your legislators’ contact information here. Please make sure to use personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts and to contact your legislators from non-work locations during non-work hours.

Iowa House Republicans Attack Collective Bargaining
On Tuesday, Iowa House Republicans brought legislation to the floor to attack collective bargaining. The bill (House File 549), as amended, would basically do away with binding arbitration for school district and AEA employees. The bill was a distraction from the real issue: Iowa House Republicans have proposed an education funding plan that will lead to layoffs, larger class sizes, and delays in purchasing needed classroom materials.

After a long debate, House File 549 passed the Iowa House on a 56-41 party line vote on Wednesday.

Thank you to all of the AFSCME members who contacted their Representative about this bill and/or came to the Capitol to show their support for collective bargaining.

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.

March 17, 2015

Update: This bill is likely to be debated TODAY (Tuesday, March 17, 2015). Please come to the Capitol today after work!

March 16, 2015

CORRECTION: The amendment (H1093) will make this bill apply to all school district employees and AEA employees. This is still an attack on the collective bargaining rights of many AFSCME members and our brothers and sisters in other Unions. It is still very important that we stand together in solidarity by contacting Representatives and coming to the Capitol tomorrow (Tuesday, March 17th).

Today, Iowa House Republicans unveiled a new attack on collective bargaining and public employees. Their amendment (H1093) would basically do away with binding arbitration for school district and AEA employees.

WE NEED TO TAKE ACTION TO MAKE SURE OUR LEGISLATORS HEAR OUR VOICE ON THIS LEGISLATION. PLEASE HELP US BY:

1) Contacting your representative and telling them that you oppose House File 549, this new amendment (H1093), and any attacks on collective bargaining. You can look up your representative's contact information here. Please make sure to use personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts and to contact your legislators from non-work locations during non-work hours.

2) PLEASE COME TO THE CAPITOL TOMORROW (TUESDAY, MARCH 17th) AFTER WORK. This bill will likely be debated tomorrow and we want a strong crowd to show legislators our support for collective bargaining and our opposition to this legislation. You can meet up with us in the House Gallery.

This week, three important pieces of legislation supported by AFSCME Iowa Council 61 passed the Iowa Senate. All three bills now go to the Iowa House for consideration.

Senate File 333 & Senate File 402– Mental Health Institutes Bills
Senate File 333 would require the Administration to keep open Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes through the end of the Fiscal Year so that the legislature could then weigh in on the issue in the next fiscal year’s budget. The bill also contains appropriations for all four mental health institutes.

Senate File 333 passed on a 32-18 vote.

Senate File 402 would also require the Administration to keep Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes open through the end of the current fiscal year. The legislation would also require legislative approval for the closure of either institution.

Senate File 402 passed on a 29-19 vote.

Senate File 299 – Community Based Corrections Board Bill
Senate File 299 would add a non-voting AFSCME representative to the boards of Judicial Districts’ Departments of Correctional Services. This will give employees a stronger ability to communicate with their board members. The idea for this bill came from AFSCME Local 3289 member Candace Acord’s AFSCME Women’s Leadership Academy project. You can visit Iowa Voices to learn more about the reasons why Candace and others support this legislation.

Senate File 299 passed on a 27-22 vote.

Contact your legislators!
With these three bills heading to the Iowa House, we strongly urge you to contact your State Representative and tell them you support these three bills. You can contact them by phone, by e-mail, or at one of the forums in their district. You can look up your legislators' contact information here. Please make sure to use personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts and to contact your legislators from non-work locations during non-work hours.

Mental Health Institute Bill Passes Committee
Senator Rich Taylor’s bill that would prevent the governor from continuing his unilateral process of shutting down Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes passed the out of the Senate Human Resources Committee. It was passed by the committee on an 11-0 bipartisan vote. The bill now goes before the full Iowa Senate for consideration.

The bill has been assigned a new bill number: Senate File 402. Please continue to contact your legislators on this issue. You can look up your legislators' contact information here. Please make sure to use personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts and to contact your legislators from non-work locations during non-work hours.

Iowa House Republicans Attack Collective Bargaining
This week, Iowa House Republicans introduced legislation that weakens collective bargaining for teachers and passed the bill (House Study Bill 204) out of committee. This bill makes changes to collective bargaining law for teachers by weakening a long-established and successful collective bargaining process that encourages school districts and teachers to reach voluntary agreements.

