MAGA nanny state thrives in Iowa

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:

Top photo of the Iowa Senate chamber is by Nagel Photography and available via Shutterstock. Republicans gained the trifecta following the 2016 elections thanks to their new Iowa Senate majority.

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  • Very telling

    Joe and colleagues have done excellent work compiling this list. Freedoms are easily taken away, and getting these back is much harder.

  • small government Republicans vs Authoritarian Republicans and not a true Dem in sight?

    Well connected White hetero Christian men (and their supporters) have long trusted local Iowa officials but as with the rest of the country ‘local’ control has been a mixed matter at best for the civil rights and quality of life issues (like addressing pollution or raising taxes for public services)for the rest of us here in Iowa. And why adopt the anti-government rightwingnut talking point of a “nanny” state, are you trying to shame people who are clearly beyond shame by trying to paint them as hypocritical or are you proudly embracing righting ideology? Why not just call authoritarianism what it is? Lastly many local communities (especially but not only rural ones) are going to be ever more dependent on collective/state funding (just as states are profoundly dependent on federal dollars and expertise/governance) and one would hope there is one party left in Iowa who still believe that we should support each other regardless of our zip codes…

  • Thank you, Joe Bolkcom, for compiling this list with your colleagues

    As I read through the list, recognizing and remembering some bills and finding out about others, I definitely smell, wafting from some bills, the odor of the Iowa Farm Bureau.