How three new activists got involved in Scott County

Guest posts on local political happenings are welcome at Bleeding Heartland. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In the last year, we have seen a flood of new energy and political involvement throughout the country, from the Women’s March, to the Indivisible movement, to protests, letter-writing campaigns, and citizens showing up at forums to confront their elected officials.

We have also seen a great deal of new people get involved with the Scott County Democratic Party since the election. We spoke with a few of our newer activists to ask how they decided to get involved and what their experience has been like.

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Iowa Senate passes major gun bill: what changed, plus debate highlights

Legislation to make sweeping changes to Iowa’s gun laws is headed back to the state House, after the Senate approved an amended version of House File 517 on Tuesday.

All 29 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, joined by Democrats Chaz Allen, Tod Bowman, Rich Taylor, and Wally Horn. The other sixteen Democratic senators and independent David Johnson voted against it. (Taylor and fellow Democrat Kevin Kinney had backed the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Kinney voted against final passage on the floor.)

Follow me after the jump for details on what changed and stayed the same in the omnibus gun bill, as well as highlights from the Senate debate.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2017

The Iowa legislature’s 2017 session begins today with minor adjustments to business in the state House but massive changes in the Senate. After ten years of Democratic control, the last six with a one-seat majority, the upper chamber now contains 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and one independent (former Republican David Johnson).

I enclose below details on the Iowa Senate majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Senate committees. Click here to find the same information from the 2016 legislative session.

Just six senators are women (five Democrats and a Republican), down from ten women serving in the chamber in 2013 and 2014 and seven during the past two years. All current senators are white. To my knowledge, the only African-American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the Iowa legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first to join the Senate. No Asian-American has served in the state Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

As a group, the members of the new majority caucus have much less legislative experience than do their Democratic counterparts. As detailed below, only three of the 29 Senate Republicans have served ten or more years in the Iowa legislature, compared to thirteen of the 20 Democrats.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two with the surname Johnson, four Marks, three Bills, and two men each named Richard (Rich and Rick), Robert (a Rob and a Bob), Dan, Tim, Tom, Jeff, and Charles (one goes by Chaz).

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Iowa Senate district 45 special election: Jim Lykam vs. Mike Gonzales

Voters in some Davenport precincts will choose a new state senator today in a special election that Governor Terry Branstad set at the worst possible time.

Democratic State Representative Jim Lykam appears to be on track to succeed the late Senator Joe Seng, despite the governor’s efforts to engineer even lower turnout than for a typical election to fill an Iowa legislative vacancy.

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Rest in peace, Joe Seng

Democratic State Senator Joe Seng has died after a two-year battle with brain cancer, Iowa Senate leaders confirmed today. I enclose below comments released by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Senate President Pam Jochum.

With the upper chamber split 26-24 and many important votes falling along party lines, Democratic leaders needed Seng’s presence often during the last two legislative sessions. He had phenomenal dedication and kept showing up for work while fighting a monstrous disease and undergoing regular chemotherapy. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski posted a video of Seng singing and playing the accordion for his colleagues in April 2015.

Seng served as Davenport’s alderman-at-large and mayor pro-tem before representing parts of Iowa’s third-largest city for two years in the state House and fourteen in the Senate. A veterinarian by training, he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee in recent years and served on the Commerce, Ethics, Labor and Business Relations, Natural Resources and Environment, and Ways & Means committees.

After Iowa’s new map of political boundaries put Scott County in the second Congressional district, Seng challenged U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack and won about 18 percent of the vote in the 2012 Democratic primary. In his final re-election campaign two years ago, Seng easily defeated a primary challenger and did not face a general election opponent.

Seng’s passing will force a special election later this year in Senate district 45 (map enclosed below). Because the district contains more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, the only real competition to replace Seng will be for the Democratic nomination, to be decided at a district convention. Democrats Jim Lykam and Cindy Winckler have represented the two halves of Seng’s Senate district in the Iowa House since 2003.

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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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