Democrats object to $21 million bill to fix governor’s ‘big goof’

    A prominent Cedar Rapids attorney is facing a possible second license suspension over an alleged high-risk foreign investment scheme that skirted federal regulations and resulted in investors losing $700,000. (Photo by Getty Images)

    State senators advanced a bill to spend $21 million for a human resources software system after the governor’s use of federal coronavirus relief funds for the program was found to be improper.

    Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee objected to the legislation, saying it represented misplaced priorities on the part of the majority Republicans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Sen. Claire Celsi, D-Des Moines, said the bill was “fixing a big goof” by Gov. Kim Reynolds after the state auditor and federal inspector general found the Workday software system did not qualify as a coronavirus-related cost.

    “So in the middle of a pandemic, we are thinking of non-related costs like a software system instead of all the pressing needs of our fellow Iowans like food, rent assistance and other things like that,” Celsi said.

    Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, also questioned the lack of action so far on COVID-19 relief efforts and other priorities such as aid for hospitals, mental health needs, or education.  “No, we have to come up with money for an H.R. system and an accounting system that’s being lobbied by the governor’s former chief of staff, which makes it even more interesting. Giving money also to an out-of-state company that’s going to sell us this software,” he said.

    Republicans who supported the bill did not respond to the Democrats’ remarks during the meeting.

    The bill was backed on a party-line vote of 13-8 and advances to the full Senate for consideration.

    Kathie Obradovich
    Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine. She is a leading voice on Iowa politics and makes regular appearances on state, national and international news programs. She has led national-award-winning coverage of the Iowa Caucuses and the Register’s Iowa Poll.