Joe Bolkcom represented Iowa City in the Iowa Senate from 1999 through 2022.
Iowans will soon elect city council and school board members. Hundreds of candidates have put themselves forward as they campaign on ideas to address unique local challenges and needs.
These local elected officials are the backbone of making our small government democracy work. They make decisions for all of us about how our public schools operate, what roads get built and repaired, how public safety, water, sewer and library services are provided, and how to pay for it all.
In a healthy democracy that’s how things are supposed to work. Unfortunately, we do not live in healthy democracy.
In Iowa our autocratic governor and Republican-controlled legislature have quietly taken a sledgehammer to local governance and decision making. Since 2017, the GOP trifecta has enacted at least 56 laws that have stripped authority from our locally elected officials, reducing their ability to respond to constituents’ needs.
The approved bills cover a vast array of topics including building and zoning codes, fireworks, higher wages, septic tank inspections, food stands, shooting ranges, short term housing rentals, home-based businesses, absentee ballot requests, school book bans, and community health protections. Local leaders now live in fear of GOP legislative retribution for addressing local problems with local solutions.
Simply put, our MAGA governor and legislature are drunk on power. Their “we know best” anti-democratic efforts to consolidate more power in Des Moines run counter to our state’s “home rule” traditions and values.
Iowans have long trusted their local elected officials to solve area problems while protecting our rights, freedoms, and liberties. On November 7, we will elect hundreds of dedicated Iowans ready to serve our communities. Sadly, their ability to do so will remain under siege from nanny-state politicians who want to control what we think and how we live.
Full list (compiled by Joe Bolkcom and others) of 56 bills Iowa Republicans have enacted that take away local prerogatives and authority from local elected officials: