Sen. Jason Schultz (photo from Iowa legislature)

Republicans in the Iowa Senate have approved the governor’s nearly 1,600 page bill to revamp state government, shrinking the number of agencies from 37 to 16.

Senator Jason Schultz of Schleswig asked his fellow Republicans to approve the governor’s original plan without adjustments. “This is an alignment, consistency, efficiency bill,” Schultz said. “We’re going to do it.”

Democrats argue the bill will destroy the independence of key officials who review civil rights complaints, oversee fire safety complaints and manage programs for blind Iowans. Senator Liz Bennett, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the advocate for consumers when utilities seek rate hikes will be stifled, too.

“This bill consolidates power in the hands of the governor and big donors and silences the voice of everyday Iowans,” Bennett said.

Senator Sarah Trone-Garriott, a Democrat from Waukee, said there was no effort by Republican Senators to shape the legislation. “It’s not our job so the governor can impress out of state bullies, enrich out of state venture capitalists and consolidate her power,” Trone-Garriott said.

Schultz said the bill’s needed because Iowa currently spends more, per capita, on state government than five of our six neighboring states. “It is a positive and this isn’t a gotcha for one party or another,” Schultz said. “This is good going on here.”

The governor’s plan now goes to the Republican-led House. A Legislative Services Agency analysis indicates the bill, as written, would save about $12.4 million next year, mostly due to the elimination of more than 200 full-time positions in state government that are not currently filled. In January, the governor’s staff indicated the plan would reduce more than 500 full-time positions and save more than $200 million over the next four years. That includes the sale of farmland the state owns.

Radio Iowa