Iowa Senate district 20: Brad Zaun knows he's in trouble

Brad Zaun’s fifth campaign for the state legislature will be his toughest yet.

Like affluent suburban areas around the country, Iowa Senate district 20 has been trending away from Republicans. Democrats in the northwest suburbs of Des Moines did well in the 2019 local elections and more recently surpassed the GOP in voter registrations.

Zaun has adapted to the new environment with messaging that doesn’t mention his party affiliation, his votes for many controversial laws, his numerous attempts to ban abortion, or his early support for Donald Trump’s candidacy.

On the contrary, he is campaigning as an “independent voice” and leader on improving education and mental health services.

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Abortions up 25 percent after Iowa GOP replaced family planning program

Who could have predicted it, other than anyone familiar with reproductive health care?

Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad eliminated Iowa’s successful Medicaid Family Planning Waiver in 2017 and created a new state program that excluded abortion providers. The move forced Planned Parenthood to close four of its Iowa clinics around the state and dramatically decreased the number of Iowans receiving birth control and other reproductive services.

Preliminary data from the Iowa Department of Public Health indicate that Iowans had 25 percent more abortions in 2019 than in the previous year.

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Ashley Hinson dodged Iowa House debates on high-profile bills

State Representative Ashley Hinson didn’t miss a roll call vote as the Iowa House wrapped up its work in June, legislative records show. But the two-term Republican mostly stayed out of the House chamber while colleagues debated controversial bills.

The tactic allowed Hinson, who is also the GOP challenger in Iowa’s first Congressional district, to avoid public questioning about policies she supported. Notably, she was absent during most of the House deliberations on imposing a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, establishing a barrier to voting by mail, and giving businesses near-total immunity from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Neither Hinson nor her Congressional campaign responded to Bleeding Heartland’s repeated inquiries about those absences.

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Republicans found shortcut around Iowa Supreme Court on abortion

Spirits lifted in the pro-choice community when Iowa House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl did not call up a constitutional amendment on abortion shortly after the legislature reconvened this month.

Republican leaders wanted to pass the amendment, which had advanced from committee months earlier. When a high-profile bill doesn’t come to the floor, it often means the majority party doesn’t have the votes for final passage.

Indeed, at least three of the 53 House Republicans resisted immense pressure to vote for legislation designed to overturn an Iowa Supreme Court ruling protecting “the constitutional right of women to terminate a pregnancy.”

Unfortunately, the holdouts agreed to a last-minute abortion restriction that may provide a faster way to undo the high court’s work.

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Reflection on the 2020 legislative session

Eric Giddens is a Democrat representing Iowa Senate District 30. -promoted by Laura Belin

At the end of my first full session as state senator representing Cedar Falls, Hudson, and southwest Waterloo, here’s my report on selected highlights of this year’s session: three good decisions, three bad decisions, and three decisions put off until next year.

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Exclusive: Iowa governor denied 35 AG requests to join national cases

Governor Kim Reynolds denied 35 requests to sign Iowa on to multi-state legal actions during the first year of an unusual arrangement in which Attorney General Tom Miller ceded some of his authority.

Reynolds refused to allow the state to weigh in on lawsuits related to federal or state policies on immigration, reproductive rights, environmental regulation, consumer protection, gun safety, LGBTQ rights, and access to President Donald Trump’s personal records.

During the same time frame, the governor approved eighteen requests from Miller to join cases involving a wide range of legal matters.

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