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Kibbie, Frevert discuss children’s health care

By Staff | Apr 8, 2008

Jen and Casey Sievert chat with representative Marcie Frevert, left, and state senator Jack Kibbie prior to Saturday’s town hall meeting. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Iowa Sen. Jack Kibbie and Rep. Marcie Frevert Saturday in Estherville discussed the children’s health-care bill and other legislation as the 2008 General Assembly comes to a close.

Their remarks were made at the monthly Legislative Town Hall meeting held at the Estherville Public Library Community Room.

Frevert called the children’s health-care legislation “a pretty bipartisan effort” that is intended to ensure that all children in Iowa are covered by health insurance within the next three years.

Toward that end, Frevert said the state is putting $25 million into the program over the next three years, with $4.8 million going in the first year and $10 each of the two following years.

Program funding would go through earmarking — something that Frevert admitted some legislators don’t like. However, she said funding for early childhood and the Iowa Power Fund was paid through earmarks.

Noting an $80-million year-end balance projected for this year and $50 million in new money for next year, Frevert said the state should be able to help counties with mental health costs and also find additional funding for community colleges.

Frevert said the best property tax relief the legislature could pass this year would be the statewide school infrastructure local option tax. “That will be a great help to all of the schools,” Frevert said.

Kibbie touched on a number of issues, including the pending retirement bill, open meetings law bill, $16 million in REAP funding, SILO, and TINE 21 road funding.

Kibbie said he hoped to get $8 million back to counties for mental health and to get a provider increase. He said he also hoped to get $10.5 million in additional funding for community colleges.

In the question-and-answer session, Kibbie responded to a question about the smoke-free bill.

“I think the bill we’ll have is a 90 percent bill,” Kibbie said. He said the casino community is expected to come out with a report saying casinos would lose $25 million to $30 million statewide with a smoking ban.

Regarding a question from Emmet County Mental Health Coordinator Dorothy Christensen on mental health funding, Kibbie said he was working to get complete mental health parity.

One audience member suggested an tax increase on alcohol to fund treatment facilities for all drugs.

Frevert agreed that young people who need treatment often are housed with older people. She said it would be more worthwhile to spend money on prevention and education than on prisons.

Kibbie said the state is putting more money into community-based treatment.

Emmet County Supervisor Roger Anderson said the Northwest Iowa Alcoholism and Treatment Unit has been recommending an increase in the tax on alcohol for years.

On another point, one party noted misinformation was being put out on the collective bargaining issue.

Frevert said private business now has the same bargaining that public employees are seeking.

Kibbie said he believed that Governor Culver would sign a collective bargaining bill by July 1. He said the bill allowed public employees to bring issues to the table. He said the collective bargaining bill has not been updated since 1974. “Every state around us has open scope bargaining with the exception of Missouri,” Kibbie said.

Kibbie took note that the Supreme Court this week decided against the English-only law. He said if Iowa is going to be a welcoming state, it needs to welcome everyone. On a side note, he said the Legislature may pass a bill addressing CEOs who knowingly hire illegal aliens.