To The People of House District 95: Representative Collins October Newsletter

As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, late last night I returned from McAllen, Texas after seeing Biden’s border disaster first-hand. Traveling with a group of sheriffs from southern Iowa and other legislators from Iowa, we met with Border Patrol, former U.S. Intelligence Officials, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Mike Banks, Governor Abbott’s Border Czar, to understand where the drugs pouring into the heartland are coming from. I was shocked at the wave of people, the vicious tactics of the cartels, and the volume of drugs flowing across our border.


Biden’s Border Disaster

There are huge consequences that come with the levels of mass migration we are seeing, and after spending time with law enforcement at the border, I believe there is an even greater threat that has developed out of this situation – the folks that are not voluntarily surrendering themselves like we often see on TV and online. Many of these individuals are coming across the border, and we have no idea who they are. What I learned, first-hand on my trip to the Southern border, is there is a reason many of these individuals are not surrendering themselves.

The reason why many of these folks are blatantly ignoring our nation’s sovereignty is because they are either a known criminal, member of a cartel, smuggling drugs, or even worse, trafficking human beings. Smugglers often travel with a backpack full of bundles of meth, cocaine, black tar heroin, or fentanyl. Or, maybe worst of all, they are trafficking a young girl in order to be sold into sex slavery.

I had in-depth conversations with Iowa sheriffs on this trip, about what they are seeing on the ground in our rural communities as far as drug use and crime. In rural Iowa the drug of choice is still meth, but what has changed drastically is law enforcement is finding more and more meth which is laced with fentanyl. If that’s the case, you know exactly where it came from – Mexico. In the more urban areas of Iowa, more and more cases of overdoses related to fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl continue to occur. To put this crisis in perspective, Border Patrol first started to see fentanyl in 2014. Nine years later, fentanyl now kills around 300 Americans a day – over 100,000 Americans each year.

One of the saddest parts about this situation is you have county sheriffs in Texas who are wondering what they can do to protect their own communities. Local city, county, and state officials have been given zero support from the federal government on how to navigate their new reality.

I spoke with a sheriff from Texas who serves a county with a population of about 7,800 that is much like the population of many rural counties in Iowa. His deputies are in 2 to 3 car chases a day with smugglers, because they just so happen to be in the corridor between Houston and the border. He’s apprehended 77 fugitives so far this year, and he is 190 miles from the border.

I visited Brooks County, Texas, which is about 50 miles north of McAllen, and they have recovered over 200 bodies this year. The coyotes dump these women and children in the desert, and the terrain is difficult to survive in. These cartels have no concern for human life, and they have no incentive to get true asylum seekers to safety because, by that time, they’ve already been paid.

Federal and state authorities have had encounters with more than 2.8 million migrants so far this fiscal year. The area where we visited processes about 1,000 people a day before they are released into the United States without even a scheduled court hearing.

So far over 160 people on the terrorist watch list have been apprehended this fiscal year. Many of the migrants Border Patrol encounter from the sector I visited are from South American countries, but the authorities I spoke to also mentioned about a third of the encounters they currently have with migrants speak mandarin – meaning they are likely from China.

What I witnessed was a cartel run travel agency – everyone is making money on this crisis. The cartels are able to charge about $1,500 a person and move their deadly drugs all at the same time. They will push groups of about 200 people at a time to a point of entry, and then move the drugs in small groups by backpack elsewhere while Border Patrol agents are overwhelmed with processing the large groups. This is calculated and intentional.

The scary part is, cartel leaders are living on the U.S. side of the border now because it’s safer over here than it is on the Mexico side. The cartels are modern day gangsters, and are taking over laundromats, dry cleaners, gas stations, and other cash-heavy small businesses to launder their money into the United States.

As for Iowa’s role in this mess, first and foremost, we need to say a prayer for our Border Patrol agents. First for their morale and second, for their safety. Their main day-to-day operations are focused on drugs and human trafficking but they are forced to serve as processors for these large volumes of migrants as well. It is all catch and release and they really question why they are even doing this. They’re asking themselves, “what’s the point?”

We as states also have to continue to do what Biden is unwilling to – because this is a large enough crisis now that every state is now a border state. In August, Governor Reynolds sent 109 of our Iowa National Guard soldiers to join in Operation Lonestar, among other states. Iowa also sent 31 Department of Public Safety personnel last month as well. They deserve a thank you from their fellow Iowans for the work they’re doing to support Texas’s effort in protecting Americans.

