Governor holds over agency directors Iowa Senate didn't confirm

In an unusual move, Governor Kim Reynolds is allowing two state agency directors she appointed early this year to continue serving through next year’s legislative session, even though they lacked the votes to be confirmed by the Iowa Senate.

Reynolds withdrew the nominations of Department of Management Director Michael Bousselot and Department of Administrative Services Director Adam Steen shortly before state lawmakers adjourned for the year in May. Days later, she rejected the directors’ resignations, saying she would resubmit their names to the Senate in 2022, documents obtained through public records requests show.

The governor’s office has not publicly announced Reynolds’ decision to hold over Bousselot and Steen and did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries.

The Department of Management handles state budget planning as well as disbursements from Iowa’s general fund and various other funds. The Department of Administrative Services handles human resources, payroll, and procurement of goods and services for state government.

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"Vaccine Hunter" Todd Brady running for Iowa Senate in Ankeny

A Democratic challenger has emerged in the Iowa Senate district now represented by Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, the upper chamber’s top Republican since 2018. Todd Brady announced on July 21 that he’ll run for the seat in Ankeny, a growing suburb to the north of Des Moines.

Brady has a computer science degree from Iowa State University and is best known as the creator of the Vaccine Hunter website, where thousands of Iowans scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations when appointments were scarce in the late winter and spring. Disclosure: in April, that website helped me find an appointment for my older son.

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Iowa SOS alters graphics, downplaying voter roll changes

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office altered how it publicizes monthly voter registration numbers after moving 294,000 Iowa voters to “inactive” status this spring.

For years, shareable graphics posted every month featured the number and partisan breakdown of active registrants in each Iowa Congressional district. Since May, Secretary of State Paul Pate has posted images with totals that include inactive voters.

The new approach obscures the fact that active registrants dropped by about 13 percent during the latest round of voter roll maintenance in April.

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Pissed off: New Iowa law makes fake urine a crime

Marty Ryan covers a new law that received little attention early this year. -promoted by Laura Belin

A private sector employee from Iowa goes across the border on a Friday after work to Illinois. His friends offer a blunt, and he takes a hit. He thinks nothing of it, because recreational use of pot is legal in Illinois. On his way home on Sunday, he realizes that there could be a random drug test early in the week. He’s heard marijuana will stay in his system for up to 30 days, so he purchases a package of fake urine at a vape shop.

Monday morning, he is asked to take a drug test. He manages to get the fake urine into the beaker without anyone seeing him.

Days later, a lab result indicates that he may have used fake urine. Depending on a union contract, an employee handbook, or company policy that has been posted conspicuously, the employee may be disciplined, or in a severe case terminated. Now, he can also be arrested for a simple misdemeanor.

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Classroom meddling in Iowa can’t go unanswered

Bruce Lear on how a new law banning certain “specific defined concepts” in diversity training could affect Iowa teachers. -promoted by Laura Belin

Yes, it’s been a horrible, terrible, very bad year for public schools in Iowa. As usual, the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature underfunded schools. Also typical for them, they tried again to pass a voucher law to give public money to private schools. 

When that didn’t work, they passed “vouchers lite”: a mostly unregulated, for-profit charter school law, that will no doubt siphon money from the already underfunded public system, and that could leave rural Iowa as an education desert.

What wasn’t quite as typical was the legislature’s meddling in the classroom.

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Iowa's new qualified immunity law may not hold up in court

“Iowa’s law enforcement will always have my respect, and I will always have their back,” Governor Kim Reynolds declared while signing Senate File 342 on June 17. Sections 12 through 16 of the wide-ranging policing bill establish a “qualified immunity” standard for Iowa. Effective immediately upon the governor’s signature, state employees or law enforcement officers who violate individuals’ constitutional rights can be sued only if their conduct violated “clearly established” law, such that “every reasonable employee would have understood” the act was illegal.

The provisions were crafted to match decades-old federal qualified immunity standards, and to override an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that was more favorable to Iowans whose rights have been violated by police.

The new law will almost certainly be challenged. And while the conservative majority on the Iowa Supreme Court often defers to other branches of government, the justices may find that Senate File 342’s language on qualified immunity is incompatible with the Iowa Constitution.

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