More health care providers could provide vaccines
State lawmakers are positioning the state for a ramped up vaccination effort, advancing bills that would allow dentists and other medical providers to administer COVID vaccines. The state has been off to a slow start, ranking as one of the lowest among states for the number of those vaccinated. The House Human Resources Committee approved a slate of bills Thursday meant to accelerate Iowa’s vaccination efforts. HSB71, which would allow dentists to administer COVID and influenza vaccines, was approved by the committee on a 19-1 vote.
The committee also moved forward a bill that would make it easier for health care workers with credentials in another state to practice in Iowa. The state’s medical regulatory boards have been pushing for greater flexibility to address a shortage of health care workers.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has acknowledged the delays in getting vaccines to those who need them. The state is working to launch a vaccine hotline and call center to match Iowans with available vaccines and providers. As of Thursday morning, the state’s website tracking vaccinations showed just under 100,000 Iowans had received both doses of a COVID vaccine.
Iowa’s K-12 schools will likely see a more than 2% increase in funding next year after votes this week by state lawmakers. The Senate approved a 2.2% increase in general state aid next year, which amounts to a boost of roughly $155 per pupil. The Senate bill also provides a $65 per pupil supplement to schools that provided in-person instruction during the pandemic to help pay for some of the costs such as substitute teachers and cleaning supplies incurred in the 20-21 school year.
Majority House Republicans have proposed a funding boost of 2.5% and are expected to vote Thursday or Monday. Democrats have argued for a 3.75% or $85 million increase, an amount supported by school leaders from around the state.
House panel votes to ban granting tenure at public universities
Iowa’s public universities would no longer be allowed to grant tenure to their faculty members under a bill that cleared the House Education Committee Wednesday. Chair Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, cited surveys showing Democrats far outnumbered Republicans for faculty positions at colleges and universities around the country.
Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, pointed out Iowa would be the only state to ban such tenure at its institutions. She told lawmakers if they wanted to debate the bill on the House floor they should “bring a lunch” and a sleeping bag because she planned on filing amendments that would prolong debate. A similar bill cleated a Senate subcommittee Thursday.
Measures to expand child care advance
Republican lawmakers are working to make good on their campaign promise to expand access to child care, an issue employers and community leaders have said is necessary for economic growth in the state. The Iowa House passed several bills this week meant to increase the number of providers and make child care more affordable for working families.
HF230 would allow families making up to $90,000 to claim 30% of the federal child and dependent care tax credit. Currently only those making less than $45,000 can claim the credit. The bill gained wide bipartisan support, passing 93-1. With passage in the House, the measure moves to the Senate.
The House also voted to require the Department or Human Resources to raise reimbursement rates for providers under the state’s child care assistance program.