It was an eye-opening experience to see the disgusting and sophisticated systems the cartels have created in their own country, and in ours. Joined by other Iowans on the trip, I was shocked to hear the stories of human trafficking and the drugs that are making their way north to our communities. I appreciate hearing your concerns on this issue and I will continue to stay in contact with our local law enforcement to stay informed and understand how this crisis continues to impact our state.


So, What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl was first developed in 1959. It is a synthetic opioid and when used legally it can be an effective painkiller. It can be given as a shot, a patch on skin, or as a lozenge (like a cough drop). This opioid is 100 times more potent than morphine and is most often used by cancer patients with severe pain and sometimes individuals who face chronic pain and have built a tolerance to other opioids. According to the FDA, it is a schedule II-controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Prescription names include; Actiq®, Fentora®, Abstral®, Subsys®, Lazanda®, and Duragesic®. When used as prescribed these drugs can ease extreme pain.

Unfortunately, fentanyl is being manufactured in clandestine labs and being brought into the United States and sold illegally across the country. Illegal fentanyl is either in a powder or counterfeit tablet and can be sold individually or combined with other narcotics including heroin and cocaine. According to the Department of Justice, common street names include; apache, china girl, china town, dance fever, he-man, and king ivory. When taken it creates a feeling of euphoria, confusion, drowsiness, nausea, and respiratory distress. It is very addictive and can easily lead to overdoses. A fentanyl overdose can be treated with naloxone (Narcan) if it is available.

Synthetic opioid deaths are increasing dramatically. Just 2mg of fentanyl is considered a potentially lethal dose and it is impossible to tell how much is in one illegal pill without lab testing. This has led to countless overdose injuries and deaths. While it is not possible to track all deaths directly related to fentanyl, the CDC and the National Institute of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse have tracked opioid deaths from 1999 through 2020 and there is clearly a dangerous upward trend. In 1999, opioid involved overdose deaths were well under 20,000 and in 2020 there were almost 70,000 across the country. In 2021, 258 Iowans died from opioid overdoses and 83% of those deaths involved fentanyl or other synthetic narcotics.  The Office of Drug Control Policy reported a 120% increase in overdose deaths for people 25 and under since 2019.

This year, House Republicans helped lead the fight against fentanyl with House File 595. The new law:
•    Increases penalties for fentanyl related crimes.
•    Increases penalties for those who manufacture or possess controlled substances around a minor.
•    Enhances the sentence for a person who causes the death of another through controlled substance use and doesn’t seek medical help.
•    Expands who can provide and possess opioid antagonists.

Increasing penalties, and ensuring opioid antagonists are widely available are major steps to saving lives and keeping these dangerous drugs off the streets. If you’re in a position to help someone who may overdose due to fentanyl, you could qualify for a free opioid antagonist from a local pharmacy. There are also various groups providing access to these life saving drugs throughout the state. Anyone with questions is encouraged to reach out to their local pharmacist for additional information or visit


COVID – Is It Déjà Vu All Over Again?

Just like a bad movie plot, talks of Covid lock downs, mandatory vaccinations, and masks are back…again. Schools in other states are already starting to require students to wear masks on campus after reports of one positive case and some businesses are following suit. The media is ramping up the rhetoric and President Biden is asking Congress for millions of dollars to develop a new Covid vaccine that according to him “It will likely be recommended that everybody get it no matter whether they’ve gotten it before or not..”

Three years ago we were told masking, lockdowns, and other government imposed restrictions were needed for “two weeks” to “stop the spread.” Those two weeks turned into months and in some cases years for many Americans. Politicians and bureaucrats kept kids out of school, closed churches, shut down businesses, limited who Americans could spend time with, and required some to take a vaccine to simply enter a grocery store. Now, some are threatening to do it all over again. Luckily for Iowans, many of these restrictions are now illegal thanks to the strong leadership of Republicans. Below is a short Q and A regarding what can and cannot happen in Iowa after significant legal changes in the past three years.


Can schools require students to wear masks?

No, HF 847, which passed in 2021, prohibits a school from requiring masks be worn by students, employees, or visitors, with extremely limited exceptions. Parents have the right to decide if their child wears a mask or not in school. If HF 847 is ever overturned by the court, parents can fill out an exemption form to excuse their child from any mask mandate.

Will schools be closed down again? 

Since February 15, 2021, schools in Iowa have been required to offer in person classes. Senate File 160 requires schools to offer five day a week, in person learning for students. Schools cannot close and require online classes like they did in 2020.

Vaccine Passports:

Will the state be issuing vaccine passports?

