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Iowa governor signs 1,500-page government reorganization plan into law

governor kim reynolds and other government officials clap their hands after she signed a bill
Katarina Sostaric
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed her government reorganization bill into law Tuesday, surrounded by cabinet members and GOP lawmakers.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed her 1,500 page state government reorganization bill into law Tuesday, setting into motion the merging of state agencies, the elimination of hundreds of government positions, and the expansion of authority for the governor and attorney general.

“As elected leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure that the services we provide are delivering value to those that we serve,” Reynolds said. “And this transformative, comprehensive bill we hope will do exactly that.”

She said it’s been 40 years since the last major reorganization of state government, and that the structure led to services being spread unpredictably across state government and prevented government workers from reaching their full potential.

The new law will bring the number of cabinet-level state agencies from 37 to 16. Reynolds said her goal is to have the merging of agencies mostly done by July 1, and her office has been working on those plans since last summer.

“I’m not saying there won’t be bumps,” she said. “I mean, this is a huge undertaking. But we’re going to do it right. We’re going to get it right.”

Reynolds was asked why her projected savings to the state and federal government of $215 million over four years appears to be higher than estimates from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

She said her estimate is conservative, and she thinks her plan could save even more money.

“If we miss the mark, we miss the mark,” Reynolds said. “But if we save anything, and I can streamline services, and have a single mom or single dad that’s trying to get some services not have to go through 14 different doors to figure out how to get an answer, then that’s a win for me.”

Reynolds said Iowans win if they can get answers from state government in a faster, efficient manner.

Democrats opposed the bill after amendments they offered were rejected by Republican lawmakers.

“The governor keeps calling this a realignment, but let’s be honest: it’s a power grab,” said Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville. “Under this new law, the governor will have more control over once-independent offices and agencies, with fewer checks and balances. She’ll have more power to appoint friends and cronies, with no limits on sweetheart salaries for them.”

Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty, said the bill is “all politics.”

“Iowans deserve a government that works for them, and not just the special interests,” she said.

Rep. Gary Mohr, R-Bettendorf, chairs the House budgeting committee and supports Reynolds’ plan to reshape state government. He was asked Tuesday if he is comfortable with the estimates he’s received related to the cost savings associated with the plan and the number of positions being eliminated.

Mohr said no one really knows what those exact numbers will be.

“We have to look at those positions that are not filled with a skeptical eye, in that we can’t assume they’re going to be absolutely accurate,” Mohr said. “We just have to do the budget very conservatively, because we have to assume there’s going to be errors.”

He said there can always be unexpected changes in revenue or expenses when dealing with a state budget of more than $8 billion.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter