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Panel proposes paying members of three state boards $10,000 a year


Panel proposes paying members of three state boards $10,000 a year

Sep 26, 2023 | 6:34 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
Panel proposes paying members of three state boards $10,000 a year
Gov. Kim Reynolds gestures during a news conference about state government reorganizing and rebranding on July 18, 2023 at the State Capitol. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Members of the certain state boards would receive $10,000 a year for their service if lawmakers adopt recommendations of a panel charged with reorganization of Iowa’s boards and commissions.

In its final report released Tuesday, the Iowa Boards and Commissions Review Committee also recommended that state lawmakers and Gov. Kim Reynolds remove Iowa’s gender-balance requirements for board members, eliminate certain professional continuing education obligations and consolidate or remove more than 100 boards and commissions.

Committee members said the state should provide an annual salary of $10,000 to members of Iowa’s Board of Regents, Board of Education, and Council on Health and Human Services.  The report said pay was appropriate because of the “significant responsibilities and require a significant breadth of expertise” required from those serving.

There are currently nine governor-appointed members on the regents board, nine voting members on the education board with one non-voting student member, and seven in the health and human services board. If all voting members received $10,000, the cost to the state would be $250,000 a year.

Other recommendations include removing certain rulemaking and budget approval powers from state agency oversight boards. The panel recommended allowing virtual and hybrid meeting participation at board meetings, and allowing boards to only meet as necessary.

The report was sent to Reynolds and state legislators following the committee’s last meeting Monday. The body was tasked with reviewing Iowa’s boards and commissions as part of Reynolds’ government reorganization plan, signed into law in April, which consolidated 37 executive-level cabinet agencies in the state to 16.

Plan aims to reduce size, cost of government

Reynolds and Republican lawmakers who supported the bill said the restructuring project was taken on to reduce the size and cost of government. Committee chair Kraig Paulsen, director of the Iowa Department of Management, said Monday the review of boards and commissions meets the same goal.

“I realized some struggle to conceive of a situation where government is smaller and less intrusive,” Paulsen said. “But everyday Iowans can conceive of that. And (with) smaller and less intrusive state government in mind, the Legislature assigned us to review what ended up being 256 boards and commissions … That is a lot of boards. I think the process we used, while no doubt a tight timeline, I think the process we use worked well. And we began an important conversation in state government.”

The committee recommended eliminating 111 of Iowa’s existing 256 boards and commissions, representing a 43% overall reduction, as well as having 450 fewer governor-appointed members serving on the remaining 145 panels.

After public feedback, the committee changed its recommendation to eliminate or merge some oversight and licensing bodies, including the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, the Board of Nursing Home Administrators and Iowa Board of Athletic Training.

Panel recommends regular review of existing boards

The final report also asks the Legislature and governor to implement provisions to ensure that creation of any new panels is justified and that existing boards and commissions are regularly evaluated to ensure they serve a purpose. Members wrote that eliminating a board or commission from Iowa Code is currently difficult, while creating such a body is easier.

“Iowans will benefit from a more regular conversation about the effectiveness of our boards and commissions,” the report states. “Most large enterprises and private corporations are constantly assessing and reassessing the strengths and weaknesses of their organizational structures, and state government should be no different.”

Proposal would eliminate some continuing education rules

The committee also called for the standardization and elimination of some occupational and professional licensing processes. One of the recommendations made in the report asked for the review of Iowa’s continuing education requirements, saying that boards should not have to establish these obligations without “a substantiated benefit to public health and safety.”

“Unreasonable continuing education requirements cost Iowa’s licensed workers time and money without improving public health and safety,” the committee report states. “This is essentially a tax. Like all taxes, this should be set by the Iowa legislature and narrowly tailored to allow working Iowans to keep their own money and make Iowa a competitive destination for the licensed workforce, while balancing necessary training for public health and safety.”

Gender-balance rule ‘constitutionally suspect’

The report also calls for the repeal of Iowa’s gender-balance requirement for state and local boards and commissions, that requires bodies have equal numbers of men and women serving. In the report, committee members wrote that the requirement prevents “the most qualified Iowans from serving” on panels, and that the goals of the 1987 rule have been met as women have held most major leadership positions in the state.

The gender-balance rule is also “constitutionally suspect,” according to the report, and negatively impacts both men and women. The report points to licensing boards for professions practiced overwhelmingly by one gender — though 90% of Iowans licensed in nursing, cosmetology, dietetics and occupational therapy are women, and 90% of Iowans licensed as engineers, electricians, and plumbers are men, boards overseeing these fields are required to have equal representation of men and women.

“Nearly half of Iowa’s population is systematically excluded from being considered for appointment to any seat on a board or commission,” the report states. “This exclusion is not based on merit, but instead on an immutable characteristic. And this inequity cuts both ways.”

Reynolds praised the committee’s findings in a statement Tuesday, saying the recommendations give insight into “the most effective and efficient way to preserve Iowans’ engagement in their government.” 

“This comprehensive review of Iowa’s 256 boards and commissions was recommended by the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, created as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and represents the first of its kind,” the governor said. “I look forward to submitting a bill to the legislature for consideration next year.” 

A Review of Iowa's Boards & Commissions