# State Government



Welcome to Iowa, land of entrapment

Carl Olsen is the founder of Iowans for Medical Marijuana.

If you have travel plans this summer, you might want to consider a route that avoids Iowa.  Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court denied protection for an out-of-state medical marijuana patient.

William Morris covered the ruling for the Des Moines Register, and Paul Brennan wrote about it at Little Village.

After reading the 4-3 majority opinion in State v. Middlekauff, I felt something seemed amiss. 

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Six terrible bills Iowa Republicans didn't pass in 2022

After a hectic two days at the capitol, the Iowa House and Senate finished their work for the year shortly after midnight on May 25.

In the coming days, Bleeding Heartland will cover some of the final bills in detail. As usual, there were a few surprises in the “standings” bill, such as a provision expanding open enrollment from public schools. While Democrats opposed many bills sent to Governor Kim Reynolds this week, including a ban on COVID-19 vaccine requirements for schools or child care centers, they welcomed one of the last-minute proposals, which exempts diapers and period products from Iowa’s sales tax.

This piece will focus on bills that didn’t make it through, despite a push from Reynolds or top Republican lawmakers.

I anticipate future legislative battles over most if not all of these proposals. Earlier this year, the governor signed into law two priority items that failed to advance in 2021: a measure banning transgender Iowans from girls’ and women’s sports, and deep cuts to unemployment benefits.

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Key state financial report four months late, not near completion

More than four months after the usual publication date of December 31, Iowa’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2021 is nowhere in sight.

It’s the second straight year that the detailed report on state finances is far behind schedule. The ACFR must be completed before many other annual audits of state government entities can be conducted.

For decades, Iowa routinely published the report within six months of the end of the previous fiscal year. That time frame earned the state a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the leading organization for government finance officers.

CAUSE OF DELAY STILL UNCLEAR

The report for fiscal year 2020 was delayed for about nine months, mostly because of accounting problems at Iowa State University. But the university told Bleeding Heartland in January that ISU “submitted all year-end financials, responded to audit questions and completed recommended changes for the final financial statements by Nov. 12, 2021.” That’s only about six weeks after the deadline for most state government entities to send fiscal year-end data to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services.

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Senator: State withholds info on sexual harassment complaints

Iowa’s human resources agency will not release certain statistics on pending sexual harassment or hostile workplace complaints involving state government employees, Democratic State Senator Janet Petersen revealed this week.

Speaking to fellow senators on April 25, Petersen expressed concern about how many complaints continue to be filed, despite Governor Kim Reynolds’ stated “zero tolerance” policy on harassment.

She said the Department of Administrative Services told her there are 199 pending cases but refused to break down the numbers by type of complaint or class of employee affected. Senators have not even been told whether any of Reynolds’ nominees or appointed agency directors have been the subject of a workplace environment investigation.

Petersen also faulted the DAS for not informing those who initiate cases about the agency’s findings.

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Iowa's flat tax may mean fewer public services

Randy Richardson: Everyone likes paying lower taxes until they realize they may not receive the same benefits from the government.

Americans hate taxes. Other countries have taxes, including some with much higher tax rates, but for some reason their citizens don’t have the same objections as their American counterparts.

There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of the most common is that many Americans are simply unaware of what government does for them. A 2008 Cornell Survey Research Institute poll showed that 57 percent of respondents said they had never participated in a government social program. However, 94 percent of these same respondents reported being the beneficiary of at least one federal government program, with the average participant benefiting from four of them.

Which brings me to the recently enacted flat income tax bill in Iowa.

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Federal auditors reviewing CARES Act funds for governor's staff salaries

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General is reviewing documentation provided to justify Governor Kim Reynolds’ use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to compensate staff in her office, Deputy Inspector General Richard Delmar told Bleeding Heartland on March 14.

The State Auditor’s office concluded in November and reaffirmed this month that Reynolds used $448,449 in CARES Act funds to pay part of the salaries and benefits of 21 permanent staffers between March and June 2020 in order to “cover a budget shortfall that was not a result of the pandemic.” State Auditor Rob Sand called on Reynolds to return the money to Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund before the end of 2021. The governor’s office has insisted its use of COVID-19 relief funds for staff salaries was justified.

When the State Auditor’s office published its findings in November, Delmar told Bleeding Heartland his office “has not initiated an audit of the Governor’s Office salaries and awaits resolution of this matter between the Iowa State Auditor and the Governor’s Office.”

Asked this week about the impasse between Reynolds and state auditors, Delmar confirmed via email, “We have requested documentation of the uses from the State Auditor’s Office and are in the process of reviewing it.”

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