Iowa House roundup

DES MOINES ? Seeking to bypass what could be a protracted court battle, the Iowa House Tuesday voted 94-3 to require the contract to develop standardized tests for K-12 students to go to the University of Iowa testing services.

After the Legislature sent out requests for proposals last year, the Iowa Department of Education awarded the contract to Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes of Research.

The UI testing services did not submit a proposal, but lawmakers say a proposal by Pearson?s represented an Iowa testing service. After Pearson?s challenged the selection process, an administrative law judge ruled the department followed a correct process in selecting AIR and said Pearson?s complaint was ?without merit.?

Under House File 2235, the Legislature would ignore the state selection process and allow schools to use the much less expensive Iowa testing services.

Floor manager Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, said the Iowa testing services product will be ready by Spring 2019 and will be aligned to the Iowa Core.

Perhaps more importantly, she said, it will cost local schools, which pay for the testing, $11 less than the AIR proposal.

Despite the price difference ? $15 per test versus $7 per test, Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said ?Iowa assessments have served our state very well.? Also, it has a science test, which AIR does not.

?Test for test, this is a much better quality product.? Mascher said.

In other action Tuesday, the House voted 98-0 to direct the Department of Human Services to apply for a waiver that would allow emergency medical services agencies to receive higher reimbursement for transporting Medicaid recipients.

Local EMS agencies now eat the cost of those transports because of the low reimbursement rate, said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton.

?It doesn?t solve everything, but it stops the bleeding,? Kaufmann said about House File 2285.

According to a lobbyist for the Iowa Firefighters Association, the waiver could increase reimbursement for Iowa EMS Medicaid transports by as much as $35 million. An average transport, including equipment, personnel and supplies, may cost $800. The reimbursement may be only $150 under Iowa?s current Medicaid plan.

The waiver would apply to both private and public EMS agencies, added Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls.

The House voted 95-2 to approve House File 2383 to lower the standard for alcohol impairment in a private workplace from .04 to .02 blood alcohol content, which is the accepted federal level for truck drivers.

Employers may require alcohol testing if they have a written policy. Iowa law includes specific rules for workplace alcohol testing as well as safeguards for the employee, including up to two tests to confirm the original results.