No, House File 889 explicitly prohibits the state and any political subdivisions (counties, cities, etc.) from issuing vaccine passports that identify if a person has or has not had the COVID-19 vaccine. This does not stop doctors and pharmacist from keeping vaccine records but does prevent official identification from being issued by the government.

Can I be required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine?

In most cases, no. Businesses and government entities are prohibited from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of entering the premises. However, there are exceptions for health care facilities, including but not limited to hospitals, inpatient centers, residential care facilities and nursing facilities. They may ask for and even require proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Masks and Vaccines:

Do I have to wear a mask on private property?

House File 847 prohibits counties and cities from requiring masks on private property. The only time a mask would be required is if the owner of the property requires it. The law leaves the decision to require masks to each individual business and property owner.

When are people required to wear masks?

–    If a business requires a mask as a condition of entry.
–    If a government building requires a mask as a condition of entry.
–    If a healthcare facility requires a mask as a condition of entry.

Can I be required to wear a mask at work?

Yes, private businesses can require their employees to wear a mask while working.

Can the company I work for offer incentives for those who are vaccinated against COVID-19?

Yes, a business can offer incentives for employees who willingly disclose their vaccination status. As an example, some companies have decided vaccinated employees don’t have to wear masks, while those who are unvaccinated or don’t wish to disclose vaccination information will still be required to wear masks while working.

Governors Powers:

Could the Governor close businesses and implement other restrictions like she did in 2020?

Under current law, yes, the Governor of Iowa has significant power to close businesses and limit gatherings. However, Gov. Reynolds released the following statement in response to COVID-19 restrictions reemerging across the country:

“Since news broke of COVID-19 restrictions being re-instated at some colleges and businesses across the U.S., concerned Iowans have been calling my office asking whether the same could happen here. My answer—not on my watch. In Iowa, government respects the people it serves and fights to protect their rights. I rejected the mandates and lockdowns of 2020, and my position has not changed.”


E911 Service Boards Fund: A Growing Issue?

Funding for emergency services has long been an issue in Iowa. One aspect of these services is facing a different issue – growing fund balances. How that is to be addressed may be an upcoming issue in the 2024 legislative session.

How Iowa provides and funds E911 services has been an ongoing issue for several decades. The first action taken by the state was in 1988, when the Legislature passed a bill requiring counties to create an E911 board. The boards were created to develop a county E911 plan, including the cost of implementing the plan. Plans were approved by the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Funding for the E911 service came from a surcharge on each telephone line in the agency’s service area. The fee is assessed each quarter.

As Iowans started to use cell phones, these lines were also added to the program. In 1999, the Legislature added these phones to the E911 surcharge. During the 2013 legislative session, changes were made to the program. Primary among these was the implementation of standard fee for all landlines and cell phone lines in the state. This fee is $1 dollar.

Iowa law establishes rules on how E911 surcharge funds can be used by local boards. The funds can be used for recurring costs and one-time expenses. These can include equipment, software, and training. The one thing the funds cannot be used for is personnel costs. Those expenses must be funded by city or county governments who are part of the local E911 service area.

In the years prior to the 2013 fee change, local E911 boards ended each fiscal year with a statewide ending balance of approximately $21-22. But after the fee was changed, E911 Service Boards ending balances started rising. After Fiscal Year 2014, the statewide ending balance went to $25.6 million. At the end of Fiscal Year 2016, the statewide balance was up to almost $35 million. Fiscal Year 2019’s balance was $52.8 million. And at the end of Fiscal Year 2022, the statewide balances had climbed to $58.6 million.

Looking at individual counties, there are significant variations in the amounts of the ending balances. Calhoun County has the lowest amount in the bank, with a balance of $12,666. The highest balance was in Polk County, with $4,310,006. Polk was one of twelve counties that had balances of more than $1 million.

With the E911 Service Boards ending balances having grown on a consistent basis over the past decade, some are questioning whether it is time to reassess the amount of the fee or how it can be used. That may be one of the subjects tackled by the General Assembly during its 2024 session.


Medicaid Removes 100,000 ineligible Iowans

For the last three years, the federal government has prevented states from disenrolling ineligible Medicaid members. This has resulted in around 100,000 ineligible Iowans receiving free health insurance, without paying any premiums or copays, and the state paying a monthly capitation payment for every single ineligible member.

Finally, in December 2022, Congress set the end date of April 1, 2023, and allowed ineligible members to be disenrolled from Medicaid. The law requires states to publish monthly reports on those individuals disenrolled and if they were connected with alternative health insurance. Now, till the end of the year, Iowa will continue to receive some enhanced federal funding as those ineligible members are gradually taken off the program.

