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Iowa Gov. Reynolds contends that the overhaul of state government is already showing results.

A sweeping reorganization to streamline Iowa state government services has been completed and is already turning into an improvement after just three months, Gov. Kim Reynolds said, even as some worry the massive transition consolidates the governor’s power and reduces accountability.

Reynolds proposed the alignment as one of his top priorities at the start of the year, envisioning shrinking the number of departments from 37 to 16 and eliminating more than 500 positions. He signed the legislation on April 4 after it passed without significant changes.

Reynolds said 16 beefed-up agencies are now fully operational, and are already seeing “measurable results.”

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“I think sometimes it’s hard to grasp the size and scope of this initiative, especially with such an aggressive timeline,” Reynolds said Tuesday. “One of the most compelling reasons why alignment is right for Iowans is the early success stories we’re hearing in state government.”

Reynolds also unveiled a new state logo with the tagline “Freedom to Flourish,” which he said will bring all departments together under one unified brand and “send an encouraging message that in Iowa, you can reach your potential.”

What are the main departments?

The administration touts the reorganization as an effort to eliminate redundancies across agencies by allowing areas of commonality to remain under one roof and subject to consistent oversight, technologies and procedures.

In particular, the Department of Inspection, Appeals and Licensing has absorbed many licensing services that were in other departments. The director, Larry Johnson, said Tuesday that he has already seen dramatic reductions in case backlogs and the average response time to requests.

Johnson said he had a “leaner and more efficient” process when he brought together “talented, passionate, hard-working civil servants who were doing similar jobs as their counterparts in other departments, questioning the process with the aim of improving our services.”

The Division of Labor, Division of Workers’ Compensation, and the Civil Rights Commission were also combined into Johnson’s department.

The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services are both similar in size and scope.

Each department has its own director to oversee all operations under the new agency. The director is appointed by the governor and serves at his pleasure, the new law states.

Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday touted so-called “early success stories” stemming from a state government realignment supported by his administration. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergel)

What are the benefits?

The state said the restructuring is expected to save more than $200 million over the next four years, largely by eliminating about 500 positions that were not vacant.

Kelly Garcia, director of health and human services, said the divisions had been doing overlapping work for years before the consolidation.

“They were duplicates or different, they were disconnected,” Garcia said. “I’ve seen ions get stuck in our system, get thrown around and sometimes have really bad results.”

Reynolds and his department heads also referred to the agencies as a “one-stop shop” for services, where before Evans had to visit multiple agencies for a single issue.

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What are the concerns?

Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that a small number of political appointees now have more power, greater breadth and depth in their agencies.

“There’s not a person in this room who doesn’t want accountable, smooth government,” state Sen. Pam Jochum, now the leader of the Democratic caucus, said during the debate. “In my humble opinion, what we’re putting at risk is oversight and accountability. I believe what’s happening is a government that’s going to be less accountable to everyday citizens.”

Some pointed out that important human rights functions, such as the Civil Rights Commission and departments dedicated to resources for blind and deaf Iowans, are now buried in other agencies, which may give their directors less authority to advocate for Iowans who need these services.

Compared to local board members, the director of the Department of Corrections now has authority over operations serving more than 30,000 people. Across the state, community and county leaders have questioned how effective the program will be when they don’t have control over their services.

The law also gives the state attorney general more authority, specifying that departments may not seek outside legal counsel and that the attorney general may prosecute any case on behalf of the state, even if a county attorney does not request such intervention. Specifically, the law mandates that the Attorney General alone investigate allegations of election malpractice.

Who is affected?

All Iowans are likely to be affected in some way by the reorganization of state government, whether it’s where they go or who they contact for the services they need.

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Reynolds said Tuesday that more than 2,600 state employees moved to a new department as part of the reorganization. He reported that department heads have communicated regularly with employees to ensure a smooth transition, and that many have had or will have the opportunity to move on and take on new responsibilities.

Source by [Fox News]



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