This Week in the Senate
The second week of this year’s legislative session was busy as we have quickly begun work on bills that have been set in motion. Several more subcommittees met this week and legislators are digging into the work before us. The Senate was not in session Monday in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and Wednesday was Veterans Day at the Capitol. This is a day that provides us the opportunity to meet with the veterans that come to visit and to talk with them about issues and initiatives important to them. It is always humbling to listen to these brave men and women who have dedicated their lives in service for our country.
Changes to the Governor’s Proposal for AEAs
As I mentioned last week, the Governor has initiated a bill SF to make changes to our Area Education Agencies across the state. I appreciate all the messages I have been getting from my constituents on this issue, and it is evident that this is a topic that many Iowans care about. Because we are all dedicated to ensuring Iowa students have the best resources at their disposal and have the support they need to be successful in their education, it only seems right that we look at our AEAs and make sure that all of them are providing the support that is needed by our districts to carry out their task of educating our students.
On Thursday, the governor announced several changes to her proposed bill in an effort to achieve the goal of improving services to students with disabilities and improving student achievement. Since this bill has just begun the legislative process, we are still looking through the details of the legislation and getting feedback about how this would affect our districts. I want you to know that I am making every effort to learn more about our AEAs and have already spoken with and met with Shane Williams, Director of Educational Services for Mississippi Bend AEA.
I also spent part of this morning meeting with various staff members at Madison Elementary in Muscatine and Shannon Pasvogel, a Math Consultant for Mississippi Bend AEA. Everyone I spoke with was passionate about the partnerships with the AEA that have advanced teacher competencies, enhanced student learning and provided valuable resources for students, staff and families. I look forward to learning more about our AEAs in order to make an informed contribution to the discussions about the proposed legislation. Thank you to Principal Stephanie Zillig for the invitation to visit her school and for allowing me to also come for lunch with my favorite Kindergarten granddaughter, Mikayla!
Change Needed for the Statute of Repose
On Wednesday morning a subcommittee met to begin the legislative process on one of my bills for this session, Senate File 2035. SF 2035 has to do with adding an additional exception to the statute of repose in Iowa. The statute of repose is a limitation for how long a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit in a medical malpractice case. Current Iowa las limits a plaintiff to a maximum of six years with one exception (leaving a foreign object in the body). This bill adds a second exception to the six-year rule. In the event a medical provider conceals an act, omission, or occurrence that was the cause of injury or death, the time limit is waived.
This bill came about because of an Iowa constituent, Elizabeth Downey, reaching out to me about her 18+ year journey to seek justice for her mother, Linda Berry. After hearing her story, I felt compelled to attempt to bring about change for all Iowans regarding the statute of repose. I know that new legislation cannot take away the pain and suffering that this family has endured, but perhaps knowing that no other family in Iowa will have to go through what they’ve gone through will give them some peace of mind.
Elizabeth’s journey began when her mother had her first CT scan in 2004 and her medical provider failed to inform her of a mass. In 2006 another CT scan revealed the same mass and again, she was not informed of the mass. In 2009, five years later, a third CT scan was completed and she was told by her provider that her scan was normal, but she then received a call from a resident doctor that said she needed to come back as “not everything was OK”. They diagnosed her with colitis and prescribed an antibiotic. Unbeknownst to the family, this CT scan revealed that the mass on her kidney had increased in size since the 2004 and 2006 scans, but no one mentioned the mass once again. A fourth CT scan was necessary just two days later and at that point radiology recommended to Dr. Grossman, her care provider, that a follow up should be done to make sure the mass was not cancerous, yet still no one mentioned the mass to Linda.
Seven years later, in 2016, a fifth CT scan was necessary and it revealed the kidney mass. During discharge, a nurse mentioned the mass to Linda. According to the family this was the first time they knew about it. Linda was later diagnosed with metastatic renal cell carcinoma and died from it in 2019.
Before her death, Linda had sued the hospital, medical provider and others for medical negligence and her family pursued the case after her death. A district court ruling dismissed the case on the grounds that the alleged concealment act and the alleged malpractice act were the same thing and because of that no action could be brought more than six years after the event. The family appealed their case to the Iowa Court of Appeals and it was allowed to proceed to the Supreme Court. However, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the district court ruling based on current Iowa law. It was my honor to welcome Elizabeth Downey, daughter of Linda Berry, and her attorney, Molly Hamilton, to the subcommittee meeting where she testified to the members about the necessity for making this important change to Iowa law. I look forward to bringing this legislation to fruition so that all Iowans are able to seek justice when medical harm or negligence occurs.
Some of the Other Bills that Moved through Subcommittees this Week
SSB 3001 (Commerce) – Requires health insurance policies, plans, etc. provide coverage for “biomarker testing”. This is an analysis of an individual’s biological specimen to aid in diagnosis, treatment, management, or monitoring of a disease or condition.
SF 2003 (Education) – Requires elementary and secondary schools and licensed child care centers to include information on exemptions and requirements for exemptions regarding immunizations in any communication to parents or legal guardians from a school nurse, with registration documentation, and on the websites of the school or child care center.
SSB 3039 (Local Government) – Prohibits common interest communities and unit owners associations from forbidding the display of American flags on the exterior of a resident’s home.