The 21 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2021

It’s time for another review of Bleeding Heartland’s most widely-read posts from the year that just ended. I always struggle a bit with this task, because the work I’m most proud of doesn’t always overlap with what resonated most with readers. Also, I’m wary of watching traffic numbers too closely, because I try not to let potential clicks drive my editorial decisions.

However, I always gain some insight from this review, so here goes.

This list draws from Google Analytics data about total views for 598 posts this website published during 2021: 362 written by me and 236 by other authors. I left out the site’s front page and the “about” page, where many people landed following online searches.

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The obscene attacks on Iowa's public schools

Bruce Lear reviews how Republican-backed laws have adversely affected Iowa schools.

There’s some real obscenity in Iowa public schools, but it’s not the kind Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman has been ranting about.

Speaking in November at a packed school district meeting in Johnston, Chapman complained about two books and said he is drafting a bill to create a felony offense for distributing what he considers to be obscene material. Never mind that Iowa already has a number of laws about the distribution of real pornography. Chapman sees a need to single out teachers and librarians for making books he doesn’t like available to high school students. 

Like most wannabe book banners, Chapman probably hasn’t read the supposedly offensive books. He is also using public schools (which should unite communities) to further divide us.  

No, the obscenity is not in these books that Chapman doesn’t like. The real obscenity is what Republican legislators have done to Iowa schools. Here are some examples of the attacks on public schools, which are emptying classrooms of dedicated, teachers. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter famously said when deciding a pornography case, “I know it when I see it.” Let’s review the GOP’s record toward public schools and teachers.

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Why did so many Democrats vote for Iowa's COVID-19 vaccine law?

Governor Kim Reynolds was “proud” to sign a bill designed to make it easier for Iowans to get around COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the workplace. State Representative Henry Stone, who floor managed the bill in the House, said Republicans worked on this legislation for months, seeking ways to lessen the impact of the Biden administration’s expected rules requiring large employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or frequent testing of employees.

Democrats had no input on the proposal and did not see the bill text until hours before lawmakers debated House File 902 on October 28. Nevertheless, both chambers approved the bill by surprisingly large margins: 68 votes to 27 in the House and 45 votes to 4 in the Senate.

Why did so many Democrats vote for a bill that one supporter described as “a joke” during debate?

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Republican pretexts for rejecting Iowa maps don't hold up

As expected, Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first nonpartisan redistricting plan on a party-line 32 to 18 vote on October 5. Everyone knows why the maps went down: national Republicans were upset the plan would have created a Democratic-leaning Congressional district in eastern Iowa, and Senate Republicans were bent out of shape because many of their incumbents would have been placed in districts with one another.

Republicans couldn’t say that out loud, though, because Iowa’s redistricting law states, “No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group […].”

So in Senate floor speeches and a resolution approved along party lines, Republicans asserted that the Legislative Services Agency could better balance compactness and population equality standards. They provided little evidence in support of those vague complaints.

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House Ethics panel deadlocks over Heritage Action complaints

Voting along party lines, the Iowa House Ethics Committee failed to take action October 5 on two complaints relating to possible undisclosed lobbying by the national conservative group Heritage Action.

Democratic State Representative Todd Prichard filed the complaints in May after a leaked video showed Heritage Action’s executive director Jessica Anderson boasting that the group had worked “quickly” and “quietly” with Iowa lawmakers to help draft and pass a new election bill. In the complaints, Prichard asserted that Anderson and Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Reform Initiative, violated the Iowa legislature’s lobbying rules by not registering as lobbyists.

Key Republican lawmakers have denied that Heritage Action influenced the new election law’s provisions.

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Governor holds over agency directors Iowa Senate didn't confirm

In an unusual move, Governor Kim Reynolds is allowing two state agency directors she appointed early this year to continue serving through next year’s legislative session, even though they lacked the votes to be confirmed by the Iowa Senate.

Reynolds withdrew the nominations of Department of Management Director Michael Bousselot and Department of Administrative Services Director Adam Steen shortly before state lawmakers adjourned for the year in May. Days later, she rejected the directors’ resignations, saying she would resubmit their names to the Senate in 2022, documents obtained through public records requests show.

The governor’s office has not publicly announced Reynolds’ decision to hold over Bousselot and Steen and did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries.

The Department of Management handles state budget planning as well as disbursements from Iowa’s general fund and various other funds. The Department of Administrative Services handles human resources, payroll, and procurement of goods and services for state government.

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