Liz Bennett, Breanna Oxley face off in open Iowa Senate primary (updated)

Catching up on some news from before the holiday weekend: a competitive Democratic primary is shaping up for an open Iowa Senate seat covering part of Cedar Rapids. Four-term State Representative Liz Bennett confirmed on June 30 that she will run for the district that State Senator Rob Hogg has represented since 2007. Hogg won’t seek re-election in 2022, he announced last month. Iowa has yet to adopt a new political map, but this district will cover some part of the city of Cedar Rapids.

Bennett is the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Economic Growth Committee and a member of the Human Resources, Natural Resources, and Information Technology committees, as well as the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations subcommittee. Having won four previous state legislative races, she will be the early favorite in the Iowa Senate primary.

Bennett is also the first out LGBTQ woman elected to the Iowa legislature and the only out LGBTQ person now serving at the statehouse. Only one out LGBTQ person has ever served in the Iowa Senate: Matt McCoy, who did not seek re-election in 2018.

Breanna Oxley, a public school teacher and education activist, was first to declare her candidacy for the Cedar Rapids Senate district on June 15. She told Bleeding Heartland last week she is staying in that race. Her endorsers include former U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack, former State Senator Swati Dandekar, and former Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston.

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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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In unprecedented move, Iowa Senate GOP bypasses budget subcommittees

Passing a budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 is the most important unfinished business for the Iowa legislature’s regular 2021 session. But House and Senate Republican leaders haven’t found consensus on spending targets for several large pieces of the roughly $8 billion state budget.

In a move without precedent in decades, Senate Republicans declined this this year to participate in the joint appropriations subcommittees where lawmakers review and discuss agency spending requests. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and Appropriations Committee chair Tim Kraayenbrink did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about who made the decision or why.

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Pandering on police budgets won't save Democrats from bad-faith GOP attacks

Some bills are designed to solve real problems, some create the appearance of solving a real problem, and others just cue up attack ads.

So it was with Senate File 479, which passed on March 10 with a large bipartisan majority even though no organizations are lobbying for it.

The bill would make local governments “ineligible to receive any state funds” if they reduced a law enforcement agency’s budget by a larger percentage than the reduction in the government entity’s total budget. While floor managing the measure, Republican State Senator Chris Cournoyer said, “This is not the time to cut funding” for law enforcement. She claimed the bill would “keep our communities and our citizens safe” and asked colleagues to “show their strong support for law enforcement with a yes vote.”

Ten Democrats–Tony Bisignano, Nate Boulton, Bill Dotzler, Eric Giddens, Kevin Kinney, Jim Lykam, Liz Mathis, Amanda Ragan, Jackie Smith, and Todd Taylor–joined the 31 Republicans present to approve the legislation.

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ISU switch to Workday accounting delayed state financial report

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: The Governmental Accounting Standards Board and the Government Finance Officers Association now discourage use of the common acronym for this report, because when pronounced it sounds like a racial slur. Bleeding Heartland will avoid using the acronym in the future. Original post follows.

The state of Iowa missed a deadline for publishing a key report on its finances because Iowa State University was unable to provide the data on time.

Iowa’s public universities have typically submitted their financial information to the state by October 1, allowing the state to complete its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) by December 31. But ISU is more than four months behind schedule in submitting data for fiscal year 2020.

The delay stems from the university’s transition to a new accounting method using Workday software, raising concerns about the functionality of the computer system state government committed to in 2019.

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