Why did these House Republicans reject an easy win for Iowa taxpayers?

State Auditor Rob Sand had “great news” to share with members of the Iowa House and Senate Appropriations Committees in May. Federal officials had agreed not to demand repayment for alleged overbilling, provided that Iowa changed its billing practices for future audits. The savings to the state would amount to tens of thousands of dollars for each fiscal year.

Documents Bleeding Heartland obtained through a public records request confirm that key Reynolds administration officials were on board with the reform plan, and Iowa Senate appropriators took it up in June as the legislature was completing its work.

The records also show that State Representatives Gary Mohr and John Landon refused to move the fix through the Iowa House.

What they don’t explain is why.

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Kim Reynolds set young people up to fail. Now she's setting them up to blame

“Much of the spread that we’re seeing in Iowa continues to be tied back to young adults” between the ages of 19 and 24, Governor Kim Reynolds said during an August 27 news conference, where she announced a new proclamation closing bars in Polk, Dallas, Linn, Johnson, Story, and Black Hawk counties.

Reynolds noted that young adults are spreading coronavirus to classmates, co-workers, and others “by socializing in large groups” and “not social distancing.” She added, “While we still know that this population is less likely to be severely impacted by COVID-19, it is increasing the virus activity in the community, and it’s spilling over to other segments of the population.”

The official narrative seems designed to conceal three inconvenient facts. Reynolds didn’t follow expert advice that could have prevented this summer’s explosive growth in cases. For months, she discouraged young, healthy Iowans from worrying about the virus. And despite her “#StepUpMaskUp” public relations campaign, Reynolds has failed to practice what she preaches when attending large gatherings herself.

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Now she tells us

More than four months into the novel coronavirus pandemic, Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health are finally acknowledging that slowing the spread of COVID-19 will require many more Iowans to routinely cover their faces in public.

Their “#StepUpMaskUpIA” campaign might have been more successful if state officials had pushed the message before reopening businesses and lifting other COVID-19 mitigation strategies in May and June. Instead, top officials waited until new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths had been trending upward in Iowa for weeks.

Public health experts at the University of Iowa urged state leaders months ago to call for universal use of face coverings. But at her televised news conferences, Reynolds repeatedly asserted that expanded testing would allow the state to “manage” and “control” the virus. At the same events, the governor regularly portrayed face masks as something vulnerable Iowans might need, or a precaution people could bring with them in case they found themselves in a crowded setting.

As recently as last week, Reynolds was photographed in close proximity to others, with no one’s face covered. Even now, she refuses to delegate authority so local governments can issue enforceable mask orders.

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Ashley Hinson dodged Iowa House debates on high-profile bills

State Representative Ashley Hinson didn’t miss a roll call vote as the Iowa House wrapped up its work in June, legislative records show. But the two-term Republican mostly stayed out of the House chamber while colleagues debated controversial bills.

The tactic allowed Hinson, who is also the GOP challenger in Iowa’s first Congressional district, to avoid public questioning about policies she supported. Notably, she was absent during most of the House deliberations on imposing a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, establishing a barrier to voting by mail, and giving businesses near-total immunity from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Neither Hinson nor her Congressional campaign responded to Bleeding Heartland’s repeated inquiries about those absences.

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Iowa SOS will need permission for future emergency election changes

Secretary of State Paul Pate will need approval from the Legislative Council in order to use his emergency powers to alter election procedures, under a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed on June 25.

While Republicans have a majority on that legislative body, it’s not clear they would use that power to prevent Pate from repeating steps that led to record-breaking turnout for the June 2 primary.

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Iowa House Democrats advised to get COVID-19 tests after session

Top Iowa House Democrats advised members of the caucus to get tested for novel coronavirus this week, House Minority Leader Todd Prichard confirmed on June 19.

“In addition to wearing masks, socially distancing, and going through the health screenings daily during session, we did recommend members get tested following session,” Prichard said via email. He added that his team was “not aware of any members or staff” exposed to COVID-19 at the capitol as legislators wrapped up their work for the year.

Prichard had no comment on Bleeding Heartland’s other questions, related to Republican State Representative Gary Worthan’s absence from the Iowa House chamber beginning on June 5.

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