Reynolds dodges tough call; State Fair board dodges open meetings practice

In its most closely-watched meeting in living memory, the Iowa State Fair board voted on June 10 not to hold the fair this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the board’s 11-2 vote was livestreamed, the brief meeting shed no light on the deliberations. There was no public discussion of the pros and cons of postponing the event until 2021. Nor did members debate alternative scenarios explored by staff, like holding a scaled-back event with limited attendance, mandatory face coverings, or temperature checks.

All board members present avoided a public stand on the difficult decision through a secret ballot vote, in apparent contradiction with Iowa’s open meetings law.

Governor Kim Reynolds’ designated representative on the body missed the meeting entirely.

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Kim Reynolds' job title is governor. Not Christian faith leader

Governor Kim Reynolds has urged Iowans to “unite in prayer” today in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In a proclamation presenting elements of Christian theology as fact, Reynolds declared April 9 to be a “Day of Prayer” statewide. An accompanying news release invited the public to participate in the Iowa Prayer Breakfast, which was held virtually this morning. The annual event features Christian faith leaders.

Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg appeared in their official capacity at the breakfast, via separate video links. Speaking from the state emergency operations center with the state flag and seal of Iowa visible behind her, Reynolds hailed the effort to keep “glorifying Jesus Christ through the public affirmation of His sovereignty over our state and our nation.” From the Capitol building, Gregg observed that “Christ’s love for us” will never change, even in challenging times.

A public health emergency is no excuse for elected officials to promote religion, especially not a specific faith tradition.

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Iowa governor names group to steer criminal justice reform efforts

Fourteen people representing a “diverse group of stakeholders” will recommend policies to reduce recidivism and racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system, Governor Kim Reynolds announced on November 4.

Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg, a former state public defender, will chair the Governor’s FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform, which will meet for the first time on November 7. FOCUS stands for “Fueling Ongoing Collaboration and Uncovering Solutions.” The other members are:

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Governor's "weekly" press conferences less frequent, less accessible

Governor Kim Reynolds promised during last year’s campaign to resume weekly press conferences if elected. But 34 weeks into 2019, the governor has held only fourteen press conferences this year.

In addition, the governor’s office has not posted video of Reynolds answering questions from journalists on any publicly accessible platform since December. That’s a departure from past practice.

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Reynolds, GOP killed way to reduce racial, economic disparities in Iowa courts

Governor Kim Reynolds made headlines last week with two vetoes: blocking language targeting the attorney general, and rejecting a medical cannabis bill that had strong bipartisan support in both chambers.

A provision she didn’t veto drew little attention. For the foreseeable future, it will prevent Iowa courts from using a tool designed to make the criminal justice system more fair to defendants of all races and income levels.

Reynolds should appreciate the value of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), since she works closely with two former State Public Defenders: Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and the governor’s senior legal counsel Sam Langholz. But last year she ordered a premature end to a pilot program introducing the tool in four counties. The governor’s staff did not reply to repeated inquiries about the reasoning behind Reynolds’ stance on this policy.

Notably, the owner of Iowa’s largest bail bonding company substantially increased his giving to GOP candidates during the last election cycle, donating $10,100 to the governor’s campaign and $28,050 to Republicans serving in the state legislature.

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