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Statehouse News 

Time to Legalize Marijuana in Iowa 

With a majority of Iowans supporting legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use, and neighboring states having already legalized it, it’s time for Iowa to do the same. 
 
Legalizing marijuana for adult use will ensure product safety, stop our tax dollars from going to neighboring states, improve the quality of life for Iowans suffering from chronic illnesses, and stop wasting state resources to unfairly punish Iowans.

Here is how we do it: 
  1. Regulate a safe product that Iowans already use: According to the American Addiction Centers, unregulated marijuana can be laced with a multitude of psychoactive drugs with varied effects. Legalizing the use of recreational marijuana for adult use allows the state to regulate who grows and manufactures the product, thus keeping it safer for Iowans to use.
  2. Use new tax revenue to invest in education and our local communities: As neighboring states are moving toward legalization, and with ballot initiatives underway in Missouri and South Dakota, Iowa is going to lose out on tax revenue that will now go to neighboring states. We’re not talking a small amount of change, either.  In 2021 alone, Colorado’s marijuana industry generated $423 million in tax revenue. More than $12 billion in marijuana has been sold since legalization in 2014, with the state collecting over $2 billion in taxes. 
  3. Stop wasting taxpayer dollars and unfairly punishing Iowans: With Iowa’s correctional facilities over capacity by 17.1% with 55% of drug arrests due to marijuana, it’s time to stop wasting money and unfairly punishing Iowans. 
  4. Fix Iowa’s broken medicinal cannabis law: For years Iowans have been advocating for relief from their chronic pain, and for years we’ve seen Republican lawmakers turn them away, telling them that their pain should be managed with addictive opioids. We need a medical cannabis law that works for Iowans.


Union Recertification Elections Underway

Public employees including teachers, nurses, law enforcement officials, and snowplow drivers are reminded to vote to recertify their local union from October 11th to October 25th by noon. Voting online is the easiest and quickest way for employees to vote. To vote, go to vote.yeselections.com/iaperb/. It is important that every employee vote because a non-vote counts as a “no.”

Republican leaders passed legislation in 2017 to take away the voice of Iowans in their own workplace and severely restrict public employee unions. Under the new regulations, the public employee union must hold a recertification election every year or two before bargaining a new contract. 

While these changes were made to break up Iowa’s public employee bargaining units, it has been unsuccessful so far. Since 2017, local unions have overwhelmingly voted to recertify, maintaining their bargaining power.  

 

Student Loan Debt Relief Now Available

A program to help working and middle-class student loan borrowers’ pay off their student loans is now taking applications. Over 400,000 Iowans will be able to take advantage of the pre-launch of the program. While the application process has not officially started, this pre-launch will help expedite the process and those that apply now will not have to reapply later. The application takes less than five minutes. And you don’t need to log in with an FSA ID or to upload any documents to apply.

Here are few things you need to know:
  • The application is available at studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application. Tax data is used to verify the individual’s federal student loan debt records. 
  • To be eligible, a person’s annual income must be below $125,000 (for individuals) or $250,000 (for married couples).
  • The debt relief application will be available to all borrowers through Dec. 31, 2023.
  • If you received a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you will be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief.
  • If you did not receive a Pell Grant in college, but still meet the income threshold, you will be eligible for up to $10,000 in debt relief.
  • Borrowers are advised to apply by mid-November in order to receive relief before the payment pause expires on December 31, 2022.
Nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to borrowers earning less than $75,000 per year. This relief will help Iowans recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments this January. Already, more than 8 million people have applied for relief – that’s 8 million people on their way to getting a little more breathing room.
 

State Budget Leaves Out Iowans

A new projection of the state’s revenues was released last week and it is becoming clear that everyday Iowans will continue to be left out due to the budget priorities of Republican lawmakers. 

The nonpartisan experts known as the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC), met last week and predicted that next year Iowa will have nearly $300 million less to invest in our public schools, mental health, and rural hospitals that are used by Iowans. 

Instead of lowering costs for Iowans and investing in our public schools, Republicans choose to give huge handouts to millionaires and the biggest corporations in the world like Amazon and Facebook.  These handouts will continue next year, when the biggest corporations in Iowa are expected to get another $24 million tax break. 

 

Winter Energy Assistance Applications Available for Iowans 

Each year, qualified Iowa households may receive a one-time payment to assist with their heating costs for any heating fuel type under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). 

Applications should be made with the applicant's local community action agency at: humanrights.iowa.gov/dcaa/where-apply. The annual application period runs from November 1 through April 30th. However, applications for households with at least one person that is elderly (60+) or disabled began on Monday, October 3rd. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Once an applicant has qualified for the program, their respective utility is notified and the applicant is eligible for protection from utility service disconnection during Iowa's annual winter disconnection moratorium, which runs from November 1 and April 1. The LIHEAP payment is made directly to the utility or heating fuel vendor.

