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Legislation Now: Featuring Updates on State Legislation

 

Bills that moved this week
 

Fiscal year 2021 appropriations: The House Appropriations committee approved three bills as part of a status quo budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021. House File 2643 (Formerly House Study Bill 710) is a status quo budget for FY 2020 leaving spending for state agencies the same. The bill requires the Department of Management, in consultation with the Legislative Services Agency, to determine the amount of state and federal appropriations in FY 2020 and which entities receive those appropriations. There was much debate on whether or not this was leaving too much discretion to the Department of Management.   
 
Immunity from COVID-19 related lawsuits: Wednesday, the Senate passed Senate File 2338, as amended by the House, which provides immunity to various industries for COVID-19 related lawsuits. SF 2338 was the first vehicle for a “hard cap” on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. But the House amended the bill to remove the hard cap and added language that provides immunity to health care workers for acts or omissions related to their care during the pandemic. The amendment applies to injury or death resulting from: 
  • Acts or omissions of health care workers while providing health care to patients unrelated to COVID-19 when those acts or omissions support the state’s response to COVID-19.
  • Prescribing, administering and dispensing medicines for off-label use.
  • Screening, assessing, diagnosing, caring for and treating patients with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
SF 2338 now heads to the Governor’s desk for her signature.
 
Emergency medical services: Last Thursday, the House amended and unanimously passed Senate File 2283, which allows county boards of supervisors to declare EMS an essential service after public hearings, passing a resolution at two meetings and holding a public vote. 
 
The bill expands types of entities that are eligible to apply for authorization to run emergency medical technician training programs.  Under current law, the only hospitals and community colleges are eligible to apply for such authorization.  
 
The bill is now in the Senate awaiting a committee hearing.
 
Professional licensing: The House Ways and Means Committee is set to consider the governor’s professional licensing bill, House File 2627.  This bill loosens many restrictions that apply to people outside the state who are seeking  licenses to practice their trades in Iowa, including individuals seeking a health care-related license.  An amendment to the bill has been filed that strikes the bill in its entirety and replaces it with different language.
 
The amendment:
  • Allows a licensing board to grant an exception to an applicant who would otherwise be denied a license because of a criminal conviction if various factors establish that the applicant has been rehabilitated. These factors include the nature and seriousness of the crime, the amount of time since the commission of the crime, the circumstances relative to the offense and the age of the applicant at the time the crime was committed.
  • Changes disciplinary matters initiated by health care-related licensing boards by striking a licensing board’s ability to discipline a licensee for the conviction of a crime related to the profession or occupation. 
  • Does not prohibit a licensing board from requiring someone to take and pass an examination specific to the laws of the state before issuing a license. The amendment addresses continuing education by requiring licensing boards to allow licensees to complete their educational requirements online through Wednesday, June 30, 2021.
  • Helps applicants seeking a professional license who are licensed elsewhere. 
  • Limits a licensing board from considering an applicant’s past criminal record, stating that a person’s conviction of a crime “may be grounds for the denial, revocation, or suspension of a license only if an unreasonable risk to public safety exists because the offense directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of the profession.” 
  • Requires licensing boards to allow licensees whose licenses will expire in 2020 to complete their educational requirements by Wednesday, June 30, 2021.
  • Strikes the Department of Public Health’s ability to deny an application for issuance or renewal of an emergency medical care provider certificate, or suspend or revoke a certificate, if the certificate holder has violated law. 
  • Strikes the medical and nursing boards’ abilities to discipline a licensee for being convicted of a felony in Iowa or any other state.
Telehealth: The House is addressing telehealth payment parity by introducing an amendment to House File 2627, a bill that addresses professional licensing creating temporary provisions for telehealth payment parity. Besides including audio-only telephone services in the telehealth definition, the amendment requires commercial insurance carriers to pay providers the same rate for telehealth as they pay providers for in-person services. The amendment only applies to services provided to non-ERISA plan participants and will only apply through Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Further, it requires the “three largest private health care systems in the state, the University of Iowa health care system, and the associations representing carriers and health care providers” to submit a report to the general assembly by Monday, March 15, 2021 that contains information about the provision of telehealth in Iowa. The amendment outlines seven different areas that the reports must cover and requires each report to present data separately based on whether the patient received telehealth services in a health care facility or in another location.
 
Elections-hospital trustees: Wednesday, the Senate debated House File 2486, a bill originally related to the design and use of county seals. While under review by the Senate, several amendments were put forward that included provisions for elections and limiting the ability of some of the Secretary of State’s action. Related to county hospital trustees, an amendment that was approved included a provision for the 2020 general election that allows a candidate to file with the county commissioner an affidavit of candidacy not less than 69 days before the election. This is a legislative fix for a change that happened last year. The bill passed with a 30-19 vote and now goes back to the House.
 
Workforce development: This week, both chambers debated a bill that makes changes to the Future Ready Iowa Act. House File 2629 contains several provisions for apprenticeships, child care, expansion of the Last Dollar Scholarship and several others. Each chamber had a slightly different version of the bill, and HF 2629 was the successful version. This bill was approved by both chambers and has been sent to the governor’s office for consideration.

Feb. 14 Update
Feb. 21 Update

Feb. 28 Update
March 6 Update

March 13 Update
March 17 Update
June 5 Update