116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board, by law, is supposed to have three members. No more than two can be members of one political party. Board members are appointed by the governor but must be confirmed a two-thirds majority of the Iowa Senate to serve.
The board handles disputes involving public employees. According to its mission statement, the board exists “To promote harmonious and cooperative relationships between government and its employees without disruption of public services, via the expert and timely services of a neutral agency.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds has made a mockery of the board’s function and mission.
According to reporting by the political news site Bleeding Heartland, In April 2020, according to reporting by the political news website Bleeding Heartland, Reynolds appointed Erik Helland, a former Republican state lawmaker, to the board. But at the end of the 2021 session, she withdrew his nomination when it became clear he would lack the 34 Senate votes for confirmation. Then, in July 2021, after lawmakers adjourned, she appointed Helland to the board as its chair. He served with Jane Defoe, another Republican appointed last year, with a third seat remaining vacant.
So much for “neutral.”
During the 2022 session, Helland again lacked the support needed for confirmation. And last month, Reynolds once again appointed him to the board. This time he replaces Defoe, who left the board, leaving two seats empty and the board without a quorum.
Reynolds’ end run around the mandated confirmation process should not be tolerated by senators. The board does an important job. Its members are full-time employees. Helland earned $97,460 annually as chair of the board. She’s not just making common recess appointments. She’s putting Helland on a state board knowing full well that he would not be confirmed to the job.
But this is a part of a far larger problem. The Republican Legislature has fully abdicated its duty to provide oversight of executive branch actions. Simply because Reynolds and majority lawmakers are on the same political team, checks and balances are in tatters.
Helland should step down. Reynolds should appoint three board members in accordance to state law and with the mandated party balance. And if her appointments lack the support to be confirmed, she should pick other candidates. Boards and commissions serve all Iowans. They’re not playthings for a governor to fill with her friends by any means necessary.
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