Iowa lawmakers drop lawsuit over governor's illegal fund transfer

Catching up on news overshadowed by the biggest Iowa politics story of the week: on May 23 a group of Iowa House Democrats dropped their legal challenge to Governor Kim Reynolds’ use of emergency funds without legislative approval last September. Reynolds transferred $13 million from the Iowa Economic Emergency Fund to cover a shortfall in the fiscal 2017 budget, despite a warning from State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald that Iowa law did not permit that action.

State Representative Chris Hall, the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Appropriations Committee, filed suit in January, charging that Reynolds and Department of Management Director David Roederer “conspired together to unlawfully appropriate and misuse state funds.” The lawsuit alleged that the governor acted unilaterally in order to avoid the political fallout from calling the legislature back for a special session. House Democrats Marti Anderson, Liz Bennett, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Monica Kurth, and Amy Nielsen joined the legal action a few weeks later.

Republican legislators tacitly acknowledged that Reynolds broke the law. They added language to a bill cutting current-year spending that retroactively legalized the governor’s action and appropriated $13 million from the emergency fund to the general fund for fiscal year 2017. (See page 8 of Senate File 2117, which both chambers passed along party lines in March.)

“Our legal challenge held Governor Reynolds and Republicans accountable, and it did so without costing taxpayers a single dime,” Hall said in a news release enclosed in full below. “We have seen too many cover ups and not enough leadership from the Reynolds administration. This is a victory for taxpayers and ensures that our tax dollars will be spent according to the law.”

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that there would be little to gain by following through with this lawsuit. Once the legislature passed and Reynolds signed Senate File 2117, a court would almost certainly have dismissed the case as moot.

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Boulton's conduct was unacceptable. His response is not credible

Three women have described in detail incidents of non-consensual touching by State Senator Nate Boulton, Brianne Pfannenstiel reported today for the Des Moines Register. Boulton did not deny the women’s accounts but said they did not match his recollection. He also asserted his alleged behavior “in social settings” was not comparable to harassment or assault in the workplace.

Boulton’s alleged conduct was unacceptable. His distinction is not credible. His political career is no longer tenable.

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Dems contesting far more Iowa House, Senate seats than in 2010 or 2014

Democrats are fielding a nearly full slate of Iowa House and Senate candidates this year, leaving far fewer GOP-held seats unchallenged than in the last two midterm elections.

The improvement is particularly noticeable in the Iowa House, where Republicans have an unusually large number of open seats to defend. Twelve of the 59 GOP state representatives are retiring, and a thirteenth seat (House district 43) is open due to Majority Leader Chris Hagenow’s move to safer Republican territory in Dallas County.

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Iowa House Republicans prevent votes on gun restraining orders for mentally ill

Iowa House Republicans suppressed two attempts to consider legislation that would make it easier to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others because of severe mental health issues. Democratic State Representative Art Staed has vowed to keep trying to pass what he called “a vital tool” to help family members and law enforcement save lives.

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What passes for a good day in the GOP-controlled Iowa legislature

Let’s start with the good news:

• Two important bills for K-12 schools are headed to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk.

• Assuming the governor signs the bills, district leaders know how much state funding they will receive before the April 15 deadline for certifying K-12 budgets. (That hasn’t always been the case lately.)

• A longstanding inequity in school funding has been fixed–for now.

Unfortunately, both bills fall far short of what Iowa schools need, thanks to Republican choices.

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