Iowa lawmakers drop lawsuit over governor's illegal fund transfer

Catching up on news overshadowed by the biggest Iowa politics story of the week: on May 23 a group of Iowa House Democrats dropped their legal challenge to Governor Kim Reynolds’ use of emergency funds without legislative approval last September. Reynolds transferred $13 million from the Iowa Economic Emergency Fund to cover a shortfall in the fiscal 2017 budget, despite a warning from State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald that Iowa law did not permit that action.

State Representative Chris Hall, the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Appropriations Committee, filed suit in January, charging that Reynolds and Department of Management Director David Roederer “conspired together to unlawfully appropriate and misuse state funds.” The lawsuit alleged that the governor acted unilaterally in order to avoid the political fallout from calling the legislature back for a special session. House Democrats Marti Anderson, Liz Bennett, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Monica Kurth, and Amy Nielsen joined the legal action a few weeks later.

Republican legislators tacitly acknowledged that Reynolds broke the law. They added language to a bill cutting current-year spending that retroactively legalized the governor’s action and appropriated $13 million from the emergency fund to the general fund for fiscal year 2017. (See page 8 of Senate File 2117, which both chambers passed along party lines in March.)

“Our legal challenge held Governor Reynolds and Republicans accountable, and it did so without costing taxpayers a single dime,” Hall said in a news release enclosed in full below. “We have seen too many cover ups and not enough leadership from the Reynolds administration. This is a victory for taxpayers and ensures that our tax dollars will be spent according to the law.”

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that there would be little to gain by following through with this lawsuit. Once the legislature passed and Reynolds signed Senate File 2117, a court would almost certainly have dismissed the case as moot.

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Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Iowa lawmakers went home for the year on May 5. In the coming weeks, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the legislature’s significant work that attracted relatively attention.

Two proposed state constitutional amendments passed both chambers and could appear on the 2020 general election ballot, if the House and Senate approve them in the same form during either 2019 or 2020.

Three other constitutional amendments cleared one chamber in 2017–in one case unanimously–then stalled in the other chamber as lawmakers completed this two-year session. Those ideas may resurface next year. But since changes to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures before landing on the general election ballot (the last step in the process), Iowa voters would not be able to ratify those proposals until November 2022 at the earliest.

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What happened on education during the Iowa legislature's final week

Randy Richardson has the rundown on how the Iowa legislature’s final actions of 2018 will affect public school districts and higher education. -promoted by desmoinesdem

While controversial issues like abortion and tax reform grabbed the headlines last week, a number of bills impacting education saw last-minute approval before the Iowa House and Senate adjourned for the year on May 5.

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New family planning program fails Iowans. Republicans don't want to know

Republican lawmakers made big promises last year that Iowans would have “more access” to family planning services under a new state program that excluded Planned Parenthood.

As anyone could have foreseen, the opposite was true. In the first nine months of the State Family Planning Program’s existence, the number of Iowans enrolled dropped by a third. The number who obtained at least one reproductive health care service fell by more than 40 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter the program was operating. The number of health care providers billing the program also declined by 40 percent during the same time frame.

Republican lawmakers don’t want to hear how poorly the new system is serving their constituents. Even worse, GOP state senators voted unanimously last week to compound the mistake by blocking Planned Parenthood from participating in sex education programs.

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Kim Reynolds misleads three times in one sound bite on GOP tax bill

“Republicans led on tax reform in 2018,” Governor Kim Reynolds asserted in a news release after lawmakers adjourned for the year on May 5. “As a result, hardworking, middle class Iowa families, farmers, small business owners and workers get meaningful relief, all while Iowa’s budget priorities in future years are protected.”

None of those claims withstand scrutiny.

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