© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

State Democrats Call On Gov. Reynolds To Fill State Board Of Health Vacancies

 Gov. Kim Reynolds has defended her decision to turn down $95 million in funding for COVID-19 testing in schools, saying the state has plenty of other funding available.
Natalie Krebs
IPR file
State Democrats are criticizing Gov. Kim Reynolds for not filling seven vacant seats on the state Board of Health. Earlier this month, the board could not meet because it did not have enough members.

State Democrats are calling on Gov. Kim Reynolds to fill the vacant seats on the Iowa State Board of Health.

The board oversees state health department policy and advises the governor on public health issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it was unable to meet earlier this month because seven of its eleven seats are vacant, as first reported by the Des Moines Register.

The board is made up of a bipartisan mix of eleven medical professionals, public health experts and members of the general public, but it currently has seven vacancies and no Democrats.

Three Republicans and one independent make up the four slots that are filled. Two of the current board members are from the general public, one is a pharmacist and one is a doctor.

All three slots dedicated to public health experts are vacant as are both slots dedicated to substance abuse treatment specialists. The other two open slots are for members of the general public.

Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Marion, a ranking member on the Senate Human Resources committee, said Democrats started pushing Reynolds’ office to fill empty seats during the last legislative session.

"This is mismanagement, and it is going to slow any kind of potential solutions for what will go on with the pandemic and in overall public health," she said.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, noted there are no Democrats on the partisan board, and he said Democrats did not have a hand in blocking any potential appointees.

Wahls said the reason for the vacancies is because Reynolds has deferred making appointments. This includes renewing the terms of people already serving on the board.

"As a result, people who were already on the boards and commissions, who wanted to continue serving on them, were not extended into the new term," Wahls said.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, called Reynolds’ deferrals to fill the empty seats “simply unacceptable.”

"It doesn't seem to me that it's too heavy of a lift to ask our governor to fill vacant positions on a public health board in the middle of a global pandemic," she said. "It seems like one of the easier things that you could do."

Pat Garrett, a spokesperson for the governor's office, has not returned IPR's requests for comment.

Garrett issued a statement to the Des Moines Register on Monday evening.

"The governor makes appointments to boards and commissions as terms expire or when individuals vacate their position," Garrett said, according to the Register's report. "She is actively reviewing applicants to several positions, including to the State Board of Health, which has met quorum requirements for every month in 2020 and from January to June of 2021."

The board meets once every two months. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8.

Editor's Note: This post was updated July 27 at 12:26 p.m. to include a statement issued by the governor's spokesperson on Monday evening.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter