By Senator Jason Schultz
Week 10 in the Iowa Legislature passes with us moving Senate files over to the House, and looking at House Files in our committees.
Two issues with local impact have passed the Iowa Senate this week. SF 548 is a bill to stop private entities from using the State Revolving Loan Fund to buy land. The SRLF was formed to provide low interest loans for drinking water, wastewater, and non-point source water quality projects. Acquiring land was not a purpose.
Several years ago, a change was made to allow private entities, such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to access extremely low public loans in order to purchase land and hold it until they could transfer it to a public owner, such as the state DNR or county conservation office.
This is good work being done, but doesn’t justify the use of tax dollars for purposes other than the original purposes. We end up with situations in which a private group can use a taxpayer’s dollars while bidding against that same taxpayer who has to use their own money and market rate interest. It isn’t good policy. The bill does nothing to prohibit private entities from buying that same land with their own money or private sector loan and then selling it to a public owner.
The other issue is related to private patient information. If you go to the hospital or even take a ride in an ambulance, providers must collect patient data and forward it to the Iowa Department of Public Health each quarter. This data includes names and social security numbers.
The department stores this data, but admits it has not developed new protocols or uses for the data. In addition, researchers for the University of Iowa Hospital have been given access to this data, unfiltered, for various purposes.
In just 2017, 6 million records were sent by hospitals and 2.5 million records were collected and sent by Emergency Medical Services. Over 600,000 Iowans are represented in this collection. This isn’t right.
I was contacted by local EMS providers who were concerned about billing issues in order to keep our local services afloat. I worked with the bill manager to include an amendment to protect our local service providers.
Aggregate data with names and SSN’s scrubbed can be used by EMS for planning and evaluation. We ended up passing a very good bill.
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