Iowa Medicaid is prioritizing work on redeterminations for those who have not had a successful renewal completed in the past 12 months. Information will be updated on the dashboard as renewals and disenrollments are determined.

Since hitting record enrollment with Iowa Medicaid in April 2023 at 893,844 individuals, enrollment is now down to 793,788 as of August 2023. This process will continue through March of 2024.

If you have any questions about your Medicaid or Hawki renewal, you can contact the Iowa HHS Contact Center at 855-889-7985. If you have transitioned out of Medicaid coverage, here is a link to resources on finding health insurance that fits your needs:


Unemployment Insurance Payroll Tax to Remain at Lowest Possible in 2024

Iowa Workforce Development announced in late August that the schedule of unemployment insurance rates used to tax Iowa employers will remain at the lowest possible level allowed by law for 2024.

This marks the second consecutive year at the current rates and only the second time Iowa’s rates have been at this level in a quarter century.

Beth Townsend, executive director of Iowa Workforce, praised the “wise investments and prudent stewardship of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund” under Gov. Kim Reynolds “that have allowed us to provide stability to Iowa’s employers. Additionally, the positive impact of returning Iowans to work in the shortest time possible through the efforts of the Reemployment Case Management program have helped to keep the UI Trust Fund healthy and well-funded.”

Iowa law requires IWD to establish a table each year to determine the impact of unemployment tax rates on eligible employers. The trigger for deciding which unemployment insurance rate table to implement is derived from a formula based primarily on the balance in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, unemployment benefit history, and covered wage growth.

The latest calculations based on this formula mean contribution rates in calendar 2024 again will be drawn from Table 8. Last year, the switch to Table 8 from Table 7 saved employers an estimated $72.20 per employee (based on employee wages totaling $36,100 or more with employers paying the median tax rate and remaining in the same tax rank).

Iowa was able to make the switch to Table 8 in 2023 due to decisions by Gov. Reynolds that helped keep the unemployment trust fund in a strong position following record benefit payouts during the pandemic. In 2021, Gov. Reynolds invested $237 million of ARPA funds into the trust fund. In 2020, Reynolds previously had directed that $490 million of Cares Act coronavirus relief funds be used to backstop the trust fund during record unemployment.


Iowa’s Labor Force Participation Rate Returns to Pre-Pandemic Level

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady at 2.7% in July but remains down from 2.8% one year ago. The state’s labor force added 2,700 new workers in July, increasing Iowa’s labor force participation rate to 68.8%. That is up from 68.2% a year ago and equals the participation rate in March 2020.

Meanwhile, the nationwide U.S. unemployment rate decreased to 3.5% in July from 3.6% the month before.

The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,694,300 last month. The July figure is 1,300 higher than June and 22,900 higher than one year ago. The number of unemployed Iowans increased to 47,700 in July from 46,300 in June.

“Iowa’s labor force participation increased for the fifth straight month, although we do see signs that some businesses are being cautious with hiring amid prolonged national economic uncertainty,” said Beth Townsend, Executive Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “Over 65,000 job opportunities still exist in our state, and Iowa Workforce Development stands ready to help connect Iowans to these great opportunities. We can also help employers who are looking for workers by connecting them with valuable tools and resources that will help them develop their talent pipelines.”

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment
Iowa’s businesses are up 14,400 jobs relative to last year. In July, Iowa businesses shed 5,300 jobs, lowering total nonfarm employment to 1,585,400. Following a June downward revision, this loss is now the third consecutive monthly drop in payroll with monthly losses being evident in both service and goods producing industries. Professional and business services has pared jobs for four consecutive months and, along with leisure and hospitality, led all other sectors in jobs shed this month. Private industry employers are responsible for most of the increase (+11,700), although government entities advanced by 300 this month and now rest up 2,700 jobs over the past twelve months.

Accommodations and food services shed the most jobs in July (-2,000). Much of the loss was due to restaurants reigning in employment this month. The loss follows a smaller decline of 700 jobs in June. Arts and entertainment also shed jobs in July (-300), snapping a string of gains over the prior three months. Administrative support and waste management pared 1,200 jobs in July and fueled a decline of 2,000 jobs for professional and business services. Professional, scientific, and technical services shed 700 jobs this month and has shed 2,800 since March. Trade, transportation, and utilities lost 900 jobs and is now down 1,400 jobs over the past three months. Both transportation and warehousing along with retail have been a drag on employment recently. Conversely, job gains were small in magnitude in July and included education and health care (+400) and information (+200).