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 opposes this legislation. We stand in solidarity with Iowa’s teachers and declare that attempts to weaken collective bargaining for any workers are simply not acceptable.

This bill was clearly introduced by Iowa House Republicans to distract from their plan to underfund Iowa’s schools. The Iowa House Republican school funding proposal would lead to layoffs, larger class sizes, and delays in purchases of needed classroom materials.

When contacting your legislators, please tell them you oppose House Study Bill 204 and you support collective bargaining rights and strong funding for Iowa’s schools.

New Mental Health Institutes Bill Filed
A new bill by State Senator Rich Taylor, Senate File 308, has been filed. The bill is identical to Senate File 140 but does not include an appropriation in the bill. Like Senate File 140, this bill would prevent the governor from continuing his unilateral process of shutting down Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes before the General Assembly has had a chance to weigh in with a budget for the next Fiscal Year.

Please continue to contact your legislators on this issue. However, please refer to Senate File 308 instead of the original bill. You can look up your legislators' contact information here. Please make sure to use personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts and to contact your legislators from non-work locations during non-work hours.

Education Funding
Iowa House Republicans and Iowa Senate Democrats continue to disagree on allowable growth school funding. Iowa House Republicans continue to support 1.25% while Iowa Senate Democrats support 4%. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 supports a 6% increase. However, a 4% increase is vastly more preferable than a 1.25% increase which would have drastic consequences for Iowa schools (such as layoffs, larger class sizes, and not purchasing needed classroom materials). This week, the House and Senate formed a conference committee consisting of members from both chambers. If a resolution is reached by the committee, it would then be voted on by each chamber.

Correctional Services Districts’ Board of Directors Bill
This bill passed the Judiciary Committee by an 11-2 vote. The bill was then renumbered as Senate File 299 and goes to the full Iowa Senate for consideration. This legislation, if enacted, would add a non-voting AFSCME representative to the board of each Judicial District Department of Correctional Services. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 supports this bill.

Gas Tax
The Iowa House and Iowa Senate passed a gas tax bill and the governor signed it into law. This legislation will increase gas taxes by ten cents per gallon on Sunday, March 1st.

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.

Mental Health Institutes Bill Passes Senate Subcommittee
Senate File 140, a bill filed by State Senator Rich Taylor, has passed out of a Senate subcommittee. This bill, if enacted into law, would prevent the governor from continuing his unilateral process of shutting down Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes before the General Assembly has had a chance to weigh in with a budget for the next Fiscal Year.

The bill passed with the support of all three subcommittee members: Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), Sen. Amanda Ragan (D-Mason City), and Sen. Mark Segebart (R-Vail).The bill now goes to the full Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senator Hogg described the governor’s steps to unilaterally close these institutions as “unacceptable.” He added that patients he visited “were really benefitting from being there.”

Senator Segebart said “All we’ve really heard all year is don’t close them. We don’t have another option out there to send people to.”

Please continue to contact your legislators (by email, phone, and at legislative forums) in support of this bill. You can look up your legislator’s contact information here. Please make sure to use personal phones/computers/e-mail accounts and to contact your legislators from non-work locations during non-work hours.

Education Funding
Iowa House Republicans and Iowa Senate Democrats have not yet come to an agreement on education funding. Iowa House Republicans continue to support the governor’s recommendation for a 1.25% allowable growth rate, which the Iowa State Education Association and school superintendents have stated will lead to layoffs, larger class sizes, and non-replacement of classroom materials. Iowa Senate Democrats support a 4% allowable growth rate.

Correctional Services Districts’ Board of Directors Bill
A Senate subcommittee passed Senate File 145 on Tuesday. This legislation, if enacted, would add a non-voting AFSCME representative to the board of each Judicial District Department of Correctional Services Board. This would give the employees directly involved in providing these services a voice on their board. The idea for this bill came from AFSCME member Candace Acord’s 2014 AFSCME Women’s Leadership Academy project. The bill now goes to the full Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Minimum Wage & Wage Theft Bills Pass Iowa Senate Committee
On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate Business and Labor Committee approved these two bills to be sent to the full Iowa Senate:

Senate File 269 - a bill raising the state minimum wage to $8.00/hour on July 1, 2015 and $8.75/hour on July 1, 2016. This bill passed out of committee by an 8-3 vote.

Senate File 270 - a bill to address the issue of wage theft. This bill passed out of committee by a 7-4 vote.

