DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Thursday that will restrict the state auditor's ability to conduct audits.
Senate File 478, which passed the Iowa Senate in late April, will prevent the state auditor from accessing a number of records, including:
- Iowan's income tax returns
- Criminal files from police
- Personal information of students
- Hospital or medical records
- Peace officers' investigative reports
The bill would also make it illegal for the auditor's office to use the courts to challenge the governor's administration.
State Auditor Rob Sand repeatedly denounced Senate File 478 as it moved through the legislature.
After the bill's signing, Sand reiterated his stance in a press release, calling Senate File 478 "the worst pro-corruption bill in Iowa history".
"It will allow insiders to play fast and loose with Iowans’ tax dollars because those very same people will be able to deny the Auditor’s Office access to the records necessary to expose them,” Sand said in the release. “As Assistant Attorney General, I prosecuted criminal cases for seven years. This is akin to letting the defendant decide what evidence the judge and jury are allowed to see.”
Sand isn't the only one with concerns. In a statement in March, John Geragosian, president of the National State Auditors Association, expressed his organization's concerns about the bill.
His statement reads in part:
"This bill will negatively impact Auditor Sand's ability to independently and sufficiently perform his audit work. State auditors should have unfettered access to confidential records to ensure that state agencies are following their policies and procedures and state and federal law. This is also necessary to ensure that we prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of state programs and funds. State auditors also have the immense responsibility to guard against disclosure of any confidential information. It is a responsibility we take seriously."
In addition, the bipartisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency issued a fiscal note opposing the bill in March.
“Governor Reynolds ignored a bipartisan group of oversight and accounting professionals opposed to the bill, as well as members of her own party who voted against it,” Sand said “More importantly, she ignored Iowans who want to know how their tax dollars are spent.”
Despite these concerns, Iowa Republicans like State Sen. Mike Bousselot claimed the bill is designed to protect Iowans' personal information.
"You see, the watchdog still has teeth," Bousselot said on the senate floor.. It's just making sure that those teeth aren't getting sank in to something they shouldn't be in, which is Iowans' most personal and private information."
The law will take effect on July 1.