DES MOINES — Legislation to keep Iowa school children “full and focused” won unanimous approval in the Iowa House on Thursday afternoon.
Supporters said the bill would end most “food shaming,” or denying school lunches to children whose parents who owe the school for those meals, was approved 96-0.
House File 2467 “is good for the children of Iowa,” said Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, D-Cedar Rapids. “It makes clear to all public schools that current and future Iowa children will not be shamed because their parents are behind in payment.”
The bill establishes guidelines for schools to deal with parents who owe money for school lunches.
Schools will be prohibited from posting names or otherwise identifying students whose parents owe money for school meals. In some cases, schools have required those students to sit together at table separate from classmates, do chores to pay for meals or deny participation in school activities, lawmakers said.
Ensuring that students eat is important, Running-Marquardt said, because “we know that if a child is hungry, it affects their ability to learn.”
Although the bill was approved unanimously, Running-Marquardt said it isn’t perfect but has started a conversation “about feeding all Iowa children, regardless of their parents’ failure to pay.”
“We are the breadbasket of the world, and we can, and I know will, someday reach the point where we have better tools to use for school lunch debt and no longer use food as a leverage for payment,” she said.
Lawmakers also approved House File 2462, Medicaid efficiency/managed care organization (MCO) bill, 97-0, to address what Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, called “some bumps in the system.”
An amendment he offered would require MCOs to pay claims within the time specified in the contract, to correct errors and pay claims within 30 days and pay the claim within 90 days. It directs the Department of Human Services to use standardized Medicaid provider enrollment forms and credentialing standards. It also addresses appeals and reviews and court-ordered services.
“This is an opportunity to address some of the concerns and encourage our managed care program to operate smoother,” he said.
The House also:
• Voted 97-0 to approve House File 2312 to require the Department of Public Safety to develop and implement a plan to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits submitted to the state crime lab. It requires the processing time be reduced to 90 days from the current six-month backlog of about 1,000 untested kits.
“It’s a good bill for Iowa. It’s a bad bill for criminals,” said Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake.
Although she voted for the bill, Rep. Marti Anderson, D-Des Moines, called it “mean-spirited” because the Legislature has inadequately funded the crime lab.
• Voted 56-39 — after more than three-and-a-half hours of debate — to approve House File 2252 that made changes the floor manager said were necessary to implement the so-called “voter integrity” legislation enacted last year. For the most part, the debate was a repeat of the arguments Democrats made a year ago in opposition to “voter integrity” legislation.
• Approved House File 2369, 52-43, to schedule school bond referendums at the same time as general elections in November. Rep. Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, said his goal was to increase voter participation in the same way as moving school board elections to the general election date. Reducing the number of special referendums would save tax money, he said.
Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, said scheduling all the bond issues in the state for the same day would flood the bond market. That, he said, likely would increase bond interest rates, which would cost taxpayers more money.