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.

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.

President’s State of the Union aimed at helping middle class
On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address and laid out a series of proposed policies focused on giving a boost to working families. However, a newly Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to go along with the president’s ideas.

The President illustrated the economic strength of the union. “Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before,” said Obama.

Although the economy is now showing strong job growth, wage growth continues to lag behind. Obama advocated for a number of policies to address this, including strengthening unions. “To give working families a fair shot, we'll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter's earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company's long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice,” he said.

Some of the other policy proposals outlined by the President included raising the minimum wage, providing two free years of community college, expansion of child care tax credits, and closing corporate loopholes in the tax code.

This was the first State of the Union the president has given since Republicans took control of both houses of Congress. Given the unenthusiastic reaction to much of the president’s policy recommendations by Republicans in Congress, it seems unlikely the Republicans will go along with his proposals.

Governor’s Education Plan
The opening weeks of session have illustrated a large gap between Governor Branstad’s plans for education and the needs of Iowa students. The Governor’s budget proposal calls for 0.8% in allowable growth. The Iowa Senate Democrats released a survey of 205 Iowa school superintendents. A majority of superintendents who responded said that the governor’s plan would result in increasing class sizes, teacher layoffs, delays in book and classroom material purchases, reduction in class offerings, and increases in property taxes. 96.1% of the superintendents who responded to the survey said allowable growth should be set between 4% and 6%.

This week, Republicans on the Iowa House Education Committee passed the governor’s recommendations for school funding out of their committee. Iowa House Democrats have called for a public hearing on this bill. According to the Iowa State Education Association, this small increase would not even cover school district’s negotiated raises.

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.

Iowa needs to invest in our schools today for a bright future tomorrow. The governor’s proposal fails to do this.

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.

Legislature Convenes
The 85th General Assembly began last week. The current legislature is split - the House majority is Republican (57 to 43); the Senate is controlled by Democrats (26-24). This once again leaves the Iowa Senate as the important firewall to block anti-worker legislation. Split control means any legislation or funding will require support from both Democrats and Republicans to become law.

Condition of the State
On the second day of session, Governor Branstad delivered his Condition of the State speech. Three of the main points of the Governor’s speech were 1) a call for more road funding (without specifics on how), 2) the continuation of his anti-bullying in schools effort, and 3) calls for increasing broadband access. Generally, the Governor’s speech this year stuck to non-controversial topics.

Governor’s Budget: Proposed closure of Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institutes (MHIs)
On the same day he delivered his Condition of the State speech, Governor Branstad released his budget recommendations for FY 2016 and FY 2017.

The Governor’s Budget proposed closing Mt. Pleasant MHI and Clarinda MHI. This proposal was quietly tucked in the budget – it was not mentioned in the Governor’s Speech. This proposal was formulated in a secretive manner: the Governor did not consult with clients and their families, community leaders, employees, or AFSCME. Even legislators were taken completely by surprise. You can read a copy of our Union’s statement on the closure proposal here.

We are asking members to contact their legislators to encourage them to oppose the Governor’s proposal to close these MHIs. Here are few things to emphasize:
• We need to be expanding mental health services in all corners of the state, not closing facilities.
• Closing these two facilities will mean more families will have to travel further to see their loved ones.
• Any changes that impact the care of the most vulnerable Iowans should be made only after extensive study and plentiful opportunities for public input.

You can look up your legislators’ contact information here. Please contact your legislators using a personal phone/computer/e-mail during non-work hours from a non-work location.

This will be a major issue this legislative session and our Union will continue to vigorously advocate keeping these facilities open.

Education Funding
Governor Branstad’s budget recommended only a 0.8 percent boost in base funding for schools. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal stated that Senate Democrats are “very concerned” that this could further drop Iowa’s ranking for education funding. Iowa House Minority Leader Mark Smith called the Governor’s proposed education funding level “just wrong” and contrasted it with the 9 percent proposed increase for the Governor’s Office in the Governor’s Budget.

IWD Director Retires
On the Sunday before session began, Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert’s retirement was announced. The Governor named Civil Rights Commission Administrator Beth Townsend as the acting director of Iowa Workforce Development. Don Grove was appointed acting director of the Civil Rights Commission. After a permanent director of Iowa Workforce Development is appointed, that person will go before the Iowa Senate for confirmation.

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.

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