Capitol Update

March 14, 2024

Week 10

Speaking on the House floor in support of stronger Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) reform

In last week's newsletter, I went into great length about Pharmacy Benefit Managers - the middleman between insurance companies and the pharmacy. This week, I also spoke on the House floor about what I have come to see as true comprehensive reform that will protect Iowa's independent pharmacies - real reform would follow in the footsteps of other states who have enacted what is called the National Drug Average Acquistion Cost (NADAC) along with professional dispensing fees. The PBM bill, HF2401, passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

Common Core - Public Education

A bill is moving in the Senate Education Committee that requires the Dept. of Education to conduct a comprehensive review of the Iowa Core standards. This bill has already passed the Iowa House. Thanks to Senator Salmon for sharing this expanded review about Iowa Core Standards:


What is the Iowa Core? 

The Iowa Core is, for all practical purposes, the Common Core. There are a few Iowa-specific standards sprinkled in but it is basically the Common Core.


The Iowa Core, or Common Core, consists of K-12 academic standards that outline what students are expected to learn in 2 subject areas: English Language Arts (ELA) and in Mathematics. Its stated goal is to make students “college and career-ready”.


Where did the Common Core come from? 


It was written by private nationwide organizations out in Washington, D.C.: Achieve, Inc., National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officials (CCSSO). It was funded by the Gates Foundation.


How did Iowa get the Common Core?

In 2005 the legislature adopted the Iowa teacher-created Iowa Core standards in math, English, and science as a set of voluntary standards. In 2008 the Iowa Core became mandatory for all schools. In 2010 the State Board of Education mostly threw out the Iowa Core math and English standards and adopted in their place the Common Core, which are a set of federally incentivized standards for math and English. This was done, not by the legislature by the way, for the state to have a chance at getting federal “Race to the Top” money. Well, guess what? The state got no money but it did get Common Core! Implementation of the Common Core began in the Fall of 2012 for high schools and in the Fall of 2014 for K-8.


What are the advantages of Common Core?

Proponents say having all school districts study the same thing at the same time enables children who move from one school to another to not have any “gaps” in their education because they can pick up at the new school where they left off at the old school. The intended focus is on critical thinking and higher order thinking skills, which is very necessary and important. In math, there is a push for a deeper cognitive understanding, “how do you know?”. Have these advantages been realized?

What are the disadvantages of Common Core? 

The biggest problem with the Common Core system is the not so thinly disguised control of the federal government over our children’s education. Under the 10th Amendment of our Constitution any power not specifically given by the Constitution to the federal government belongs to the states or to the people. And the right to direct our children’s education is one of those rights that is not given to the federal government by our Constitution but belongs to the states or to the people.


In accordance with this, our federal laws explicitly state that the federal government may not establish a set of national educational standards or national curriculum. And the Obama administration years ago pushed this using back-door means by luring the states with grants, promises and possibilities of money and dangling before states a waiver from No Child Left Behind if states would adopt Common Core. So the effect of their actions was to do exactly what federal law explicitly prohibits.


Experts” have varying opinions on the quality of the content and rigor of the Common Core. I have heard mixed messages from people about that as well. The Common Core is like any other set of standards/curriculum. It has its strengths and it has its weaknesses. I don’t believe student achievement, performance, and ability to function in a positively contributing way in a free society has greatly increased with the adoption of the Common Core. If anything it has stagnated or gone down. And of course, covid didn’t help.


English Language Arts:  According to some experts the English Language Arts (ELA) standards are more skill-based and less content based. Another complaint is the de-emphasis on the study of classic literature in favor of “informational texts”, such as government documents, court opinions, and technical manuals. Much could be said about the benefit of studying classic literature: understanding great principles and character qualities that have endured throughout human history such as faith, courage, respect, pursuit of truth and wisdom, what it means to love others, what it means to sacrifice at great cost, justice, consequences of our actions, taking responsibility for our life, and the rewards of a moral and virtuous life, etc. It has been questioned whether the focus in ELA is on educating students who can take their place in society as thoughtful, understanding, caring, and productive citizen leaders who are empowered in their exercise of the precious gift of liberty secured for them at great cost or is the focus on educating students to just learn the skills of reading to prepare them to take their place in the workforce and train them to conform and obey in jobs that will produce a good or a service for society. Not to denigrate training for the workforce, certainly that is needed, but in ELA, we have opportunity to impart something much more.

Capitol Visitors

This week the rotunda filled with local elected county officials from across the state including auditors, reporters, sheriffs, assessors, supervisors, attorneys and more. I especially enjoyed visiting with county auditors about the upcoming letter all taxpayers will be receiving in the mail soon. See article below for more details.

Marion County Sherriff, Jason Sandholt and I discussed in further detail the House bill that is currently awaiting action in the Senate regarding school resource officers and the lengthy training for armed school personnel.

Watch your Mailbox:

More Property Tax Info Arriving Soon

If you pay property taxes, you will want to pay special attention to a letter arriving in your mailbox sometime around March 20th. Recent law change requires county auditors to mail this statement to county taxpayers with state-specified information related to proposed local government budgets and proposed property tax rates. (Iowa Code 24.2A)

The information is for taxes payable in September 2024 and March 2025. You should receive a statement if you expect to receive a property tax bill in September.

The statement is not a property tax bill. It includes data for proposed city, school district and county budgets but does not include proposed budgets for smaller taxing authorities, such as the community college, assessor’s office, townships and agricultural extension service.

