Since many bills failed to clear the key “first funnel” deadline, lawmakers have shifted their focus to debating active legislation on the floor and crafting government spending measures.
Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill Tuesday allocating more than $13 million to address K-12 funding inequities. SF 2164 authorizes $7.2 million to assist school districts with above-average transportation costs. An additional $5.9 million will fill a gap in the state’s school funding formula that forces some districts to spend less money per pupil than others. The bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this month, 48-0. The House also overwhelmingly supported the measure, 98-1. Discussions are ongoing in both chambers about the larger school funding issue. The Senate is proposing a 2.1% increase in spending, while the House is calling for 2.5%. Reynolds also asked for a 2.5% increase in her January Condition of the State address.
Meanwhile, the Senate confirmed two major Reynolds Administration appointments. The chamber unanimously confirmed Kelly Garcia to serve as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). Garcia took over leadership of the agency in November. She previously served in Texas as a deputy executive commissioner at the state’s Health and Human Services Commission. The Senate also overwhelmingly supported the nomination of Kayla Lyon to head the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), voting 43-7 in favor of her confirmation. Lyon previously served as the governor’s legislative liaison and advisor on agriculture and natural resources policy. Reynolds tapped her to head the agency in June. Lyon is the first woman to serve in the role.
In other Executive branch news, the head of the state’s Department of Administrative Services (DAS) announced he will resign effective March 6. Reynolds tapped Jim Kurtenbach to lead the agency, which largely deals with human resources issues, in June. He had yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Kurtenbach is a former Iowa State University professor; former Republican state representative; and former co-chair of the Republican Party of Iowa. In his resignation letter Kurtenbach said he was proud of the improved culture at DAS. Reynolds said in a news release that she is conducting a nationwide search for his replacement.