Sep 6, 2023 - News

Iowa nonprofits concerned over proposed commission cuts

Illustration of the Iowa State Capitol building with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A state committee is proposing the elimination of more than 25% of Iowa's boards and commissions, Iowa Capital Dispatch reports.

  • Some of the boards recommended for consolidation or elimination are no longer funded or are redundant, chairperson of the committee Kraig Paulsen said last week during a public meeting.

Why it matters: Nonprofits are telling Axios that the preliminary proposal to change, consolidate or eliminate 100+ state boards and commissions could hurt Iowans' oversight of the government.

  • Boards and commissions are a way for citizens to give the government their advice and expertise, ranging from the Iowa State Fair and childcare to water quality and the arts.

Flashback: Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law last session that overhauled and reorganized government agencies.

  • The new law called for creating a "Boards and Commissions Review Committee" to examine and reorganize the state's 256 boards and commissions.
  • That board is required to give the governor a final recommendation by Sept. 30, Dispatch reports, but the Legislature ultimately decides on any action.

What they're saying: Iowa Farmers Union is a nonprofit focusing on family farms and sustainable agriculture.

  • President Aaron Lehman sits on the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Board, one of the boards recommended for elimination. The center at Iowa State works on improving agriculture's impact on the environment.
  • "(Elimination) would mean fewer opportunities for ordinary people to interact with important state agencies, and in this case, an important center at Iowa State University," Lehman says.

Zoom in: For Iowa Hunger Coalition and America's Service Commission, a big concern is the proposed elimination of the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, also known as Volunteer Iowa, their leaders tell Axios.

  • Volunteer Iowa is the state partner for the national AmeriCorps program. Between 2022-23, more than 7,800 people volunteered throughout the state through AmeriCorps.
  • Luke Elzinga, chairperson of the Iowa Hunger Coalition, says eliminating Volunteer Iowa puts federal funding for the state's AmeriCorps program at risk. The program was started by former Gov. Robert Ray and promoted by former Gov. Terry Branstad.
  • "I was very surprised to see it proposed for elimination," Rachel Bruns, chief engagement officer of America's Service Commissions tells Axios. "I'm hoping it was an oversight or mistake or a misunderstanding of the federal ... requirements."

Of note: Axios reached out to Volunteer Iowa and was redirected to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Spokesperson Alex Carfrae said HHS does not have any additional details and encourages Iowans to give their own recommendations to the Board and Commissions Review Committee.

What's next: A public hearing regarding the proposal is scheduled for noon today at the capitol in room #103.


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