# Erik Helland



Exclusive: Governor stacked labor relations board with Republicans

Governor Kim Reynolds has kept one of three positions on Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) vacant for more than a year, and since October has ensured the board operates with Republican members only.

By law, the board that handles public sector labor relations “shall consist of three members appointed by the governor,” of whom no more than two “shall be of the same political affiliation.” Reynolds has left one position unfilled since August 2020 and recently replaced Democrat Mary Gannon with Republican Jane Dufoe. She serves alongside Erik Helland, a longtime Republican and former state lawmaker.

The current situation runs counter to the spirit of PERB’s partisan balance requirement and potentially allows Reynolds to circumvent the Iowa Senate confirmation process, by shifting board members who are not confirmed to an open position.

In addition, state salary records show Reynolds’ GOP appointees to PERB immediately earned higher pay than Gannon, despite the Democrat’s years of experience. For decades, under Republican and Democratic governors, PERB members not chairing the board had received identical salaries.

The governor’s communications director Alex Murphy confirmed Dufoe’s party affiliation in September, then did not respond to eight follow-up inquiries about the PERB appointments over a three-month period.

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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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Iowa GOP chair once mocked "crazy" gun bill now on governor's desk

Governor Kim Reynolds will soon decide whether to sign a bill eliminating mandatory permits to carry concealed weapons in Iowa, and allowing firearms on school grounds. The legislation has been a priority for some pro-gun groups for more than a decade. But for years, bills to scrap concealed carry permits had few co-sponsors and never advanced beyond a committee in the Iowa House or Senate.

Jeff Kaufmann, who has chaired the Republican Party of Iowa since 2014, expressed concerns about the idea as the third-ranking Iowa House Republican in March 2011.

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Baltimore demoted, unlike previous two Iowa House Rs caught drunk driving

Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer announced today that following State Representative Chip Baltimore’s OWI arrest, she has named Majority Whip Zach Nunn to lead the Judiciary Committee for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session. “Serving as a committee chairman is a privilege that requires a higher level of responsibility,” Upmeyer said in a statement. “Drinking and driving is unacceptable behavior that endangers the lives of all Iowans who wish to travel our roads safely. Rep. Baltimore’s actions were clearly irresponsible and he is being held accountable.”

The last two Iowa House Republicans caught drunk driving did not face such consequences.

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Chip Baltimore charged with OWI, weapon possession

State Representative Chip Baltimore was jailed this morning and charged with drunk driving and possession of a weapon, the Ames Tribune reported. Ames police pulled the Republican lawmaker over while responding to a report about a reckless driver.

Ames police Sgt. Mike Arkovich said a Smith & Wesson pistol was found in Baltimore’s vehicle as it was being impounded. While Baltimore had a permit to carry, the permit becomes void once a person’s blood alcohol exceeds 0.08 percent, Arkovich said. He said Baltimore’s blood alcohol level was 0.147 percent.

After appearing in court, Baltimore told KCCI-TV’s Tommie Clark, “Obviously, it’s not my proudest moment.” He declined to say whether he thinks he should remain chair of the House Judiciary Committee, saying, “That’s not my determination to make.”

In a written statement, Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said, ““Drunk driving is unacceptable behavior for anyone, let alone a state legislator. We will work through this issue and deal with it quickly. We will also work with Representative Baltimore to get him the help and support that he needs at this time.”

GOP Representative Erik Helland faced few political consequences after his OWI arrest in June 2010. His colleagues elected him House majority whip later the same year.

A shocking winner in the 2010 Republican wave by just 23 votes, Baltimore was re-elected by comfortable margins to his second, third, and fourth terms. The map drawn after the 2010 census added Greene County to House district 47 and took out the corner of Dallas County including Democratic-leaning Perry (see map below). Donald Trump carried House district 47 by about 2,600 votes in 2016, 55 percent to 38 percent for Hillary Clinton. Baltimore won his race with more than 60 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: I had forgotten that Baltimore supported legislation in recent years to combat drunk driving. Added more details on that below.

Attorney Thomas Frerichs asked why Baltimore isn’t facing a Carrying Weapons charge “based upon the invalidation of his carry permit.” Section 8 of last year’s omnibus gun law changed Iowa Code language on possession of firearms while under the influence. Whereas the old language said a gun permit was “invalid” if the person was intoxicated, the new language says an intoxicated person with a gun permit commits a serious misdemeanor if he or she carries the dangerous weapon “on or about the person” or “within the person’s immediate access or reach while in a vehicle.”

LATER UPDATE: Added below background on David Weaver, a farmer who announced on January 18 that he will run in House district 47 as a Democrat.

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It's hard to beat an Iowa legislative incumbent in a primary

Yesterday’s primary elections demonstrated again that Iowans like to re-elect their incumbents, barring extraordinary circumstances.

The exception proving the rule: three-term State Representative Dan Kelley lost his Democratic primary in House district 29 (covering Newton and most of Jasper County) to Wes Breckinridge by 65 percent to 35 percent. As Pat Rynard explained here, that race was notable because prominent local officials and Iowa’s two largest labor organizations, AFSCME and the Iowa Federation of Labor, opposed the incumbent.

I’ll be sorry to see Kelley go. Of all the state legislators, he was the most vocal opponent of the Bakken pipeline, despite knowing that unions–a powerful interest group in Iowa Democratic politics–had bought into the oil company’s greatly exaggerated job estimates for that project (see also here). Kelley wasn’t always popular in the House Democratic caucus. I didn’t agree with all of his votes, but I admired his independent thinking.

No one challenged a sitting Iowa senator in a primary this year. The other eight state representatives who faced competitive primaries all won easily yesterday. Among the Democrats, Jo Oldson took about 67 percent of the vote against a hard-working opponent in House district 41, Brian Meyer won 69.5 percent in House district 33, and Mary Gaskill 59 percent in House district 81. Among the Republicans, Greg Forristall won just under 80 percent of the vote in House district 22, Stan Gustafson 67 percent in House district 25, Kevin Koester more than 86 percent in House district 38, Jake Highfill 58.5 percent in House district 39, and Jarad Klein 67 percent in House district 78.

No Iowa lawmaker failed to win his or her party’s nomination in 2014. Highfill had the closest call, taking a 43 percent plurality against two Republican opponents. Highfill was the only successful primary challenger to an Iowa legislative incumbent in 2012. The college student’s victory over then House Majority Whip Erik Helland was shocking, but an OWI arrest and other examples of poor judgment worked against Helland. Though inexperienced, Highfill had the backing of former State Representative Walt Tomenga and the “Liberty PAC” of Ron Paul supporters in that 2012 race.

Any comments about Iowa legislative elections are welcome in this thread.

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