# Brian Lohse



A raise for Iowa lawmakers is long overdue

State Representative Joel Fry floor manages a bill on raising elected officials’ salaries on April 18

Before adjourning for the year on April 20, the Iowa Senate did not take up a last-minute bill from the House that would have given state legislators and statewide elected officials a $10,000 raise, effective 2025.

Lawmakers should not wait until the closing days of the next session to address this issue. Stagnant, relatively low salaries are a real barrier to bringing more diverse perspectives and life experiences to the statehouse.

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This AEA direct service provider has many unanswered questions

Photo of speech therapist working with child is by Ground Picture, available via Shutterstock

Kerri Schwemm has been employed as an AEA speech-language pathologist for 27 years. After the Iowa House approved the final version of the AEA bill, but before that version came to a vote in the Iowa Senate, she posed the questions enclosed below in bold to state legislators who represent portions of the Southeast Polk school district, where she lives and works: Republican State Representatives Jon Dunwell, Barb Kniff McCulla, Bill Gustoff, and Brian Lohse, and Republican State Senators Jack Whitver and Ken Rozenboom. She also posted her questions on the social media feeds of some GOP lawmakers who were involved in negotiating the AEA bill: State Representatives Skyler Wheeler and Chad Ingels, and State Senator Lynn Evans.

Continuous improvement, change, reform. Whatever you want to call it, it’s been part of the educational landscape forever. In fact, for the 27 years I’ve worked for the Area Education Agencies (AEA) system, I have seen this system continuously improve, change, and reform their practice. These necessary components of education happen through a process of evidence gathering, collaborative input, and thoughtful decision making.

Key state legislators who worked on the AEA bill gathered some evidence and received lots of public feedback, but thoughtful decision-making was lacking. For any of them to claim nothing will change with AEA services reflects ignorance.

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Iowa House Democrats strangely quiet on eminent domain bill

Protester’s sign against a pillar in the state capitol on February 27 (photo by Laura Belin)

What’s the opposite of “loud and proud”?

Iowa House Democrats unanimously voted for the chamber’s latest attempt to address the concerns of landowners along the path of Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed CO2 pipeline. But not a single Democrat spoke during the March 28 floor debate.

The unusual tactic allowed the bill’s Republican advocates to take full credit for defending property rights against powerful corporate interests—an extremely popular position.

It was a missed opportunity to share a Democratic vision for fair land use policies and acknowledge the progressive constituencies that oppose the pipeline for various reasons.

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Iowa House GOP's "big wins" won't avert big problems for AEAs

Representative Skyler Wheeler floor manages the AEA bill on March 21 (photo by Laura Belin)

UPDATE: The Iowa Senate approved the final House version of this bill on March 26, and the governor signed House file 2612 the following day. Original post follows.

Iowa House leaders attempted to wrap up work last week on the thorniest issue of the 2024 session: overhauling the Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to comply with Governor Kim Reynolds’ demand for “transformational change.” Less than three hours after a 49-page amendment appeared on the legislature’s website on March 21, the majority party cut off debate and approved a new version of House File 2612 by 51 votes to 43.

State Representative Skyler Wheeler hailed many provisions of the revised AEA bill as “wins” for House Republicans during the floor debate. House Speaker Pat Grassley likewise celebrated “big wins in this legislation” in the March 22 edition of his email newsletter.

Nine Republicans—Eddie Andrews, Mark Cisneros, Zach Dieken, Martin Graber, Tom Jeneary, Brian Lohse, Gary Mohr, Ray Sorensen, and Charley Thomson—didn’t buy into the official narrative and voted with Democrats against the bill.

I doubt any of them will regret that choice. If House File 2612 becomes law, it could irreparably harm the AEAs’ ability to provide a full range of services to children, families, educators, and schools.

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Iowa Republican misleads about bill threatening IVF

As the Iowa Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the near-total abortion ban Republicans enacted last year, state House and Senate Republicans are advancing several bills to further their anti-abortion agenda. The latest example is House File 2575, which rewrites the criminal statute on causing a non-consensual pregnancy loss. House members approved the bill on March 7, voting mostly along party lines.

Republican State Representative Skyler Wheeler denied during Iowa House debate that what he called a “fetal homicide” bill could jeopardize the legality of in vitro fertilization (IVF). He either doesn’t understand the plain meaning of the legislation he floor managed, or was trying to mislead the public about its potential impact.

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Whip count fail: Iowa House leaders suffer defeat on stormwater bill

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley confers with Majority Leader Matt Windschitl on March 6 as votes for a bill limiting local government authority stall at 49.

