"Personhood" in trouble as Iowa legislative deadline approaches

One of the anti-abortion community’s top legislative priorities, a bill declaring that life begins at conception, appears likely to perish in this week’s “funnel.” Social conservatives introduced companion “personhood” bills in the Iowa House and Senate two weeks ago. Under legislative rules, all non-appropriations bills must pass at least one committee in one chamber by March 3 in order to remain eligible for consideration this year.

However, House File 297 has not even been assigned to a House Human Resources subcommittee, and Senate File 253 appears not to have the votes to get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Iowa House, Senate GOP leaders not co-sponsoring "personhood" bills

While most Iowa politics junkies were absorbed by lengthy collective bargaining debates in the state House and Senate, Republican lawmakers introduced identical “personhood” bills in both chambers on February 14.

Notably, leaders of the House and Senate are not among the co-sponsors of the bills declaring “that life is valued and protected from the moment of conception, and each life, from that moment, is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Iowa, and the laws of this state.”

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Another Southern Iowa Red County- Wayne County (5/99)

Continuing a 99-part series. Previous installments are here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

This week I will review our fifth-smallest county in terms of population, Wayne County. The 2010 census found 6,403 people living in the entire 527 square miles (34th smallest) that are within Wayne County. To put this in perspective, it is roughly equal to population with the city of Oelwein. Wayne County is south and just a bit east of Des Moines. According to Google Maps, the county seat of Wayne County, Corydon, is 70.5 road miles from the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines. Wayne County was founded in 1846 from Appanoose County and was named after Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne.

As we’ve seen as another trend in these first five rural counties, the highest population in the county of 17,491 was in the 1900 census. Wayne County has lost population in every census since that time.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2017

The Iowa House opens its 2017 session today with 59 Republicans, 40 Democrats, and one vacancy, since Jim Lykam resigned after winning the recent special election in Iowa Senate district 45. The 99 state representatives include 27 women (18 Democrats and nine Republicans) and 72 men. Five African-Americans (all Democrats) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the Iowa Senate following the 2008 election.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year.

Under the Ethics Committee subheading, you’ll see a remarkable example of Republican hypocrisy.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Taylors (one from each party) and two Smiths (both Democrats). As for first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Roberts (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), and three men each named Gary, John, and Charles (two Chucks and a Charlie). There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Brian, Bruce, Chris, Greg, Michael, and Todd.

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Few changes in Iowa House Republican leadership team

Iowa House Republicans came out of this campaign in better shape than they could have hoped six months ago. The party successfully defended every incumbent and every GOP-held open seat, including one with a significant Democratic registration advantage. Even better, Republicans defeated State Representative Patti Ruff and picked off one of the four Democratic-held open seats, despite a big tax problem for the GOP candidate there. During the last presidential election year, Republicans suffered a net loss of seven Iowa House seats and were lucky to avoid losing more. In contrast, the caucus came out of last Tuesday with a two-seat gain and a 59-41 majority, just one seat shy of their advantage in the chamber after the 2010 landslide.

Happy endings provide little incentive to shake things up. To no one’s surprise, House Republicans re-elected most of their leadership team during yesterday’s caucus meeting in Des Moines. Linda Upmeyer will continue as speaker, her position stronger now than last year, since several representatives who were rumored to be at odds with her have now retired. Chris Hagenow stays on as majority leader and Matt Windschitl as House speaker pro-tem.

The biggest change is Zach Nunn moving up from one of the assistant majority leader positions to majority whip. Media reports don’t indicate whether last year’s majority whip Joel Fry sought the position again or stepped down from the leadership team voluntarily.

Similarly, Walt Rogers is no longer an assistant majority leader, having held one of those positions from early 2013 through last year’s legislative session.

If any readers can shed light on whether Fry and Rogers wanted out or were pushed out of leadership, please post a comment here or contact me confidentially at the e-mail address near the bottom right of this page. UPDATE: Two sources indicate that Fry is likely to lead the Human Resources Committee, since its previous chair Linda Miller retired this year. Under House rules, assistant leaders don’t chair committees. Still seeking insight on the next move for Rogers.

Two of the just-selected assistant majority leaders played the same role last year: Jarad Klein and John Wills. The other two, Mike Sexton and Megan Jones, join House leadership for the first time. UPDATE: According to one source, Jones and Klein ran against Nunn for majority whip.

Like her counterpart in the upper chamber, incoming Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, Upmeyer didn’t lay out specific policy plans when speaking to reporters yesterday. We’ll find out later which taxes Republicans plan to cut, how badly they will decimate collective bargaining rights for public employees, and whether they will do anything to make medical cannabis more widely available to Iowans suffering from severe health conditions.

Upmeyer seemed to rule out raising the sales tax by 3/8 of a cent to fill the the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. That fund has been empty since 63 percent of Iowans approved a constitutional amendment to create it in 2010. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett is one of very few elected Republican officials to be on record backing a sales tax hike to fund conservation efforts.

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Never let it be said that the 2016 Iowa legislature accomplished nothing

In four months of work this year, Iowa lawmakers made no progress on improving water quality or expanding conservation programs, funded K-12 schools and higher education below levels needed to keep up with inflation, failed to increase the minimum wage or address wage theft, let most criminal justice reform proposals die in committee, didn’t approve adequate oversight for the newly-privatized Medicaid program, opted against making medical cannabis more available to sick and suffering Iowans, and left unaddressed several other issues that affect thousands of constituents.

But let the record reflect that bipartisan majorities in the Iowa House and Senate acted decisively to solve a non-existent problem. At a bill-signing ceremony yesterday, Governor Terry Branstad and supporters celebrated preventing something that probably never would have happened.

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