We were hoping Gov. Kim Reynolds would use her veto pen more aggressively as she sized up the final work product of the 2018 legislative session.
She could have, for instance, vetoed misguided legislation slashing funding for energy efficiency programs. After all, the Iowa Energy Plan she guided to completion as lieutenant governor strongly emphasizes the need for efficiency efforts.
Reynolds could have deleted numerous provisions tucked into budget bills in the session’s waning hours, bad ideas that couldn’t stand scrutiny as separate legislation. Language targeting the University of Iowa Community Credit Union comes to mind, among others.
In myriad ways, Reynolds’ failure to push back against legislative excess has been disappointing. Responsible governing should outweigh the bonds of party loyalty.
That said, Reynolds did smartly use a line-item veto to strike one bad idea. She vetoed a legislative directive to shut down a promising criminal justice reform pilot program in Polk County.
The county has been using Public Safety Assessments since January to help decide which criminal defendants should be eligible for pretrial release.
The assessments are intended to gauge a defendant’s risk to reoffend or fail to show up for trial.
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Judges still make the ultimate decision on release, but the assessment process is designed to address racial and income disparities and other non-public safety factors that can affect those decisions. Fewer people sitting in jail awaiting trial can save money at a time when justice system resources are scarce.
Lobbyists for bail bonds businesses persuaded lawmakers to terminate the program. They stand to lose money if assessments lead judges to order bail less often. But Reynolds’ veto sustains it through year’s end, when data on the effort will be assessed.
“If, after studying the data and research conclusions, it is found that this program will be in the best interests of the public, then new legislation should be considered that authorizes the PSA or similar risk-assessment tools,” Reynolds wrote in her veto message.
It’s a promising pilot program that could be used statewide, and Reynolds made the right call in preserving it.
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