Reynolds to inherit a range of issues in transition
DES MOINES (AP) — Now that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to China, a quick transition is expected for Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds to step into the top post.
Branstad, 70, will resign as governor today in his formal office at the Capitol, according to details released Tuesday. He’ll then be sworn in immediately as ambassador.
Reynolds will be sworn in as governor shortly after that in the Capitol rotunda, where she’s expected to give a speech.
Reynolds, 57, will inherit a range of issues in her new job.
Here’s a look at five of them:
After last-minute disagreements between the Republican-controlled House and Senate, Iowa lawmakers failed to approve a bill this year that would have provided a clear funding plan for water quality initiatives in the state. The issue dominated the 2016 legislative session amid a lawsuit filed by a Des Moines water utility that accused three Iowa counties of wrongly allowing runoff from farms to enter the water that the utility cleans for distribution.
The lawsuit citing Calhoun, Buena Vista and Sac counties was dismissed this year.
The Iowa Department of Human Services, which oversees child welfare, has been under scrutiny following the October death of a teenage girl who had been part of the state’s foster care and adoption systems. The girl, Natalie Finn, was allegedly abused and starved by her parents, who face charges in the death. The death this month of a second teenage girl, Sabrina Ray, under similar circumstances is expected to put more pressure on lawmakers and Reynolds to take action within the agency.
Some Republicans announced recently plans for a joint government oversight committee to examine the agency and consider changes. At least one Democrat has called on the agency director to resign.
Since taking control of both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office in November, Iowa Republicans have indicated an interest in approving tax cuts. Branstad said budget constraints prevented him from supporting such a plan when lawmakers came back to the Capitol in January.
Reynolds has been purposely mum on any specific policy plans she may have for when she’s governor, but she’s become more vocal in recent weeks about a push next session for tax cuts that would benefit individuals and businesses.
Exact plans aren’t available yet.
Lawmakers were told before the start of this year’s session that they would need to cut more than $110 million from the current state budget, which required mid-year reductions to government agencies. A budget projection in March forced lawmakers to tap into a rainy day fund to offset another shortfall of about $130 million. It translated into a stagnant state budget of roughly $7.2 billion that led lawmakers to make cuts to several agencies, including the board that oversees the state’s three public universities.
Reynolds will face questions over whether she might restore some of the cuts in the future.
Republicans this year approved the creation of a state-run family planning program that excludes organizations that perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood. GOP lawmakers also passed legislation that bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A provision in the new law that requires a 72-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion is on hold amid a legal challenge.
The legislative moves were major wins for conservatives in the state, though Planned Parenthood and Democrats have voiced concern over the impact to health care in rural Iowa.
Reynolds, who spoke at an anti-abortion rally at the Capitol this year, will be expected to push for more restrictions. Several GOP lawmakers attempted to ban abortion altogether, though such a proposal is certain to face a lawsuit over its constitutionality.