Sen. Joni Ernst proposes several bills to increase transparency in government

Sen. Joni Ernst will propose bills to provide public access to information regarding government projects, COVID-19 relief for education and the carbon emissions of White House and executive branch officials.


Tate Hildyard

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst R-IA speaks at the republican watch party at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. Republicans from across the state have gathered to watch the results of the 2020 General Election.

Natalie Dunlap, Politics Reporter

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told reporters on Monday that she will propose bills regarding public access to information on funding for government projects, COVID-19 relief for education, and carbon emissions of White House and executive branch officials. 

Sunshine Week, which is taking place this week, is an initiative launched by American Society of News Editors in 2005 to promote open government. 

“To celebrate Sunshine Week, I’ll be putting forward a number of initiatives to increase transparency and ensure Iowans have access to information,” Ernst told reporters in a conference call on Monday. 

Ernst said she will propose initiatives to create publicly available price tags that disclose the cost of government projects supported by taxpayer money, ensuring the funds going to the Federal Department of Education for COVID-19 relief are accounted for and made public, and creating an alert system that exposes government projects that have gone over budget and fallen behind schedule. 

She also announced that on Monday she would introduce legislation tracking carbon emissions of White House and executive branch officials. 

“This bill will expose the hypocrisy of government officials who are targeting biofuel and fossil fuels, while they themselves are relying on fossil fuel powered transportation, like President Biden’s climate czar John Kerry, who just finished a trip to Europe on the taxpayers dime, using, and folks you guessed it, fossil fuel powered transportation,” she said.

Throughout Ernst’s reign in office, she has been reluctant to link Iowa’s severe weather patterns — like flooding, droughts, and the derecho — to human-caused climate change. Ernst supported former President Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and the League of Conservation Voters has given Ernst a lifetime score of 4 percent, a number that is calculated based on the amount of environmentally-friendly legislation a politician votes for. 

 Ernst critiqued Biden revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and halting the sale of oil and gas leases on federal lands. She said the Biden administration targeting energy sources they rely on was “coastal elitism and hypocrisy at its worst.”

Ernst also touched on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that was signed by Biden on March 11. The bill passed without any Republican support in the Senate or the House. 

RELATED: Chuck Grassley criticized Democratic Senators’ decision to pass a COVID-19 relief package despite a lack of bipartisanship 

She said she wants lawmakers to have more time to read and digest impactful legislation before voting on it.

“Both parties are failing at this, but they’ll propose last minute pieces of legislation that are extremely impactful on our pocketbook and as far as policy, but we haven’t had time to read through the entirety of the bill,” Ernst said. “We have to implement those types of measures. We have to make sure that we’re allowed the time to not only read it, but to understand the implications to our own state.”

Ernst said the stimulus payments included in the relief bill are great for families who truly need it, but that she has also heard from people who have been working throughout the pandemic and do not have a need for their check. 

“At some point in the very near future we do expect that the Democrats to pay for all of this will end up raising taxes, and that will be extremely unpopular, for all the goodies that were handed out in this package,” she said.

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