The Republican Party’s state chairman said Democrats have nothing to complain about when it comes to a series of Republican bills adopted in the final days of the Iowa Legislature’s 2019 session.
“These are Emmy-winning performances in terms of the feigned surprise,” Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in the IowaWatch Connection radio report airing the recently concluded weekend of May 3-5.
Last-minute items routinely get inserted into the state’s funding and human resources funding bills, where key items concerning Democrats landed, during legislative sessions’ last days, Kaufmann said. “Those particular budgets almost always have something controversial,” he said.
Moves drawing the ire of Democrats as the session ended April 27 included banning the use of Medicaid money for gender re-assignment surgery, withholding funding from Planned Parenthood and prohibiting the state attorney general from filing out-of-state lawsuits unless the governor, state Executive Council and Iowa Legislature approve.
“When was the last time that a budget bill was used to take away the power of a statewide elected official who most recently just won re-election with over 75 percent of the vote?” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Tony Price asked, rhetorically.
Attorney General Tom Miller is a Democrat while the governor’s office, Executive Council and Legislature are controlled by Republicans. Miller won re-election last year with 76.5 percent of the qualified votes, 880,531 to 262,131 over Libertarian Marco Battaglia. Another 8,237 write-in votes were counted in the election.
While critical of many moves Republicans made in the last days of the Legislature, Price said Republicans sneaked in the decision to withhold Medicaid funding from people seeking gender reassignment surgery.
“If this was something that they wanted to have a conversation about then we should have had the conversation. This should have been up for debate for a while,” Price said.
“They didn’t want that conversation. They didn’t want that debate.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed the new bill restricting gender reassignment Medicaid funding, and also prohibiting state funding for Planned Parenthood, into law on May 3.
Kaufmann said Democrats knew Republicans were concerned about state funding for gender reassignment surgery, esepcially after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on March 8 that prohibiting the use of state-supported Medicaid health care coverage violated Iowa Civil Rights Act provision for gender-identity protections. The Iowa Department of Human Services had determined that the surgery is cosmetic.
“It’s not that there isn’t two sides to that issue,” Kaufmann said. “It’s a legitimate debate. I don’t think anybody is surprised by the sides that were drawn on that. But certainly after that Supreme Court decision came out, there was absolutely no surprise that it was emerging.”
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Christopher Larimer, University of Northern Iowa professor of political science, said in the IowaWatch radio program that this year’s session showed two things: being in the majority matters but that having unified control like Republicans have had doesn’t mean you get everything you want.
Reynolds’ push for restoring felon voting rights failed, for example, as a bill she pushed expanding access to contraceptives.
“Thinking about this session, it’s not defined by one bill,” Larimer said, “but that’s not to say that Republicans did not push a conservative agenda because they very much did.”