OSKALOOSA — Sen. Ken Rozenboom, Rep. Holly Brink and Rep. Dustin Hite returned to Oskaloosa for the final Eggs and Issues of the season.
Each legislator gave a rundown of recent activities in the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives.
Brink said the SAVE bill was passed off the House floor and the representatives also passed a children’s mental health initiative.
Hite said the campus free speech bill recently passed, with “vigorous discussion.” Also, he said a property tax reform bill is in the works.
Rozenboom said a bill reducing the number of unfunded mandates has been in the works.
“That doesn’t mean anything is left undone, it simply means that local school boards make those decisions rather than the state,” he said. “And my number one target for that, in my mind, is the state telling the schools that they will use environmentally-friendly cleaning products. I don’t think cleaning products is a matter that the state Senate and state House should be dictating to schools.”
A bill was also passed in the Senate, Rozenboom said, that requires those who are on public medical assistance — if they are able-bodied — to participate in the workforce.
“Either by working or going to school or volunteering a minimum of 20 hours a week,” he said. “There are many exemptions to that. Obviously, there needs to be. But that’s important.”
Rozenboom also said the Agriculture Protection Law was passed.
Donna Crookham, of Oskaloosa, asked what kind of dollars are being put behind mental health care for children.
“Many, many years ago when the adult mental health system was designed to be more a community-based system,” she said. “The state promised dollars and the state has never fully funded that system. Now you’ve passed a bill for a children’s mental health system and I’m thankful for that. But a system looks good on paper but if there aren’t dollars, it doesn’t work, it can’t be implemented.”
Brink said she didn’t know every breakdown but there is $3 million to help with teachers’ funding to help identify troubled children.
Hite said this is just a good first step.
“This is to get that infrastructure in place, to get the regions the same for the children as the adult and get all that,” he said. “You’re absolutely right, we do need to work on funding.”
Oskaloosa resident Allison McGuire asked whether there was a sustainable way to fund the new program.
McGuire said she heard $5 million in grants may be taken away from substance abuse and mental health clinics.
“People who run those clinics are saying that they are already putting in place resources for children,” she said, “so how are we going to handle taking funding away from programs that already exist to fund this new program when the programs that already exist are working to provide those sorts of resources?
Hite said he was not aware of that and would look into it.
Rozenboom said the state’s medical public assistance budget has grown from 6 percent of the state budget to nearly 22 percent over the past 30 years.
“The demands, the cries for money never end. And I understand that,” he said. “And I’m not arguing against supporting mental health legislation, but I am going to turn it around and challenge everyone in this room to recognize what’s going on not only in Iowa but around the country with respect to this issue.”
More money than ever before is being spent on public medical assistance, Rozenboom said.
“But it seems like it’s never enough,” he said. “Where does it stop? When does personal responsibility and many other things become part of the equation so that we don’t just go to the government, in this case, the state of Iowa, and say ‘we need more money for this, we need more money for that.’”