# Iowa Senate



Iowa Senate district 14: A "rap sheet" that speaks for itself

Herb Strentz reflects on Republican Jake Chapman’s claim that his Democratic opponent Sarah Trone Garriott is a “radical activist.”

Fear-mongering and baseless campaign attacks against candidates for public office are not restricted to Iowans who dare to seek election while being Black—as is the case for Deidre DeJear, Iowa’s Democratic candidate for governor.

Yes, commentators from Bleeding Heartland to the Des Moines Register’s editors have rightly condemned Governor Kim Reynolds’ ads against DeJear as race-baiting.

And yes, “politics ain’t beanbag.” It’s not for the thin-skinned.

That “beanbag” contrast is as true today as it was in 1895, when Finley Peter Dunne quoted his fictional character, Mr. Dooley, pontificating about rough-house Chicago politics.

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Exclusive: Labor relations board shifts staff, cases to other agency. Is it legal?

Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is transferring most of its staff and caseload to the state Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Since the mid-1970s, PERB members and administrative law judges have adjudicated labor disputes within state and local government or school districts. Following the changes, administrative law judges now working for PERB will handle other matters, while other employees at Inspections and Appeals will hear cases that were previously in PERB’s jurisdiction.

State officials have not announced the changes, which are scheduled to take effect on September 30. It’s not clear who initiated or authorized the plan. Staff in the governor’s office and Department of Inspections and Appeals did not respond to any of Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries over the past three weeks. PERB members Erik Helland and Cheryl Arnold likewise did not reply to several emails.

State Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat with extensive experience as a labor attorney, has asked Attorney General Tom Miller for an official opinion on whether “it is an illegal shift of an essential PERB duty” to assign its responsibilities “to an unrelated state agency.”

Boulton also asked Miller to weigh in on the legality of Governor Kim Reynolds’ recent appointments to PERB. As Bleeding Heartland previously reported, Reynolds has circumvented the Senate confirmation process by keeping one of the three PERB positions unfilled, so she can name her preferred candidates to a vacant slot while the legislature is not in session.

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Republicans spending big on Des Moines area legislative races

The Republican Party of Iowa has reserved more than $1.1 million in television air time for six candidates seeking Iowa legislative seats in the Des Moines metro area, and will likely spend hundreds of thousands more to promote them on television during the final stretch of the campaign.

Documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission show the GOP plans to spend more than $650,000 on broadcast tv supporting Jake Chapman and Mike Bousselot, who are running in the party’s top two central Iowa Senate targets.

The party also will spend six-figure sums on tv ads for four Iowa House candidates in Polk or Dallas counties, whose commercials began airing last week.

Those numbers do not include any funds the GOP will spend on direct mail, radio, or digital advertising for the same candidates.

This post focuses on early tv spending on legislative races in the Des Moines market. Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will survey other battleground Iowa House or Senate districts.

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Governor appoints board member Iowa Senate already rejected

In another end run around the Iowa Senate confirmation process, Governor Kim Reynolds has named Cheryl Arnold to serve on Iowa’s Public Relations Board (PERB), which adjudicates labor disputes within state and local government or school districts.

The governor’s office has not publicly announced the nomination, and at this writing, the board’s website lists only one member (Erik Helland) on what Iowa law designates as a three-person board. Reynolds informed Secretary of the Iowa Senate Charlie Smithson about Arnold’s appointment in a letter dated August 15, which Smithson provided to Bleeding Heartland.

Arnold previously served as chair of the PERB for a little more than a year. She left the position after Iowa Senate Democrats voted against her nomination near the end of the 2020 legislative session. Appointments subject to Senate confirmation need a two-thirds vote for approval, giving Democrats the power to block nominations while in the minority.

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Iowa Libertarians opt out of federal, most statewide races: What it means

Iowa’s filing period for the 2022 general election closed on August 27 with no third-party candidate qualified for the ballot in any federal race, or any statewide race other than for governor and lieutenant governor.

The landscape could hardly be more different from four years ago, when the Libertarian Party of Iowa fielded a full slate of federal and statewide candidates, and no-party candidates also competed in three of the four U.S. House districts.

The lack of a third-party presence could be important if any of Iowa’s Congressional or statewide elections are close contests.

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Governor still playing musical chairs with employment board

For a second straight year, Governor Kim Reynolds has reappointed Erik Helland to Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) after Helland failed to win Iowa Senate confirmation. In an apparent effort to circumvent the legally required confirmation process, Reynolds appointed Helland to a different position on the three-member board, which adjudicates labor disputes within state and local government or school districts.

She used the same maneuver last summer to name Helland as PERB chair after the Iowa Senate did not confirm him during the 2021 legislative session.

The governor has not filled the now-vacant position of PERB chair, saying in a recent letter to the top Iowa Senate staffer that her administration “has initiated, but has not yet completed, the selection process.” That leaves the board with no quorum; Reynolds has kept one position unfilled since August 2020.

The long-running vacancy allows the governor’s preferred nominees to remain on the board, even if they don’t receive a two-thirds confirmation vote in the state Senate. Asked for comment on Helland’s reappointment, the Democratic senators who reviewed the PERB nominees accused the governor of “a partisan power grab” and “rigging the appointment process so she can get her way.”

Reynolds’ spokesperson Alex Murphy did not respond to eight inquiries about the PERB appointments between late May and July 28.

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