The Iowa House. (RI photo)

The Iowa House has sent Governor Kim Reynolds the state government reorganization plan her staff and a consulting firm developed over the past year. It reduces the number of state agencies from 37 to 16. It also shifts some government functions, like fire investigations and services for students with disabilities, to different areas of state government.

“We’ve been working on this bill, we’ve been discussing this bill since the start of session,” Representative Jane Bloomingdale, a Republican from Northwood, said. “This is a simple bill — ha ha, 1600 pages — but this is a bill that is necessary. It’s time.

“We are going to streamline state government, we’re going to save taxpayer dollars, we’re going to reate efficiencies and, with all of that, we are going to better serve all of Iowans.”

Fifty-eight House Republicans backed the bill. All Democrats and five Republicans voted against it. Democrats say efficiency in state government is important, but the bill was rushed through the process and no changes were made to improve it. Representative Amy Nielsen, a Democrat from North Liberty, said the bill lets the governor fire administrators “on a whim” and gets rid of salary limits, so the governor can decide the pay for top state agency officials.

“I don’t think that consolidating power into the governor’s office makes state government more efficient and it certainly won’t save taxpayers any money,” Nielsen said. “…We are one part of a three branch governement and it’s really disappointing to see the capitulation of all of our power to the governor’s office.”

House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights said the bill “diminishes the legislature’s role” in determining how state government is run. “We will have a Democratic governor sooner than some folks in this room think,” Konfrst said. “…There are some things in here that I think if a Democrat was in charge, some folks in this room wouldn’t like a Democratic governor to have power over.”

Democrats raised concerns about having the leader of the agency that serves blind Iowans be appointed by the governor rather than selected by an independent board of blind Iowans. Representative Bloomingdale announced at the end of debate that Governor Reynolds is promising to keep the current Iowa Department for the Blind director in that role.

“This governor’s not going to hire cronies…She’s going to hire the best people she can find and when we have a Democratic governor, they’re going to do the same thing,” Bloomingdale said. “They’re going to hire the very best people they can find and if they don’t do the job, they lose the job.”

The bill eliminates about 200 full-time positions in state government that aren’t currently filled. Reynolds, in a statement released after this afternoon’s vote, called the bill “transformational” in dealing with a “bloated bureaucracy”

Radio Iowa