Legislature to Convene, Life to Go On

Capitol Dome

This morning our local newspaper, the Iowa City Press Citizen, ran an Associated Press story about Iowa GOP priorities during the legislative session convening today. The party is intent on re-making Iowa’s governance. By the end of this two-year general assembly they seem likely to touch every aspect of it.

We won’t hear much about Democratic priorities as Republicans continue to control both chambers of the Iowa legislature. What Democrats would have done this session faded into the history of the 2018 midterm elections. Those issues are likely to be forgotten and practically speaking, already have been. Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin famously said government is like a car’s transmission. When in D (Democratic control) the state moves forward. When in R (Republican control) the state moves in reverse.We are a red state for at least the next two years and it’s up to the Republicans to make progress.

I certainly would hope the governor will reach out to Democrats,” Senate Minority Leader Janet Peterson told the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “I think there’s a number of issues where we can come together and come up with bipartisan solutions.”

Time will tell, although it won’t take much time for the truth about bipartisan possibilities to reveal itself.

In our household there are some concerns.

When the IPERS pension system completed its last biennial review, Republicans brought in a Koch Brothers backed organization called the Reason Foundation to assist. After public conversation about potentially changing IPERS, the backlash was such that House Speaker Linda Upmeyer is saying no changes are contemplated. Governor Reynolds publicly agreed. Politically, it would be dumb for Republicans to reverse course on IPERS during this general assembly.

Governor Kim Reynolds will support her predecessor’s decision to privatize Medicaid, one of the most contentious issues in the 2018 midterms.

“We got off to a bad start,” Reynolds acknowledged to the Des Moines Register. “We took on probably more than we should have. We should have phased it in. And we probably tried to — we talked too much about savings.”

Newly sworn in State Auditor Rob Sand has pledged to perform an audit of the state’s Medicaid program to supplement what his predecessor produced after the midterm elections.

Reynolds is right to a degree. The measure of success or failure of privatized Medicaid will be how clients, practitioners and health organizations are treated by the managed care organizations. The cost of Medicaid to Iowans will matter as well. By almost all accounts, service to these constituencies sucked immediately after implementation. The measure of Republican success in improving Medicaid privatization after a disastrous implementation will be the degree to which patients see less hassle receiving care the program was designed to deliver. The administrative aspects of the program, including timely payment of providers, will matter as well. Will the care get better? Will providers get timely paid? Will there be savings? It seems too early to tell.

One of the things we like about Iowa has been fairness in governance. We have proven and fair methods for nominating judges to the bench and for redistricting after the decennial U.S. Census. Voter rights came under attack during the last general assembly and it was recently learned voters who should have been able to vote were disenfranchised by clerical errors originating in the Secretary of State’s office. For Iowa to be Iowa, it is important to maintain fairness in governance which includes making voting as inclusive as possible. All three of these areas of governance are expected to be reviewed this year.

Republicans will do what they do. They don’t seem concerned about backlash and believe they are doing what Iowans want. They won the 2018 elections and now we get another chance to see how they govern. If the 88th Iowa General Assembly is like the 87th, I believe they won’t maintain their majority beyond the next election.

I’ll be watching for points of leverage to influence the legislature, like there was during the IPERS discussion. For the time being, life will go on as we sustain our lives in a turbulent world.

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