The purpose of the statement is to provide taxpayers with information about the proposed city, school district and county budgets in time for the taxpayers to address the proposals at public hearings held before the budgets are approved. The date, time and location of the hearings are included in the statements. The budgets may be lowered after the hearings but not raised.

Included on the statement is the impact of the proposed city, school and county property tax rates on both a $100,000 residential property and $100,000 commercial property. The actual impact of the tax rates on your property could be quite different than the examples in the statement, which do not factor any possible change in the assessed value. If your property value was recently reassessed to a higher amount, the example on the statement will not accurately reflect the effect of your valuation increase on your property taxes.

Taxpayers owning more than one property may receive multiple letters if those properties are in different tax districts.

Here is the contact information for county auditors in House District 88:

Mahaska County Auditor: Teri Rogers (641)673-7148

Keokuk County Auditor: Christy Bates (641)-622-2320

Jefferson County Auditor: Scott Reneker (641)472-2840

Have Questions on Government?

While you are waiting on your letter regarding how your property taxes are being spent, please take time to click on this fantastic resource available to you regarding Local Property Taxes - This legislative guide will explain the various levies, both county and city, along with property assessment and much more. Please take some time to read over it so that you know what questions to ask if you contact your county auditor.

Also, there are many other good legislative guides that I would recommend you reading. They include some of my favorites:

Open Meetings and Public Records

Public Education in Iowa

State Taxation - An Overview

Landlord - Tenant Law

Hunting and Fishing Regulations

The list above is only a very small portion of what is available to you. Find the list of over Legislative Guides to see what else is available.

Bill Highlights this Week

Mental Health Priorities and Child Protection Measures

We have all heard the call for increased focus on mental health issues. The House has responded by advancing several bills to help address mental health care in Iowa. These bills expand access to mental health care, increase workforce, increase Medicaid rates, create sustainable long-term funding of the mental health regions, and provide an emphasis on children’s mental health care. Here are just a few of those:


HF 2402 - Children’s Mental Health – provides an enhanced rate for psychiatric medical institutions that care for children with specialized needs. 

Now assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HF 2397 - Access Center Transportation – requires authorized payments to ambulances transporting mental health patients in crisis to an access center at a similar amount to when transporting to an ER.

Now assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.


HF 2523 - Social Media for Minors – requires parental consent for minors to access social media. There are many studies that show increased depression in youth using social media.

Now waiting assignment to a Senate Committee.

School Safety Infrastructure - HF2652

This bill requires schools to conduct a safety review of their ability to keep students and staff safe and share their review with law enforcement, it also establishes a task force to put together a gold standard of school safety building codes. It requires districts to focus on improvements to school safety before building or renovating athletic facilities and creates a pilot program for gun detection software that works with existing school cameras.

This bill focuses on having personnel able and ready to protect students in the event of an emergency. This bill allocates money for schools to provide stipends or cover the costs for staff members who go through the extensive training and receive the new permit to carry in schools if they choose.

Chronic Absenteeism and Cell Phone Use in Class - HF2547

This bill requires that schools send notice to parents when a child becomes chronically absent and creates a process for a school engagement meeting if a student is absent 15% of the time. In this meeting, an absenteeism prevention plan is agreed to.  If a student and their parents fail to follow the protocols laid out, the school official may refer the situation to juvenile court or the county attorney for prosecution.  To ensure kids in the classroom are ready to learn, this bill requires school districts to have a cell phone policy that restricts use of cell phones during classroom instruction.

Adoption Tax Credit - HF2637

Right now, an adoption tax credit exists with a maximum amount of $5,000. Since that tax cut was created, the cost of adoption has skyrocketed, often totally more than $30,000. HF 2637 increases the adoption tax credit from $5,000 to $20,000.

On a Personal Note

All my chicken loving readers seemed to have missed regular updates on the chicks so I thought I would include a quick photo I snapped before heading back to the capitol this week of one of the fully grown Spangled Hamburg roosters. The first batch of chicks is doing great and now I am on to the second. Spring is in the air so be sure to enjoy it!

Nomination Papers

Our nomination papers, which are necessary for candidates to get their name on the ballot, were due March 15. Even though I turned mine in last week, I want to thank all of you who signed my signature forms. House members only need to collect 50 signatures but many extras are always welcome. Thank you so much for your support. The primary will be June 4th so be sure to put that on your calendar. There will be lots of important local elections too.

How to support Helena for House

What do people like me need for support as elected officials in a state office?

* Prayer (the key!)

* Your input - either for or against the issues

* Volunteers

* Yards for signage (both yard sign and barn signs/4x8)

* "Word-of-mouth" support by expressing your approval to others

* and of course, financial donations if you choose:

Hayes for House, Treasurer

2812 170th Street

New Sharon, Iowa 50207

Thank you all!!

Upcoming Events

Here are the dates for upcoming forums I will be at! I welcome all whom I proudly represent to join me for these meetings. I want to hear what you have to say!

Coffee & Conversation (Formerly Eggs & Issues)

To be held at Smokey Row Oskaloosa (109 S Market St. Oskaloosa, IA) on the following dates:

  • March 23rd @ 8:30 to 9:30 am

Fairfield Chamber of Commerce Forum

To be held at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center (200 N. Main Street. Fairfield, IA) on the following dates:

  • April 20th @ 7:30 am

If you have any questions about these events, don't hesitate to reach out to me. All forums and events will be posted on my Facebook page as well as here in the newsletter!


As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have. I love to hear from you and want to represent you accurately! 



Phone: 515.281.3221

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