Each year, as the Iowa Legislature stumbles toward adjournment, one last budget bill moves through the House and Senate. It’s known as the “standings” bill, and it’s often a vehicle for the sort of ill-conceived, last-minute lawmaking Iowans shouldn’t stand for.
This year was no exception.
Take a wide-ranging amendment to the bill offered by majority Republicans and floor managed by Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, just before lawmakers adjourned Saturday. It included a wide range of provisions addressing subjects as varied as podiatry, cattle guards and sexually violent predators.
One curious section would bar statewide elected officials and legislators from spending public dollars on any promotional materials or advertisements bearing their name or likeness, or using their voice. Think voter information sent out by Secretary of State Paul Pate, or newspaper ads for the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, featuring Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald. Even the governor’s annual booth at the State Fair would be targeted by the prohibition.
Officeholders who run afoul will reimburse the state using campaign funds. The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure office would be charged with enforcing the rules.
Maybe you like the idea, and maybe you don’t. But if it’s such a great concept, why did bills attempting to do the same thing stall back in March without clearing the House or Senate? Thanks to the fact the measure didn’t go through a full legislative vetting, we have no idea how much money it would actually save, whether this is a problem in need of solving or what unintended consequences it might spawn.
Will elected officials continue to provide information, sans self-promotion, or will they turn to their campaign operations to promote their duties? Will once informative mailings become political pitches? Will the governor’s State Fair booth become a campaign rally? Does the ethics office, with its staff of six, have the resources to police promotions alongside its other duties?
Ditto with another provision in that last-minute amendment, prohibiting any Iowa credit from using a name that includes “the name of any public university located in the state.” It’s clearly targeting the University of Iowa Community Credit Union, landing one last jab in the pitched, session-long battle between credit unions and banks over taxes.
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Is this good public policy, targeting a single business for legislative retribution? We’ve seen no public evidence the University of Iowa asked for this change. And what other Iowa businesses have names lawmakers don’t like? Will be see similar action to change them?
Gov. Kim Reynolds should aim her line-item veto pen squarely at the standings bill, starting with these misguided provisions.
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