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2017 Legislative session to a close last week
by Liz Mathis State Senator · April 27th, 2017

The last day of the session, last Friday, I looked around the State Capitol and stood in awe of the grandeur and thought about the responsibility you have given me to represent you as State Senator. The 2017 session has been tough, because of the finger-pointing, budget cuts and polarized views on so many topics. Please remember this: I will always work for you, no matter if I am in the Majority or Minority, to do what's best for our community.

Our largest issue was coming to terms with a balanced budget. After mid-year cuts in the millions, more cuts came as the budget took shape for FY18. Everyone is asking me why this has happened, since we seemed to be rolling along with money in reserves.

Our shortfalls depend on who you ask. One group believes it is the sagging farm economy which has affected our incoming revenues. Another group believes it is the accumulated list of tax credits we have granted to businesses to expand or locate here. And still another will say it is the out-of-control costs to health care, specifically Medicaid, which has tipped the scales.

I believe it is all of the above and we need to pay close attention to each issue so we don't get into the situation that Kansas has right now; an untimely amount of tax cuts and not enough revenue to pay for education, health care and infrastructure. Kansas is in dire trouble and it didn't take much to head into a downward spiral.

This session also brought some successes. My efforts to move the design of children's mental health system was successful and funded in the Health and Human Services Appropriation bill. This will help thousands of children all across the state, when fully implemented.

I worked in a bi-partisan way several times and was able to get my original wording on GPS stalking into a bill on harassment and intimidation to successful passage, thanks to working with Republican Senator Charles Schneider. Republican Senator Tom Green and I worked on a bill that would make sure people with issues like epilepsy and arthritis wouldn't have to start with a generic drug (when switching insurance companies) instead of a drug they know works. I also worked with Republican Senator Dan Dawson to make certain police agencies don't throw out untested rape kits and with Republican Senator Mark Segebart to move a bill on supportive housing.

Another bill was extremely important this year to a group of Linn Mar students who were hoping tighter restrictions would come to those who caused accidents, due to texting while driving. I invited them to the State Capitol to advocate and the bill was passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor.

We changed the laws to help schools use limited resources, by allowing districts to spend various categories of school funding on a broader range of expenses that still achieve the intended goals. I also worked with a subcommittee to pass a bill that would ensure timely, appropriate help for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Democratic Senator Amanda Ragan and I worked on changes to the new managed care system that would streamline payments and reduce red tape for hospitals, physicians and other health care/mental health care providers. Unfortunately, the Republican Majority rejected that three times. Many of these providers have been left with mounting bills and slow pay which will affect all of us through higher costs, fewer beds and more wait times.

Some of the most disappointing moments were arguing over policy and appropriations that were issues looking for a problem; gutting collective bargaining, taking away women's health care choices, slighting people with grave diseases, forcing the hand of the State's Universities to raise tuition, cuts to early childhood education and preschool, underfunding K-12, slashing help for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, cutting job training for the disabled and cutting protections for Iowans hurt on the job through no fault of their own.

In the next year, I hope to see you at community events and I'll be knocking on doors this summer to listen to what you have to say about moving our state forward. As always, please email me with your concerns or ideas;
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