Compared to last year, total nonfarm employment has gained 14,400 jobs. Of those gains, education and health care has gained 10,100 jobs with a slight majority stemming from health care and social assistance. Leisure and hospitality industries are up 3,900 jobs and has been lifted by arts and entertainment (+2,500). Smaller increases occurred in manufacturing (+1,700) and construction (+1,300). Job losses have been heaviest in professional and business services (-6,400) with administrative support and waste management fueling much of the decline.

Visit for more information about current and historical data, labor force data, nonfarm employment, hours and earnings, and jobless benefits by county.


Board of Regents Releases Fiscal Year 2025 Appropriations Requests

On Tuesday September 8th the Board of Regents released their agenda for the meeting taking place on September 27th-28th. In it, the Board released their appropriations request for Fiscal year 2025.

For the General Fund, they have asked for a total of $619 million, which would be a $38.3 million increase over the current budget. The increase can be broken into two sets. The first part is their usual request for a general increase for each university.  For FY 2025, they have asked for the following additional amounts to their General Appropriations lines:

•    University of Iowa – $4.5 million
•    Iowa State University – $4.5 million
•    University of Northern Iowa – $5.8 million

The other part of the General Fund increase is targeted to address specific issues that have been identified through the Skilled Workforce Grants.

The University of Iowa is proposing a 5 year / $50 million commitment to address health care workforce issues. This program is being called Iowa’s Rural Health Care Partnership.

To begin this work, an investment of $10 million is requested with an additional $10 million requested each subsequent year for a total recurring appropriation after five years of $50 million.

Iowa State University’s proposal is again involving STEM workforce issues. They are requesting $10 million to build on the momentum of the $2.8 million appropriated in FY24.

The University of Northern Iowa is also looking to expand its efforts to attract and train prospective teachers under their Educator for Iowa program. For FY2025, UNI is requesting an additional $2.5 million to continue efforts to recruit more students into the teaching profession. Last year, UNI used the $1.5 million allocated to initiate a number of scholarships to recruit and retain teachers.

It is good to see that the Regents institutions are responding to House Republican requests to focus their work on the vocations needed most in the state –  rather than just more money to be spent however they please.


Iowa Department of Education Releases New Spring Student Assessment Results

The Iowa Department of Education released the new spring 2023 assessment results from the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress for students in grades 3-11. The overall results show little improvement over last year with significant proficiency gaps between certain groups of students.

“Iowa prioritized keeping schools open and students in the classroom throughout the pandemic, and our students experienced minimal COVID-related learning loss compared to the nation. At the same time, statewide assessment results show that overall student proficiency is not significantly different from last year and concerning achievement gaps persist, especially among students who are English learners, students with disabilities, and students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch,” said Iowa Department of Education Director McKenzie Snow. “Together with educators and families, we will work to better serve students most in need of support and to accelerate learning so all students can succeed. This crucial data will guide the Department’s development of targeted solutions to improve student achievement statewide.”

State-level results from the 2022-23 Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) show relatively little to no growth across most grades in English language arts with some grade levels up a percentage point and other grades down a percentage point. Sixth grade results increased the most from last year, going up four percentage points.

Mathematics scores showed some small improvement across all grade levels. Grades 3, 6, 7 and 9 had a three-percentage point increase and grade 4 had a four-percentage point increase in the percent of students scoring proficient or above when compared to last year. Grades 8 and 10 increased five percentage points and grade 5 increased six percentage points. Eleventh grade results increased the most, at 7 percentage points.

The data also show significant proficiency gaps between overall student results and those of certain student subgroups. Students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, students with disabilities and students who are English learners performed much lower than their classmates with differences of 15, 41 and 45 percentage points, respectively.

The ISASP is administered each spring and is the general summative accountability assessment in Iowa that meets the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The assessment reflects what’s being taught in Iowa classrooms and how students are progressing toward grade-level expectations outlined in Iowa’s academic standards. Importantly, the ISASP helps teachers understand where students are succeeding and where they may need more help. Iowa’s state summative assessment participation rate was 99 percent in 2022-23, 98 percent in 2021-22 and 98 percent in 2020-21, ensuring that the results yielded a true picture of student performance.

The spring 2022-23 ISASP results and fact sheet with additional graphs and charts can be found on the Iowa Department of Education website at:


Staying in Touch

As always, you can shoot me an email at with any questions or conerns.


Rep. Taylor Collins