Kim Reynolds wants to cut Iowa boards and commissions. Lawmakers disagree about how much

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Iowa lawmakers are planning to reduce the number of state boards and commissions this year — but the extent of the cuts is still up for debate.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed a wide-ranging plan that would eliminate more than 100 boards and commissions, as well as repeal the requirement that boards and conditions have a balance of men and women serving.

The Iowa Senate is advancing Reynolds' bill, Senate Study Bill 3172. But the House is moving a narrower bill, House Study Bill 710, that would eliminate about 49 boards and commissions, largely ones that one lawmaker described as "defunct or duplicative.

Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.

More: Iowa panel recommends cutting 111 state boards and commissions. Here's what that means:

What concerns are there about eliminating Iowa boards and commissions?

Iowans crowded into a Senate subcommittee room Wednesday to speak about the governor's bill, raising concerns about how it would affect a number of professions that require licensing by combining boards that govern multiple separate professions.

One of the changes would combine the Electrical Examining Board, the Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board and the State Building Code Board of review into a single Building and Construction Occupations Board.

"We believe those boards should retain their autonomy going forward," said Jon Murphy, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades. "They’re productive, they’re effective and they are important in worker safety and frankly the safety of Iowans."

Another change would eliminate the commissions on the Status of African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Persons with Disabilities, the Status of Women, Native American Affairs and Latino Affairs and transfer those commissions' duties to the Human Rights Board, which would be reduced in size.

More: Which Iowa boards and commissions could be cut or consolidated? See the list and report

Keenan Crow, policy and advocacy director for the LGBTQ rights group One Iowa, raised concerns about grouping the different commissions together.

"These are all very disparate which is why they were given different commissions," Crow said. "And those community-specific commissions deserve to continue to represent those communities accordingly."

Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, said she appreciated the "passionate" comment that senators heard Wednesday and said she plans to incorporate some of the feedback into an amendment to the bill.

"We’re not seriously here to create legislation that’s going to create issues in those professions or in those occupations or in those communities," she said. "So I appreciate the comment and I think that it’s going to make it a better bill."

Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire
Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire

House, Senate take different approaches to cutting boards and commissions

In the House, lawmakers passed their own bill through the State Government Committee Wednesday with bipartisan support.

Rep. Jane Bloomingdale, R-Northwood, who chairs the House State Government Committee, said her members didn't have time to consider the full bill filed by Reynolds. She said she wanted to focus on areas where there would be more agreement, and she pledged to keep working on the legislation.

"This isn’t perfect, we all know that," she said. "But I think it’s good and I will look to address a couple of the concerns that were brought up."

While the vote on the Senate bill split along party lines, House Democrats were largely supportive of their chamber's version.

"I really appreciate your efforts that have gone into this, talking to stakeholders, talking to the minority party, making this a bipartisan effort," Rep. Adam Zabner, D-Iowa City, said to Bloomingdale. "I think this bill is much stronger than what’s going on over in the Senate."

More: Kim Reynolds proposes in annual speech to boost Iowa teacher pay, overhaul AEAs, cut taxes

Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City, urged the Senate to take up the House's bill and use it as a starting point, rather than the governor's proposal. She said the shorter House subcommittee meeting on Wednesday showed the House has done a better job than the Senate at dealing with any concerns about the bill.

"A lot of people who were here today weren’t there because their concerns have already been met," she said.

Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City
Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City

Cournoyer said she expects to work with the House on amending the bill as it moves forward.

"I think we’re going to start with the governor’s bill and potentially with this amendment dial back based on some of the feedback that we’ve gotten from the public," she said. "So hopefully we’ll work with the House to meet in the middle somewhere."

Why is Iowa cutting boards and commissions?

Reynolds' recommendations come from a committee established as part of a massive state government reorganization plan she signed into law last year that reduced cabinet-level state government agencies from 37 to 16.

The law established a Boards and Commissions Review Committee, which met several times last year to develop a report with recommendations which forms the basis for Reynolds' proposal.

Reynolds' bill would eliminate 111 of Iowa's 256 boards and commissions while leaving 145 in place — a 43% reduction.

The bill would also require every remaining board and commission to be reviewed once every four years going forward to determine whether it should continue to exist.

Molly Severn, a legislative liaison and deputy chief of staff for Reynolds said the review process would "prevent unchecked growth" of the number of boards and commissions in the state.

Gender balance repeal could be passed as separate bill

Reynolds' current bill does contain language eliminating the gender balance requirement for boards and commissions, but Cournoyer said the Senate may remove that language.

That's because senators are also moving a separate bill, Senate File 2096, that would eliminate the gender balance requirement for boards and commissions.

"I think it’s likely we might be removing that because it’s being covered in another bill," she said. "We’ll see."

More: Iowa GOP lawmakers advance bill repealing gender balance rule for boards and commissions

According to the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, about 50% of Iowa county boards and commissions had achieved gender balance between 2013 and 2014. Between 2021 and 2022, it was about 62% — an improvement, but still far short of all.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa House, Senate at odds on reducing boards and commissions