Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds focuses on education, health care in annual address


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – iowa Governor Kim Reynolds A wide-ranging agenda laid out for legislators Tuesday evening focused on education and health care, including how special education is provided in schools and how mental health and substance use are treated across the state. Substantial amendments were called for.

The proposals could bring systemic changes to services across Iowa, but are raising early concerns about disparities in care in the state, particularly for rural communities.

Reynolds began his annual State of the State address by reflecting on the past week high school shooting In pear wineabout 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of Des Moines and thanked first responders, some of whom were in the audience.

He made no mention of the gun laws that brought high school and college students Monday to the Capitol Rotunda. Advocating for gun control legislation.

On education, Reynolds talked about “troubling” performance metrics for students with disabilities, despite funding levels for special education being higher than the national average. Reynolds would target the nine regional agencies responsible for providing special education services in Iowa — called regional education agencies — instead recommending that schools decide for themselves whether their funding should go to those agencies. is, as it is now, or do they look for other providers.

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Signs of reform at the agencies have already raised some concerns, prompting Reynolds to include a clear message to families “who have been told that we are going to eliminate or even eliminate AEAs.” That they plan to cut the services their families depend on.”

“This claim is absolutely false,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Pam Jochum expressed concern that the possibility of increased privatization of education services would have a disproportionate impact on rural Iowa.

Most of the proposals Reynolds made last year regarding statehood crossed the finish line after a strong re-election victory in 2022, which also gave his party a majority in the Legislature. He celebrated some of those policies on Tuesday, including his signed school choice legislation Publicly Funded Educational Savings Accounts Which families can use for private school education.

“There are people who said we did too much, too fast. “This change was not necessary or it would make our situation worse,” Reynolds said. “But when I look at the results of our hard work, I know we have made a difference. And it motivates me to do it again; To work even harder this season.”

Reynolds’ address pledged to cut taxes, expand work-based learning programs, protect minors from online pornography, and enforce foreign ownership of land in Iowa.

Reynolds identified mental health and substance use as priorities for the Legislature this year, investing $20 million of Iowa’s settlement award money from opioid-related lawsuits and streamlining the state’s behavioral health administration.

Democratic House leader Jennifer Confront criticized what she sees as reducing – not expanding – mental health care in Iowa, saying she is not optimistic that the administration’s amendments will yield concrete benefits.

“I have a constituent who recently spent three days in the ER waiting for a mental health bed and she had to fly out of state because there were no beds available for us,” she said.

Reynolds again asked the Legislature to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months for mothers earning less than $42,000 per year. It earned praise from Republicans and Democrats in the chamber, though it was not as comprehensive as Democrats had previously proposed expanding benefits to all mothers on Medicaid.

He also called for some select health care proposals that are supported by Democrats but failed to win over some Republicans, including over-the-counter contraception and parental leave for state employees.

House Speaker Pat Grassley said he would not commit to legislation being passed by a majority of his caucus at this point, but acknowledged that it is something “we cannot ignore.”

Konfrst said he hopes House Democrats and Republicans can talk about solutions to address priorities they have in common, adding that Democrats will pay attention to the specifics of Reynolds’ proposals and “not have bipartisanship — we’ll work on those.” “Vote for the bills that Republicans bring to the table.” ,

“we are still alive. I hope we’ll be bipartisan and work together,” he said. “Democrats are ready to have those conversations. The question is, will Republicans include us in this conversation or not?”

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