Governor introduces 1,500-page bill to restructure state government

By: - February 2, 2023 6:55 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds is escorted into the Iowa House of Representatives, on Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, 2023, to give the annual Condition of the State address, at the Iowa State Capitol, in Des Moines.

Iowa lawmakers spent Thursday working through the details of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ newly unveiled bill that would enact a major restructuring of state agencies.

In more than 1,500 pages, House Study Bill 126 outlines Reynolds’ plans to consolidate Iowa’s 37 cabinet agencies into 16, and save the state money by eliminating unfilled positions, combining offices and contracts, and selling land. The bill was introduced in the Iowa House late Wednesday.

It’s a large bill that proposes many changes, but Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said the governor has been open about what the legislation is intended to do.

“The governor has been very open and transparent about, kind of, what she’s working on, and so, you know, I’m familiar with, kind of, her concept on it,” Whitver said. “Obviously, we’re gonna have to take that through the process like we would everything else, but (I’m) familiar and comfortable with what she’s working on.”

Reynolds has listed the state government reorganization proposal as one of her top priorities, alongside the private-school scholarship program, which she signed into law in January. Iowa’s current state government structure is inefficient, she said, and has not been comprehensively reviewed since the farm crisis.

“I have a great team of directors, who are served by thousands of capable, hard-working public servants who care deeply about delivering for Iowans,” Reynolds said in her Condition of the State address. “I’d put them up against any state in America. But that talent can’t meet its full potential when it’s hampered by a fractured organizational structure that’s run on autopilot for decades.”

The governor worked with consultants to put together the plan, which she said will save Iowa $215 million over the course of four years.

House Speaker Pat Grassley said that Reynolds has already proven that consolidation efforts like this make government more efficient, pointing to the newly combined Department of Health and Human Services.

“So, there has been kind of a model laid out there already,” Grassley said. “And I think we’ll try to try to achieve that similar goal with the governor’s bill she proposed, recognizing that it isn’t something that just happens overnight.”

Among the changes being made to Iowa’s departments and agencies:

  • The Department of Aging, the Department of Human Rights, Early Childhood Iowa and the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Services would all be incorporated into the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The Department of Inspections and Appeals would be renamed the Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing. DIAL would take over several licensing and regulatory functions from other state departments like the Department of Public Safety, as well as the labor services and worker’s compensation divisions that are part of the Department of Workforce Development. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission would also become a part of DIAL.
  • The Economic Development Authority would incorporate the Department of Cultural Affairs. The director of the Economic Development Authority would also serve as the director of the Iowa Finance Authority.
  • The Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy would be established in the Department of Public Safety, no longer existing as an independent entity.
  • Department of Revenue would incorporate the Iowa Lottery Authority and take over control of the Alcoholic Beverage Division from the current Department of Commerce.
  • The Department of Education would take over operations for the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School and Iowa School for the Deaf, both of which are currently governed by the Board of Regents. The department would also establish the Higher Education Division, which the College Student Aid Commission and Board of Educational Examiners would fall under.
  • The Department of Commerce would become the Department of Insurance and Financial Services and will contain insurance, banking and credit divisions.
  • Iowa Utilities Board would be removed as a division of the Department of Commerce and function as a standalone board. The Office of the Consumer Advocate would be administratively supported by the Utilities Board.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.