Iowa House speaker: Lawmakers will inquire about governor’s use of federal COVID relief funds

Iowa Republican House leaders Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley; Patt Grassley, R-New Hartford and Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, speak to reporters after being re-elected into their roles by Republican colleagues. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said Monday that Republican leaders will speak with the governor’s office about how federal COVID-19 relief money was spent.

The U.S. Department of Treasury and the state auditor said Reynolds’ office misused $21 million to pay for new accounting software. The auditor also said $448,449 the governor spent on existing staff salaries was questionable.

Grassley said the appropriations committee was briefed on funding allocation in May. He said lawmakers will further inquire about where funding is going once session starts.

“I think at no point here had there been any concerns that we were not in the loop on decisions being made,” Grassley said during a news conference at the Capitol.

Despite the financial challenges COVID-19 has posed, Grassley said he feels positive about the state’s budget after the fiscal year ended with more than $300 million in the general fund. He is waiting to see the updated projections from December’s Revenue Estimating Conference before making any adjustments.

On Monday, Iowa House Republicans re-elected the same leadership team for the upcoming legislative session.

Grassley was re-elected by his colleagues to continue in his position. He was first elected speaker in 2019. Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, was also re-elected as House majority leader.

Though Grassley said it was too early to share any specific policy priorities, he said the House will continue to focus on low taxes, controlling the budget and “keeping commitments,” such as promised funding to schools.

“House Republicans represent 97 of 99 counties,” Grassley said. “We’ve been in the majority now for over 10 years.”

Grassley said he does not expect the Legislature to delay its 2021 legislative session due to COVID-19. The session is scheduled to begin Jan. 11.

“Our expectation is to come back and take some of those things we utilized in June and use them again moving forward,” Grassley said during a news conference Monday. 

He said legislative leaders are examining different rooms where they can hold committee and subcommittee meetings so people can observice social distancing guidlines.