The Iowa State Capitol building Friday, July 31, 2020, in Des Moines.

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A year ago, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledged the toll that 2020 had taken as she delivered an upbeat message that Iowans were coming back despite being “beaten and battered in about every way imaginable and some unimaginable.”

“It’s been a year — and I’ll let you fill in whatever adjective you want,” the Republican said in her Condition of the State speech. “COVID-19. Civil unrest. A drought. A derecho. But together, we’ve met every challenge with bravery and outright grit.”

Throughout her speech, Reynolds referred to overcoming the health, weather and economic challenges of the previous year.

“Iowa’s coming back, and we’re coming back strong,” said Reynolds, who will deliver her fifth Condition of the State address to the Iowa Legislature at 6 p.m. Tuesday live on Iowa PBS.

“I know we are all eager to be vaccinated and turn the corner,” she said last year, adding that “wider distribution to more Iowans is imminent.”

However, Reynolds has refrained from implementing masking rules, turned down $95 million of federal money for COVID-19 testing in schools and continued to trust Iowans to make the right decisions about protecting themselves from COVID-19.

Over the past year, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Iowa has increased nearly three fold to about 500,000. Since Jan. 11, 2021, COVID-19 deaths have increased from 4,139 to 8,019.

Those numbers are evidence of Reynolds’ “failed leadership … not grounded in reality or common sense,” Cedar Rapids City Council member Ashley Vanorney sai. “Iowans continue to have hospitals bursting at the seams, (hospitals) are sending out repeated distress calls, and the whole state continues to be a hot spot for coronavirus spread … which ultimately has significant economic impact.”

Vanorney was among speakers Monday at a “People’s Condition of the State” event hosted Progress Iowa and featuring representative from a number of Democratic-leaning organizations. Among their concerns were Reynolds’ comments about changes to the state unemployment system, including changes already being implemented by Workforce Development.

Rick Moyle of the Hawkeye Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, said the state’s workforce issues weren’t because Iowans were unwilling to work. Iowa’s unemployment rate is just two-tenths of a percent lower than it was a year ago.

Rather, Iowa has tried to operate “as a low-wage, low-benefit state and for quite some time,” he asserted. “Our blue- and white-collar workers are fleeing the state because there's greater opportunity in surrounding states.”

Moyle called for raising the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — last increased in 2009 — reinstating public employee collective bargaining rights and undoing changes to workers’ compensation that limited which injured employees can get benefits and reduced compensation in some cases.

Republicans point to the ballot box as one indicator their polices have been right for Iowa.

However, Amy Adams of Progress Iowa said Reynolds and the GOP legislative majority is pushing a ”fringe agenda that is coming from a minority voice of Iowans.”

As the governor and legislators embark on a new session, Moyle said the coalition of labor, health care advocates and retirees is asking is “that they do what is right by everyday Iowans.”

This article originally ran on qctimes.com.


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