The Republican-led Iowa House has endorsed a bill that gives the Iowa Department of Economic Development a bit of a face-lift, with a new name and new structure. The state agency would be replaced with a public-private partnership and Representative Steve Lukan, a Republican from New Vienna, says that sort of “evolution” is necessary.

“A business that existed 50 years ago must certainly have changed operations to stay alive and be open for business today. In most businesses, systems change year to year to stay competitive and flexible,” Lukan said. “So, too, must the state and state agencies to meet the needs of the people we serve.”

Legislators and the governor have already begun calling the proposed “Iowa Partnershp for Economic Progress” by its upbeat acronym: I-PEP. Some have raised concerns, though, that businesses contributing to I-PEP’s operations would expect payback with state grants or tax breaks.

Representative Chuck Isenhart, a Democrat from Dubuque, successfully pushed to require the new I-PEP boards made up of business leaders to hold meetings that are open to the public, with all records in the newly-configued organization available for public scrutiny, too.

“This creates the potential of special dealing and I think that, in particular, requires that we need to be very careful,” Isenhart says.

The bill passed the House on a 65 to 33. Governor Branstad says he expects the proposal to win approval in the Democratically-led Iowa Senate, too.