New bill proposes to crack down on out of control Board of Regents

New bill proposes to crack down on out of control Board of Regents

Join us at the state capitol Wednesday, February 20, at 8am as we prepare to testify on this important issue at an official Senate State Government subcommittee meeting!

Senator Jeff Danielson (D-Waterloo) introduced a good bill on February 13 that will bring accountability and transparency back to an Iowa Board of Regents that has been plagued by corporate ag scandal after scandal.

Senate Study Bill 1163 is a response to more than a year of controversy at the Board of Regents involving their president, Craig Lang, and president pro-tem, Bruce Rastetter.  Both Lang and Rastetter have close personal and financial connections to corporate agribusiness interests.

Last year, CCI members filed an ethics complaint against Rastetter after a batch of emails were disclosed by the Associated Press showing that Rastetter tried to use his regent connections to push Iowa State University into backing a land grab in Tanzania by Rastetter’s private multinational corporation, AgriSol.

CCI members were prevented from publicly addressing the Board of Regents last summer after we asked for time on their meeting agenda.  Around the same time, a coalition of students and faculty at University of Northern Iowa were also prevented from giving public comment opposing the closing of UNI’s Price Laboratory, and graduate student unionists at the University of Iowa were also denied an opportunity to address the regents.

If these scandals weren’t bad enough, last Fall, the Board of Regents hired Rasetter’s personal lobbyist and public relations officer, Joe Murphy, to become ISU’s new university lobbyist – without publishing the job opening, conducting an open search, or following the university’s diversity-in-hiring guidelines.

Of course, the big news the last few months has centered around Lang and Rastetter’s role intervening in university business at ISU as they attempted to weaken the mandate of the Tom Harkin Institute of Public Policy so that it could not conduct agriculture research challenging corporate ag interests.  This led to Senator Harkin refusing to donate nearly 40 years of congressional papers to his alma mater – a devastating loss to the state of Iowa.

Danielson’s bill:

  • Authorizes the faculty at the state universities to select the eighth member of the Board of Regents.
  • Prohibits the Board, the executive director and the professional staff from having a business or financial relationship with a person employed by a regent school.
  • Prohibits members of the board and professional staff from participating in political activities (CCI Action Fund note – Rastetter is a national GOP fundraising heavyweight).
  • Requires that the Board hold public readings of any proposal that has more than a $100,000 effect on a regent school at two public meetings before acting.
  • Requires a quorum to be physically present before the Board can act on the proposal.
  • Requires two members of the Board to hold public forums in each of the six geographic regions of the state quarterly, and includes notice requirements
  • Requires that each board meeting begin with a 30-minute period for public comment. Requires that the presenters be given at least 5 minutes each to speak.
  • Prohibits a lobbyist who worked for a Regent or that Regent’s business from serving as a lobbyist, or in a similar capacity, for a school or program governed by the regents for two years after the end of that service.

The first reading of this bill will be on Wednesday, February 20 at 8:30am in the Senate Lobbyist Lounge.  Join CCI members at 8am in the capitol cafeteria as we prepare and plan to weigh-in on this important issue.  Let us know if you can be there by RSVPing here.

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Fight back against attempts to sweep ethics complaints under the rug

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