Although qualified applicants cannot be disconnected during the moratorium, all LIHEAP-certified customers are urged to continue paying towards their energy bills to avoid accumulating high debt and facing potential utility service disconnection once the moratorium period ends. 

 

Healthcare Exchange Open Enrollment Approaches 

Iowans may begin purchasing or changing their 2023 Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual health coverage on Tuesday, November 1, 2022, through Sunday, January 15, 2023. However, Iowans may preview plan options at healthcare.gov starting October 1, 2022. Premium amounts are not official until November's open enrollment date. 

Last year, President Biden and Congressional Democrats expanded ACA subsidies in ACA marketplaces to cover more middle-class families. Because of this, it has led to 4.5 million more Americans gaining coverage by removing the cap that made families with income above 400% above poverty level ineligible for subsidies; no one pays more than 8.5% of their income for a silver plan; and individuals below 150% of the poverty level pay no premiums at all. 

Because of the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no cost to consumers. More than 140 million Americans are enrolled in plans that provide free preventive services, including 133 million people with employer coverage.

Those considering individual plans should talk with a licensed insurance agent to thoroughly research all coverage options to determine the best plan for themselves and their families. During open enrollment, Iowans can call 1-800-318-2596 or visit healthcare.gov for more information relating to enrollment and calculating applicable tax credits. 

 

Food Assistance Available for Some Iowa Children

With some families still struggling to make ends meet, more food assistance will soon be available to make sure no kid goes hungry. 

The first program, Summer 2022 for Children Under Six, provides $391 per eligible child who received SNAP benefits during the months of June, July, and August 2022. Benefits will be issued to the family’s SNAP-EBT card between October 11 and 20. The Summer 2022 for School Aged Children is the second program, and it provides $391 per child that were in grades K-12 during the 21-22 school year and on SNAP benefits. Details are still being finalized, but it is anticipated that benefits will be issued to eligible children on new EBT cards mailed by the end of November.

For more information on these programs, please visit: dhs.iowa.gov/food-assistance/related-programs/P-EBT

 

Other Iowa News

COLLEGE GRADUATE EMPLOYMENT UPDATE: Iowa is the only state in the country that tracks student outcomes of graduates from community colleges and public universities.  The data further demonstrates the value of higher education and earning potential. From iowastudentoutcomes.com one can see how much a graduate in a particular community college program earns, what they are projected to earn and how many graduates went to which state for employment.  The website shows that 91% of community college graduates find a job, and two out of every three public university graduates stay in Iowa with an economic impact to the state of $11.8 billion annually.  

 
MORTGAGE RELIEF TO KEEP MORE IOWANS IN THEIR HOMES: Homeowners who are behind on their mortgage, property taxes, homeowner association fees, lot rent payments, and/or land contract payments may be eligible for assistance. Eligible homeowners must be more than 30 days behind on payments and have an income that does not exceed the greater of 150% of the area median income or 100% of the U.S. median income. Applicants must demonstrate a COVID-related financial hardship. For more information and to apply for assistance visit iowafinance.com/ihaf

 
HELP FOR STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH GOES TO SCHOOLS: More kids are missing school because of anxiety and depression. With the wake of the school shooting in Texas, the Federal government provided funding to address students’ well-being and Iowa is expected to receive $6 million.  Per federal guidelines, the money is prioritized for supportive learning environments, interventions, strategies for students’ emotional and mental health, and staff training. It can also be used to address poverty, absenteeism, incidents of bullying or harassment, and for students in areas experiencing the effects of a natural disaster.  The funding could increase the number of school counselors, social workers or psychologists. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the money will be provided to school districts on a competitive grant basis.


I have been honored to represent all of you in house district 68 for this last session as well as those of you in my future senate district 37.
 

 

I thank you for your support as your State Representative, and I look forward to your continued support as I work to become your new State Senator next session.
 
I understand there are some who have a different opinion about the legislation and choices made on the floor, but I hope to keep communication lines open for all to continue to share their concerns with me. 
 
It is my plan, as always, to work with everyone in the Capitol to better my district and the state. I look forward to bipartisan efforts that I know we will have to move Iowa forward. But I am also up for the fight to push for a better Iowa and different priorities for Iowans.
 
Please follow my Facebook page for updates on what’s happening around the district. I will do my best to kept events listed there over the coming months.
 
Go to the link below and like my legislative page to keep up to date:
 
https://m.facebook.com/DonahueForIA/
 
As your representative, I am available throughout the year for questions, concerns, and suggestions. Please contact me if you have any concerns, questions, or comments:
 
https://m.facebook.com/DonahueForIA/
 
Molly.Donahue@legis.iowa.gov
 
It is truly an honor to serve you and I am looking forward to what the future brings in senate district 37 in 2022. 
 
Warmest regards,

 

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