Laura Belin

Exclusive: Labor relations board shifts staff, cases to other agency. Is it legal?

Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is transferring most of its staff and caseload to the state Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Since the mid-1970s, PERB members and administrative law judges have adjudicated labor disputes within state and local government or school districts. Following the changes, administrative law judges now working for PERB will handle other matters, while other employees at Inspections and Appeals will hear cases that were previously in PERB’s jurisdiction.

State officials have not announced the changes, which are scheduled to take effect on September 30. It’s not clear who initiated or authorized the plan. Staff in the governor’s office and Department of Inspections and Appeals did not respond to any of Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries over the past three weeks. PERB members Erik Helland and Cheryl Arnold likewise did not reply to several emails.

State Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat with extensive experience as a labor attorney, has asked Attorney General Tom Miller for an official opinion on whether “it is an illegal shift of an essential PERB duty” to assign its responsibilities “to an unrelated state agency.”

Boulton also asked Miller to weigh in on the legality of Governor Kim Reynolds’ recent appointments to PERB. As Bleeding Heartland previously reported, Reynolds has circumvented the Senate confirmation process by keeping one of the three PERB positions unfilled, so she can name her preferred candidates to a vacant slot while the legislature is not in session.

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Republicans spending big on Des Moines area legislative races

The Republican Party of Iowa has reserved more than $1.1 million in television air time for six candidates seeking Iowa legislative seats in the Des Moines metro area, and will likely spend hundreds of thousands more to promote them on television during the final stretch of the campaign.

Documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission show the GOP plans to spend more than $650,000 on broadcast tv supporting Jake Chapman and Mike Bousselot, who are running in the party’s top two central Iowa Senate targets.

The party also will spend six-figure sums on tv ads for four Iowa House candidates in Polk or Dallas counties, whose commercials began airing last week.

Those numbers do not include any funds the GOP will spend on direct mail, radio, or digital advertising for the same candidates.

This post focuses on early tv spending on legislative races in the Des Moines market. Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will survey other battleground Iowa House or Senate districts.

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Kim Reynolds race-baits in new tv ad

Nothing happens in a campaign commercial by accident. Strategists plan every word and image, with the candidate’s approval. Directors may film many takes to get the perfect cadence for every line.

So Iowans should understand: the racist tropes in Governor Kim Reynolds’ latest tv ad are deliberate.

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Five things not to do when running for office

U.S. Senate nominee Mike Franken faced every candidate’s nightmare on September 19 when the Republican-funded website Iowa Field Report published allegations that the Democrat kissed his former campaign manager Kimberley Strope-Boggus without consent.

The Des Moines Police Department’s incident report, dated April 12, described the events that led to Strope-Boggus’ complaint of simple assault. After consulting with an assistant Polk County attorney, Officer Abby Giampolo closed the case as “unfounded,” due to “insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal investigation.”

Since Franken and the staffer he fired in February were alone when the disputed events occurred, we will never know exactly what happened between them on the evening of March 18. Franken has denied the allegations, while Strope-Boggus told Bleeding Heartland and other reporters she is unable to comment at this time.

Every candidate can learn some lessons from this episode.

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ACLU dismantles state's case for reinstating 2018 abortion ban

The ACLU of Iowa filed new legal arguments last week in Iowa’s most important pending abortion rights case. Governor Kim Reynolds is seeking to reinstate a near-total abortion ban, which a Polk County District Court found unconstitutional in 2019.

Last month, private attorneys representing the state in this litigation (since Attorney General Tom Miller declined to do so) gave the District Court one big reason to lift the permanent injunction on a 2018 law that would ban almost all abortions after about six weeks.

In a response brief filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the ACLU gave the District Court several paths to reject the state’s request.

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