Gov. Reynolds drops curtain on 2020 session

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds addresses reporters at an Associated Press forum days before the opening of the 2020 legislative session. (Photo by Perry Beeman)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds acted on all remaining legislation from the past session Tuesday, approving spending bills and other actions while also exercising her line-item veto.

The governor vetoed House File 2556, arguing that it would be too restrictive on the decisions of local governments and the state on selling property.

“House File 2556 contains a number of provisions with which I have no objection,” Reynolds wrote in her veto message. “But Division II of the bill imposes new requirements on local governmental bodies and the state of Iowa prohibiting the sale of real property unless it is sold ‘to the highest responsive, responsible bidder’ or the governmental body, by a two-thirds vote, approves a different bidder for ‘good cause’ or a different process.

“I understand the concern that a governmental body may occasionally make a decision to sell property with which many of its constituents disagree. But I am not convinced that this bill is the appropriate solution,” Reynolds added. 

“Governmental bodies may reasonably conclude that factors other than price — such as a potential developer’s jobs and economic impact, environmental cleanup, or improvements to the property and infrastructure — should determine to whom a property should be sold,” Reynolds wrote. “And imposing a two-thirds vote requirement to make this choice would unnecessarily complicate a local government’s decision making and could unintentionally hurt redevelopment and economic growth efforts in our state. I am also concerned that the new language lacks clarity and could lead to litigation, confusion, and unintended consequences surrounding governmental real estate transactions even where a unanimous vote approves of the transaction.”

The governor also approved the appropriations to various state agencies found in House File 2642 and transportation funding in House File 2644.

Reynolds vetoed portions of House File 2643 that would have limited the amount of funds the Iowa Veterans Home could carry over to the next fiscal year. “Because the Iowa Veterans Home’s state appropriation is less than 8% of its total budget and the vast majority of that budget comes from revenues paid from a variety of sources, this section could have significant unintended consequences,” the governor wrote in her transmittal letter. 

The governor also vetoed a second section of that bill that would have authorized the Iowa Economic Development Authority to help broadband providers get federal aid and other funds. “While I strongly support assisting providers in improving broadband infrastructure, Iowa’s Office of the Chief Information Officer coordinates our broadband initiatives and has the best expertise to assist in these efforts,” Reynolds wrote. “Introducing another governmental entity is unnecessary and could be counterproductive,” she added.

Reynolds’ actions ended a legislative year that saw agreement among the Republican majority on a $7.8 billion budget. The session was marked by a long recess caused by the spread of COVID-19 and the stalling of Reynolds’ signature Invest in Iowa Act, which would have used a sales tax increase to fund water quality, outdoor recreation and mental health programs while offsetting property taxes. Democrats criticized the bill, contending it was an effort to give more tax breaks to the rich. They also objected to lower education spending than they wanted.  

Many actions sought to retain status quo spending in a difficult economic situation. That was the case with the Resource Enhancement and Protection program, which would have expired this month without an extension. Lawmakers approved two more years for the program while long-range financing plans are considered.

Perry Beeman
Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.