Two former Republican members of the Iowa House recently accepted new positions that will allow them to continue state policy work.
Renee Schulte represented part of Cedar Rapids for two terms in the Iowa House. During her second term, she was also an assistant majority leader and chair of the Administration and Rules Committee. The redistricting plan adopted in 2011 put Schulte in a more Democratic-leaning district, and she faced a rematch against Art Staed, the incumbent she had defeated in 2008 by just 13 votes. Staed won the November election in House district 66 by about 1,700 votes.
Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register last night that Schulte will be an adviser to Rick Shults, the top mental-health administrator for the Iowa Department of Human Services. Leys got the scoop while covering a mental health forum at a Des Moines church, featuring Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum and State Senators Matt McCoy and Jack Hatch.
Speaking to me by telephone today, Schulte said she is consulting with DHS as an independent contractor on a six-month contract. She is not a salaried state employee with benefits. You can learn more about her consulting firm here. During her four years in the Iowa House, Schulte was one of the key lawmakers working on revamping the state's mental health care, with the goal of standardizing and improving access across the state. (In the past, the level of mental health services available to Iowans has depended on the patient's county of residence.) Schulte told me she will be working with DHS to build peer support and family support networks as Iowa builds a new delivery system for mental health services.
Getting Iowa's mental health care overhaul right is critically important, so I wish Schulte every success in her new work. She is well-qualified, with extensive experience in the mental health field before her political career. Here's a bit of "small world" trivia I learned from Schulte's website today: since 2009 she has served as a strategic planning adviser for Four Oaks, Inc. Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis has served as chief information officer for the same Cedar Rapids-based agency "devoted to child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health."
The other former lawmaker with a new job in state policy-making is Stewart Iverson. He had had two careers in the legislature. After serving six years in the Iowa House and 12 years in the Senate (10 of them as Republican leader), Iverson retired in 2006. At that time, the Iowa Senate was split 25-25. Mary Lundby had ousted Iverson as leader of the Senate Republican caucus, and Democrats were widely expected to win an outright majority in the 2006 elections.
Iverson made a comeback in 2010, running successfully for the Iowa House against two-term Democratic incumbent McKinley Bailey. The redistricting plan put him in the same district as two other House Republicans, so most Iowa politics-watchers expected him to run in a new Senate district with no incumbent. Surprisingly, he opted to retire from the House and endorsed someone else for the Senate race, who later lost the GOP primary.
Iverson may not have had an appetite for further legislative work, but he is still interested in state policy. Earlier this month, Governor Terry Branstad named him to the to the Finance - Local Taxation position on Iowa's Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board and also asked him to chair that board. From the governor's press release:
Iverson, 62, is filling the term of Richard Stradley, who resigned in November. The term runs through April 30, 2017.
"Stewart Iverson understands the complexities of Iowa's property tax system, and will take a fair and measured approach on the board," said Branstad. "I am also pleased Stewart has accepted my request for him to serve as chairman, because his leadership will ensure an open-minded and equitable route for all Iowans who navigate the appeals process."
The State of Iowa Property Assessment Appeal Board is a state agency created for the purpose of establishing a consistent, fair and equitable property assessment appeal process. The Appeal Board conducts administrative hearings with the statutory authority to review any final decision, finding, ruling, determination, or order of a local board of review relating to protests of an assessment, valuation, or application of an equalization order. [...]
The position requires Senate confirmation. The Iowa General Assembly convenes on January 14.
Senate confirmation should go smoothly for Iverson.
Reporting on Iverson's new position, several Iowa media noted that the job comes with a $137,000 annual salary. That's generous and a bit awkward, considering that Governor Branstad has argued that state employees making less than half that amount are overpaid, and is asking most state employees to go without a raise while paying more in benefits for the next two years. Branstad's communications director Tim Albrecht made clear that Iowa law establishes the pay for Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board members. (Not that the governor always feels constrained by state law regarding public employee salaries.)
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.
I know Renee, and she knows a lot about mental health. Although she is a conservative, I think that she can understand both sides of an issue, and she is personally fair.