SF 408 – Architect licensure
SF 431 – Siting of small wireless facilities
HF 215 – Insurance benefits for autism treatment
HF 309 – IID insurance certificates
HF 518 – Workers’ compensation
HF 586 – IFA rent subsidy program; filing requirement modification; mechanics’ liens
SF 408 requires licensure rather than registration of architects practicing in Iowa and makes conforming changes to Code sections that reference registration as an architect. The term “licensure” is used when a professional’s actions are regulated by a Practice Act, and the credentials are more rigorous (involving education, training and examination requirements). “Registration” refers to a state roster that may include regulation by a Title Act, which does not apply in Iowa. The Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architects requested the legislation to better reflect the occupational regulation based on public health, safety and welfare. In Iowa, engineers and landscape engineers are licensed rather than certified, and all states bordering Iowa (except Wisconsin) require architect licensure.
[3/28: 49-0 (Rozenboom excused)]
SF 431 relates to the siting of small wireless communication facilities and would expand current law (Code chapter 8C) that provides a series of uniform rules and limitations for the deployment of and applications for wireless communications facilities and infrastructure. Wireless companies want to deploy services to their customers that may include access to rights-of-way, public facilities, traffic signals and utility poles. The proposal adds specific rules and limitations for the application and deployment of small wireless facilities. It prohibits an authority, such as a city, from restricting the siting of small wireless facilities. An authority with planning and zoning regulations must authorize such facilities in zoning districts where the facilities are located on public rights-of-way or authority property, or where the facilities are sited on certain existing structures. Facilities not sited on such property or in such a manner may be classified as special or conditional uses. An authority may also require a person to obtain a special or conditional land use permit to install new utility poles or wireless support structures on certain property. An authority may require a person to obtain building, electrical or public way use permits for the siting of small wireless facilities if it is of general applicability and does not deny a facility access to a public right-of-way. However, an authority cannot require a person to obtain a permit for the routine maintenance or replacement of a previously approved facility unless it contains the same terms and conditions provided for other commercial projects or uses in the public right-of-way.
[3/23: 44-3 (Kinney, Ragan, Zaun “no”; Anderson, Bertrand, Shipley excused)]
HF 215 (SF 400) creates Code section 514C.31, requiring state-regulated health insurance policies, contracts and plans for large employers (more than 50 employees) and those covering public employees other than state employees (Code chapter 509A) to provide coverage benefits for applied behavior analysis for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders in children. This does not include individual health insurance plans or small employer group plans. The applied behavior analysis must be provided by a board-certified behavior analyst or by a licensed physician or psychologist. The required maximum benefit for coverage for applied behavior analysis for an individual diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder is $36,000 per year through age six; $25,000 per year from age seven through age 13; and $12,500 per year from age 14 through age 18. Required coverage can be subject to preauthorization, prior approval or other care management requirements, including limits on the number of visits an individual may make for applied behavior analysis. Required coverage can be subject to dollar limits, deductibles, copayments, coinsurance provisions or any other general exclusions or limitations of the coverage that apply to other covered medical or surgical services.
This new Code section does not limit benefits otherwise available to an individual under a group policy, contract or plan, and does not affect any obligation to provide services to an individual under an individualized family service plan, education program or service plan. A carrier, organized delivery system or plan may request to review a treatment plan not more than once every three months during the first year of the treatment plan and not more than once every six months every year thereafter, unless the insurer and the individual’s treating physician or psychologist execute an agreement that more frequent review is necessary. Such an agreement applies only to that individual and does not apply to other individuals receiving applied behavior analysis from a board-certified behavior analyst, a physician or a psychologist. The cost of conducting the review of a treatment plan is paid by the insurer. The provisions of a treatment plan cannot be changed until the completion of a review of the plan.
The new Code section applies to third-party provider payment contracts, policies or plans specified in the bill, or plans established for state and other public employees that are delivered, issued for delivery, continued or renewed in Iowa on or after January 1, 2018. Those eligible for coverage are not eligible to participate in the state autism support program (Code sections 225D.1, 225D.2) effective January 1, 2018.
[3/23: 48-0 (Shipley, Zaun excused)]
HF 518 makes sweeping changes to Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation law. The bill:
- Cuts benefits to Iowa workers who get injured on the job: The bill reduces benefits for workers who suffer a shoulder injury. Current law treats shoulder injuries as an injury to the body as a whole. This new change treats shoulder injuries as a scheduled member injury. A workers’ loss of earning capacity would no longer be taken into account when calculating benefits for a shoulder injury. Shoulder injury compensation would be for 400 weeks.
In addition, if the shoulder injury results in permanent partial disability and the employee cannot return to gainful employment, the employee can be evaluated by Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) to see if they would benefit from new career vocational training and education programs offered through an area community college. The employer would be responsible for up to $15,000 in tuition and fees that will result in (at the minimum) an associate’s degree or completion of certificate program.
There are a lot of requirements on the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner for evaluating and monitoring this new vocational rehabilitation section. This education funding does not address employees who would need adult basic education. The bill eliminates benefits based on an employee’s loss of earning power because of an injury if the employer returns the employee to work for a short time, but then terminates the employee, leaving the employee with no compensation for lost access to other employment because of the injury.
- Reduces an employer’s liability to provide benefits to injured workers: The bill makes a positive drug or alcohol test grounds for an employer to deny benefits for an injury without regard to whether drugs or alcohol caused the injury. The worker must prove the injury was not caused by drugs or alcohol.
