Exclusive: Other agencies covered $900K in governor's office costs

Governor Kim Reynolds’ office was able to spend nearly 40 percent more than its $2.3 million budget appropriation during the last fiscal year, mostly by shifting personnel costs onto other state agencies.

Documents Bleeding Heartland obtained through public records requests show that eight state agencies covered $812,420.83 in salaries and benefits for nine employees in the governor’s office from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. In addition, the Office for State-Federal Relations in Washington, DC remained understaffed, as it has been throughout Reynolds’ tenure. The vacant position should allow roughly $85,000 in unspent funds to be used to balance the rest of the governor’s office budget, as happened last year.

The governor’s communications director Pat Garrett did not respond to four inquiries over the past two weeks related to the office budget. But records indicate that unlike in 2020, federal COVID-19 relief funds will not be tapped to cover salaries for Reynolds’ permanent staffers in fiscal year 2021.

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Seven Iowa lawmakers who had crossover appeal in 2020

The Daily Kos Elections team performs an incredible public service every two years, calculating top-ticket results for every state legislative district in the country. Last week the staff published raw vote totals and vote shares for Joe Biden and Donald Trump in all 100 Iowa House districts and 50 Iowa Senate districts.

Take my advice and bookmark that spreadsheet, as well as an updated Daily Kos Elections spreadsheet showing how residents of each Iowa legislative district voted for president in 2012 and 2016, for governor in 2014 and 2018, and for U.S. Senate in 2014. Even though Iowa’s state legislative boundaries will soon change, the data will remain useful as evidence of changing voting patterns.

For today I want to dive into crossover voting in Iowa, which was the focus of a Daily Kos Elections post on July 26. Ticket-splitting is rarer now than it used to be, but six current House members won last November, even though their constituents preferred the other party’s presidential candidate. Four sitting state senators represent districts that voted for the other party’s presidential candidate in 2020. However, only one of them was up for re-election last year. We can’t know how the other three would have performed compared to Trump or Biden.

This post covers the legislators whose districts went the other way for president, with thoughts about how each House or Senate district might change on Iowa’s next political map.

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Iowa Republicans have abandoned executive branch oversight

Governor Kim Reynolds has been lucky at key points in her political career. Terry Branstad passed over more experienced contenders to select her as his 2010 running mate, allowing a little-known first-term state senator to become a statewide elected official. Six years later, Donald Trump won the presidency and named Branstad as an ambassador, setting Reynolds up to become governor without having to win a GOP primary first.

Most important, Reynolds has enjoyed a Republican trifecta her entire four years as governor. Not only has she been able to sign much of her wish list into law, she has not needed to worry that state lawmakers would closely scrutinize her administration’s work or handling of public funds.

During the legislative session that wrapped up last month, the GOP-controlled House and Senate rejected every attempt to make the governor’s spending decisions more transparent. They declined to hold even one hearing about questionable uses of federal COVID-19 relief funds or practices at state agencies that disadvantaged thousands of Iowans.

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Iowa set to pay off Workday contract this month

The state of Iowa should be able to pay the remainder on its contract to acquire the Workday software system once Governor Kim Reynolds signs the final appropriations bill lawmakers approved before adjourning on May 19.

Senate File 615, the so-called “standings” bill, allocates $23.23 million from the state’s general fund to the Office of Chief Financial Officer during the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. That money is to be used for “implementation of a new state central personnel, accounting, and budget system.”

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Anti-vaxxers hate Iowa's "vaccine passports" bill

The governor signed this bill on May 20. Original post follows.

“I look forward to signing this important legislation into law!” Governor Kim Reynolds tweeted on May 6, after the Iowa House and Senate approved a bill purportedly banning “vaccine passports.”

House File 889 fits a pattern of Republican bills that are best described as solutions in search of a problem. No state or local government agency intends to issue COVID-19 vaccine passports, nor are Iowa-based businesses rushing to require that customers show proof of coronavirus vaccinations.

A “message” bill can be useful politically, if it pleases a constituency Republicans need in the next election. The odd thing about this last-minute push is that Iowa’s most vocal vaccine skeptics don’t support the bill heading to the governor’s desk. On the contrary, they’re demanding a veto in the name of freedom.

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Policing bill would worsen Iowa's justice system disparities

Most of the new crimes and enhanced penalties that would be established under a policing bill approved by the Iowa House would have a disparate impact on Black people, according to analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Before passing Senate File 342, Iowa House members amended what had been a narrowly-focused bill on officer discipline to include several other so-called “Back the Blue” proposals: giving law enforcement more protection against lawsuits, increasing benefits for officers, and greatly increasing the criminal penalties for some protest-related actions.

For seven of the nine crimes addressed in the “Back the Blue” bill, now pending in the Iowa Senate, the LSA found the “conviction rate for African Americans exceeds the population proportion of the State, which would lead to a racial impact if trends remain constant.”

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