The Dickey Dispatch by Adrian Dickey

The Dickey Dispatch by Senator Adrian Dickey

Hello Senate District 44,

Just like that, week five is all wrapped up. Unlike the previous few weeks, it seemed like we finally got a moment to catch our breath. Don’t be mistaken however, the Senate was still busy at work moving legislation and taking time to meet with constituents.

One group that made its way to the Capitol was the Coalition for Life of Iowa. On Tuesday the Coalition held its annual Prayer for Life rally which featured a few speakers, including Governor Kim Reynolds, pro-life legislators, and a local clergy. Governor Reynolds’ comments were wonderful to listen to, and reminded those in attendance that the pro-life position is supported by both faith and science. At the event, legislators were able to meet with constituents and learn how we can help the cause. There was great discussion on the importance of protecting the unborn, and overall it was a very rewarding event to attend.

The next day, Governor Reynolds signed Senate File 192 into law, which added an additional $107 million for local schools. As you may know, funding for K-12 students has been one of the first and largest topics addressed in this legislative session. With education taking up the largest portion of our state budget, it is without a doubt a high priority for Senate Republicans. Since 2017, hundreds of millions of dollars of additional funds have been allocated for K-12 education. Iowa taxpayers will spend on average $17,068 per student in the state, with $7,635 of that coming straight from the state general fund. Next year, Iowans will spend $8.4 billion on K-12 education, which $3.8 billion is coming from the state itself. The other portion of the funding comes from local taxes, federal funds, SAVE funds, and a handful of other miscellaneous funds. I think it is safe to say that providing high-quality education to the next generation of Iowans is extremely important to Senate Republicans.

Wednesday was also STEM day at the Capitol, hosted by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. Students and teachers from across Iowa made their way to the Capitol Rotunda to showcase exhibits for increasing awareness on education as well as careers in STEM. It was quite fascinating seeing all of the complex projects these students are focusing on.

One of the larger items that the Senate covered this week was House File 161, which covers medical malpractice and improves access and affordable healthcare. Based on surveys, one of the most important issues to Iowans is cost and accessibility of healthcare. Rural economic growth is a major focus for lawmakers, yet one of the key issues is the availability and affordability of healthcare. HF 161 helps to reduce costs and increases accessibility of health care. It works by setting a limit of $1 million for doctors and $2 million for hospitals, on the amount of non-economic damages a jury can award a plaintiff in medical malpractice cases. Huge verdicts against doctors and hospitals have contributed to the shortage of physicians in rural Iowa. For example, between Des Moines and Council Bluffs, there is only one facility left to deliver a baby.

Health care professionals from all over the state, from both large and small cities, have urged lawmakers to set reasonable limits on non-economic damages. Many of these institutions are only one large verdict away from shutting their doors, according to staff. If this happens, health care will only be harder and harder to get. Recruiting medical professionals to practice in Iowa is extremely tough due to higher insurance premiums, which have been rising 20-30% annually. This leads to health care providers leaving the state to work in other states with a limit on non-economic damages. Most facilities in Iowa cannot afford a $97 million verdict, like the one awarded recently in Iowa City. Without limits, the future looks bleak for Iowa health centers.

HF 161 also redirected punitive damages to the plaintiff rather than the state, as current law states. In the rarity when these unfortunate situations occur, reasonable compensation is appropriate, and therefore punitive and economic damages will remain uncapped. In the end, this bill is meant to balance awards for those injured, and rural health care affordability and availability.

Thursday, I had a subcommittee meeting concerning restrictions that have been in place for decades concerning the employment of our youth. While we certainly need safeguards in place to protect 14-17 year olds when it comes to having a job, the workforce shortage that employers have been experiencing the past few years can not be ignored. There needs to be a balance and this is the time to hopefully address the numerous issues concerning youth employment in Iowa. For example, did you know that a 14-17 year old can not run a microwave oven at work in Iowa? Having had children, I have never had a concern of them running the microwave at my home, and certainly not when they hit the age of 14! If that is a legitimate concern for parents and their 14 year olds were not allowed to operate the microwave oven at home, many of them might starve! Just kidding. The point is there are a lot of things we need to update in Iowa code to offer greater workforce opportunities to ambitious young Iowans who voluntarily would like to earn some extra money to buy a car or to save for college.

Also, Thursday was the Career and Technical Education Day at the Capitol.  My son, Kyler, is a member of one of these clubs, Future Business Leaders of America, at Pekin. Through his involvement, I have been very impressed with what he has learned and with the leadership of his club leader (and a Pekin teacher) Ms. Katie Jacobs. It was so rewarding to see so many clubs like this in the Capitol displaying just a small sample of the AWESOME things they are participating in!

Looking at the schedule for next week, it seems like we will have a lot on our plate. Lots of legislation is being moved and I have countless committee meetings to look forward to. Have a GREAT weekend Senate District 44!