The bill changes the point at which an employee must report an injury or lose the right to claim benefits for an injury. The bill defines the “date of the occurrence of the injury” to mean the date that the employee knew or should have known the injury was work related. This language does not take into account whether the worker discovers the seriousness of the injury during the time limitation enforced by the law.
The bill forces injured workers to move and work at the company headquarters for light duty or be terminated. An injured worker who is offered work by the employer while recovering from an injury must decline the offer in writing if the employee believes the work is not suitable, or lose the right to continue receiving benefits while recovering.
The bill changes an employer’s liability for compensating an employee’s preexisting disability that arose because of prior employment-related injury with the employer to the extent the injury has already been compensated. Currently, employers are considered fully responsible for a workers’ injury, regardless of previous injuries. The bill eliminates the ability of injured workers to seek payment of future weekly benefits owed in a lump sum without the agreement of the employer and its insurance carrier.
- Encourages employers and insurance carriers to avoid on-time payment of benefits: The bill allows employers to avoid payment of benefits awarded by the Commissioner while the employer seeks a judicial review of the award, leaving the injured worker without benefits for two to three years; eliminates the current rate of 10 percent interest on late-paid weekly benefits; reduces the interest rate on benefits to the one-year treasury rate plus 2 percent (currently less than 3 percent total). This rewards insurance carriers and employers who do not comply with the law for timely payments.
The bill is effective July 1, and the changes apply to injuries that occur on or after that date. The bill applies to commutation applications filed on or after that date.
[3/27: 29-21 (party-line, with D. Johnson voting “no” with Democrats)]
HF 309 prohibits a person from preparing, issuing, requesting or requiring a “certificate of insurance” that contains false or misleading information about the policy or purports to affirmatively or negatively amend, extend or alter the policy’s coverage. A “certificate of insurance” is a document or instrument, regardless of how it is titled or described, by an insurance company as evidence of property and causality insurance coverage. A certificate does not include a policy, insurance binder, policy endorsement or automobile insurance identification or information card.
A certificate does not warrant that the insurance policy referenced in a certificate complies with the insurance or indemnification requirements of a contract, and the inclusion of a contract number or description in a certificate cannot be interpreted as warranting such compliance. A person is entitled to notice of cancellation, non-renewal or material changes in an insurance policy or any other similar notice concerning the policy only if the person has such rights under the terms of the policy or the policy endorsement. A certificate cannot alter those rights.
The Iowa Insurance Commissioner may examine and investigate anyone they reasonably believe violates the bill. Enforcement may include cease and desist orders and a $500 penalty per violation. The Commissioner may adopt rules to administer the bill, which takes effect upon enactment and applies to certificates of insurance prepared, issued, requested or required beginning 90 days after the effective date.
[3/28: short form]
HF 586 is based on a recommendation by the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA). It revises antiquated language concerning bonds and notes that requires a copy of each agreement be filed with the Secretary of State to be valid. A pledge made in respect of bonds or notes will be valid and binding from the time the pledge is made, and the resolution, trust agreement or any other instrument by which a pledge is created does not need to be recorded or filed to be valid, binding or effective. It also eliminates a requirement that IFA award grants from the shelter assistance fund on an annual basis. The bill requires IFA to establish and administer a rent subsidy program to provide subsidies to those who are approved participants under a home and community-based services Medicaid waiver and to approved participants in the federal “money follows the person” grant program under the medical assistance program. The House Commerce Committee amended the proposal by modifying language in Code section 572.13A concerning who must post a notice of commencement of work to the Mechanics’ Notice and Lien Registry (MNLR) Internet site. The bill adds “an owner-builder” who has contracted or will contract with a subcontractor to provide labor or furnish material for the property to those who must post a notice on the registry no later than 10 days after the commencement of work on the property.
This language was proposed after IFA, the Iowa Bankers Association, Iowa Credit Union League, Real Estate Section of the Iowa State Bar Association, Iowa Association of Realtors and the Iowa Land Title Association worked to restore the intent of the 2012 mechanics’ lien changes in light of a 2016 Iowa Court of Appeals case. It ruled that due to the grammatical construction of the statute, only general contractors who use subcontractors need to post a notice with the Secretary of State as a prerequisite to filing a mechanics’ lien on residential property. The proposal allows a general contractor to post a notice with the Secretary of State within 10 days of beginning work regardless of whether they are using subcontractors so that real estate professionals can see if any unpaid work is due to the contractor before closing. This would be a prerequisite to filing a lien, and restores the statute to the intent of the 2012 legislation. It is important for transparency to lenders, attorneys, closers, abstractors and realtors to make sure these contractors and subcontractors received payment prior to closing a loan and clear title is preserved for the homeowner. Associated Builders & Contractors of Iowa and other proponents say failure to make this change puts homebuyers at risk of bearing the cost of a sellers’ repair if no notice is posted and a lien is later filed by a contractor within 90 days of doing the work, which often occurs after the closing if the repair is done pursuant to a home inspection of a pending sale. This lien without any notice provision would likely be undetectable by lenders, closing attorneys and abstractors, and the new homeowner would probably pay the cost if not found before closing. Opponents include the Home Builders Association of Iowa, Iowa Lumber Association and Heavy Highway Contractors Association. They say that requiring all general or direct contractors to post the commencement of work notice — notifying owners of subcontractor rights within 10 days or lose their lien rights — makes no sense for those who supply directly or other contractors who self-perform with no subcontractors. The bill passed the House on a vote of 99-0.
[3/28: short form]