After two months without meetings to address the ongoing pandemic, Democratic leaders in Iowa criticized Gov. Kim Reynolds for vacant positions on the State Board of Health.
Those vacancies mean a lack of quorum, which has prevented the board from meeting regularly to form public health policies for the state and to advise the governor on steps she should take.
Out of the required 11 members, there are now only four. The board is required to be politically balanced, but its current makeup is three Republicans and one Independent/No Party.
Reps. Ross Wilburn and Jennifer Konfrst, with Sens. Liz Mathis and Zach Wahls, agreed this lack of meetings is unacceptable during a pandemic and at a time in which cases and hospitalizations are rising again.
“It’s not just the fact that one meeting has been missed,” Konfrst said. “It’s the symbolism behind the fact that Gov. Reynolds doesn’t seem to want to hear from experts when it comes to the issues facing our state.”
According to the government website, the State Board of Health meets seven or eight times a year. Four of those meetings have happened so far, but the July 14 meeting was canceled because the board is missing seven people.
The last time the board met was on May 12.
“We are hearing nothing about how schools are going to be kept safe this fall,” Konfrst said. “Once again, districts are being left to their own devices to figure out what they can do amid a bunch of laws that have been implemented for political purposes without considering how to keep those kids in those schools safe.”
The Democratic leaders also pointed out that filling vacancies for state boards are part of Reynolds’ job and her failure to appoint new people is a basic failure of leadership on her part.
Most of the seven vacancies are because the three-year terms expired, according to Mathis. She also said that as far as she’s aware, there were enough applicants for those positions as they became open.
Mathis said Senate Democrats met with a representative from Reynolds’ office who only told them that the office is running behind because of absences.
“This should have been done by now,” she said. “This is mismanagement and it’s going to slow any kind of potential solutions for what will go on with the pandemic and in overall public health.”
Wahls said there were no Iowa Senate discussions or disagreements about nominees for these vacancies during the legislative session.
“The reason that there’s a lack of a quorum is that the governor has deferred many positions on that board,” Wahls said. He added some of those included people who were already serving and wanted to continue serving, and so would only have needed extensions.
“We need real leadership to help us to reverse the course that we’re on and I’m calling on Gov. Reynolds to do her job,” Wilburn said.
by Nikoel Hytrek