The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Politics Notebook | Iowa lawmakers advance supplemental state aid proposal

The state Auditor’s Office also refused documents in an Iowa Parole Board probe.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Lawmakers sit in the house chamber during the first day of the 2024 Iowa legislative session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

Iowa House Republicans advanced a bill Thursday to allow 3 percent of growth in Supplemental State Aid to Iowa’s public school districts.

House Study Bill 712 passed the Iowa House Education Committee along party lines, 15-8, on Thursday afternoon.

Iowa’s public school districts receive supplemental state aid, or SSA, in addition to local property tax levy revenue to fund the school districts. Under Iowa Law, the Iowa Legislature must pass the state percent of growth by the 30th day of the session but lawmakers are only now considering the proposal a day before the legislative deadline.

During a short subcommittee meeting on the bill on Thursday morning Rep. Molly Buck, D-Ankeny, said she hoped for a higher percent of growth to meet the needs of Iowa school districts due to rising costs.

“I want to emphasize the sheer commitment that we all have toward the betterment of our education system,” Buck said. “It is the cornerstone of a prosperous and thriving society and I know that we all want the best for our children. I just think we really need to examine this 3 percent and I question whether it really aligns with our values and priorities.”

Buck said she recognized the need for fiscal responsibility and a balanced, efficient budget, but said the proposed growth percentage is not enough.

Rep. Phil Thompson, R-Jefferson, chaired the subcommittee on the bill and said the bill is just one small piece of a larger budgetary puzzle and he wanted to ensure the proposal didn’t get too ambitious and over-encumber the state budget, thus it remained at 3 percent.

“I’m proud of this investment, proud of the fact that we’re pairing this with the teacher pay and investing in our schools,” Thompson said. “I think our budget does reflect our priorities and along with our responsibility to pass a balanced budget at the end of the day.”

The proposal was introduced with an increase to the teacher pay supplemental aid category and was considered later in the afternoon.

Auditor’s office says state agency hid documents under law passed last year

The Iowa Parole Board refused to provide documents to the Iowa State Auditor’s office surrounding alleged violations of Iowa’s Parole Board law that requires that any parole hearings to have at least one regularly appointed member of the Iowa Parole Board, according to a report by the Auditor’s office released Thursday.

Under Iowa law, the Board of Parole separately appoints alternate members in case a member of the board becomes unavailable or becomes disqualified. However, Iowa law also requires all hearings to have at least one member of the regular Parole Board.

A whistleblower alleged to the auditor’s office that the board violated Iowa law by allowing hearings with only alternate members to proceed. According to a report by the State Auditor’s office, the Parole Board refused to produce related cases for review by the office to ensure the board followed the proper steps to make the hearing complaint.

According to the report, the Parole Board refused to provide the documents, instead asking for a new letter of engagement, citing a law signed into law in 2023 that limited the State Auditor’s office’s ability to obtain documents during investigations and audits.

“Because of the most pro-corruption law in the state’s history, one that allows state agencies to hide documents and the truth from taxpayers, corruption and secrecy grows in Iowa,” Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand said in a news release. “And it will continue to grow as Republican insiders double-down on destroying checks and balances and independent oversight of government.”

Iowa Board of Parole Chair Renee Schulte said in a statement that engagement letters are industry standard and set out the rights of both parties.

“Audit engagement letters set out the rights and responsibilities of the parties to the audit, for the benefit of both the auditor and the agency,” Schulte said in a statement provided by the governor’s office to The Daily Iowan. “As noted in the audit report, the Board of Parole requested an engagement letter as required in Iowa law. The auditor refused to provide one.”

The report by the Auditor’s office stated the law makes no mention of an engagement letter, and that the Iowa Department of Management and Department of Administrative Services sign an engagement letter for the State of Iowa with the Auditor’s office every year.

House bill to gut local library boards on pause

House Study Bill 678, a bill introduced to hand over more authority of public libraries to city councils, has been put on pause.

Reps. Carter Nordman, R-Adel, and Shannon Latham, R-Sheffield, released a statement to the Iowa Library Association and library advocates on Thursday. According to the statement, the bill has started conversations between city and library boards across the state.

“The House Local Government Committee has the votes to proceed with HSB 678 this week, however, we believe there is some work yet to be done on the language of this bill along with [Iowa Library Association] to ensure there are no unintended consequences,” Nordman and Latham wrote in their joint statement.

The members of the Iowa Library Association leadership team will meet with Nordman and Latham next week.

“In the interest of working in good faith with all stakeholders, we will pause on moving this bill forward at this time,” Nordman and Latham wrote.

Sam Helmick, the Iowa Library Association Government Affairs Chair, released a statement to ILA members and advocates addressing the bill pause.

“Your messages to legislators helped spur conversation between legislators and several community leaders, many library board members, passionate library workers, and hundreds upon hundreds of those served by Iowa libraries every day,” Helmick wrote in their statement.

Helmick said the ILA will continue to work to address these concerns at a local level.

“We will continue to encourage these conversations away from the Statehouse and back to the local level where our members believe communicating locally is the best way to address them,” Helmick wrote.

The leadership team at ILA is invited to meet with Norman and Latham next week, but no additional details have been released.

Christina Bohannan receives Planned Parenthood endorsement

Christina Bohannan, a Democratic candidate for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Thursday.

Bohannan is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, who co-sponsored a draft of a national abortion ban that does not contain exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

“There is an assault on abortion access happening here in Iowa,” Bohannan said. “My opponent is hellbent on forcing the government into decisions that should be between a woman and her doctor. As a mother, this fight is personal. Iowans can always count on me to stand up for their freedoms in Congress.”

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About the Contributors
Liam Halawith
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.
Natalie Miller
Natalie Miller, Politics Reporter
Natalie Miller is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her position as a Politics Reporter, Natalie was a News Reporter focusing on Higher Education.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.