For the second time in three years, a bill backed by top Iowa House Republicans failed to gain the 51 votes needed on the House floor. Senate File 455, which would restrict local government authority to regulate topsoil and stormwater, topped out at 49 votes in favor during floor debate on March 6. By the time the clerk closed the machine a few minutes later, yes votes had dropped to 44.

Such events are rare in any legislature, because leaders typically don’t bring a bill to the floor unless they know it will pass. No bill favored by the majority has failed an Iowa Senate floor vote for many years.

The last time Iowa House GOP leaders lost a floor vote was in March 2022, on an amendment that combined liability protection for trucking companies with limits on private employers requiring employees or customers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Republicans had a 60-40 majority at that time; the GOP advantage in the chamber has since grown to 64-36.

Majority Leader Matt Windschitl quickly filed a motion to reconsider Senate File 455, indicating leaders plan to call another vote on the bill soon. Even so, the episode revealed surprisingly deep opposition to this legislation in Republican ranks.

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Davenport secrecy inspires Iowa House bill on sunshine laws

Photo of Davenport skyline is by WeaponizingArchitecture and available via Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa House has overwhelmingly passed a bill designed to improve local government compliance with the state’s open meetings and open records laws.

House File 2539, approved by 92 votes to 2 on February 22, would increase fines for members of a local government body who participated in an open meetings violation, from the current range of $100 to $500 to a range of $500 to $2,500. Penalties would be greater for those who “knowingly” participated in the violation: each could be fined between $5,000 and $12,500, compared to $1,000 to $2,500 under current law.

The bill would also require all elected or appointed public officials to complete a one- to two-hour training course on Iowa’s open meetings and open records laws (known as Chapter 21 and Chapter 22). The Iowa Public Information Board would provide the training, which officials would need to complete within 90 days of being elected, appointed, or sworn in.

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Iowa legislature's clock runs out on feeding hungry kids

Interactive School Nutrition Dashboard created by the Iowa Hunger Coalition

At least four bills that would have helped needy Iowa families feed their children didn’t make it through the state legislature’s first “funnel.”

Most bills not related to taxes or spending are considered dead for the 2024 session if not approved by at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by February 16. Efforts to expand access to meals didn’t receive a subcommittee hearing, let alone consideration by a full committee. That was true even for one school lunch bill with 20 Republican co-sponsors.

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Iowa Utilities Board bill includes a good idea—and a lost cause

Wally Taylor is the Legal Chair of the Sierra Club Iowa chapter.

The Iowa Utilities Board has proposed companion bills on energy production in the Iowa legislature this year. The Sierra Club is focused on two provisions in House Study Bill 555 and Senate Study Bill 3075: including battery storage as part of an energy production facility, and designating nuclear power as an alternate energy production facility.

One of the primary criticisms of renewable energy, specifically wind and solar, is that they provide power intermittently. In other words, wind turbines don’t provide power when the wind isn’t blowing, and solar panels don’t provide power when the sun isn’t shining.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2024

Photo by Carl Olsen of the Iowa House chamber in 2020

Iowa House members return to Des Moines on January 8 for the opening day of the 2024 legislative session. Although the balance of power remains the same (64 Republicans, 36 Democrats), I’m publishing a new version of this post to note small changes in leadership or among the chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session.

Thirty-eight House members (24 Republicans and fourteen Democrats) are serving their first term in the legislature. Two Republicans previously held other legislative offices: Craig Johnson served one and a half terms in the Iowa Senate, and David Young served two terms in Congress.

The House members include 71 men and 29 women (sixteen Democrats and thirteen Republicans), down from 31 women who served in 2021 and 2022. The record for women’s representation in the Iowa House was 34 female lawmakers in 2019.

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Governor turns up pressure on Iowa Supreme Court over abortion ban

Abortion became legal again in Iowa on July 17, after a Polk County District Court blocked the state from enforcing a near-total ban Governor Kim Reynolds had signed into law three days earlier.

Reynolds immediately vowed to “fight this all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court where we expect a decision that will finally provide justice for the unborn.”

It was the latest example of Reynolds striking a defiant tone toward the jurists who will eventually decide whether the Iowa Constitution allows the government to make abortion almost impossible to obtain.

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Why Iowa Republicans may struggle to agree on new abortion ban

Top Iowa Republicans reacted quickly on June 16 after the Iowa Supreme Court’s split decision kept abortion legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks.

In a joint news release, Governor Kim Reynolds, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, and House Speaker Pat Grassley promised to work together on what they called “pro-life policies to protect the unborn.” But they did not indicate whether a new law might differ from the near-total abortion ban passed in 2018, which remains permanently enjoined after the Supreme Court deadlock.

The statements also did not clarify whether Republicans plan to convene a special legislative session before lawmakers are scheduled to return to Des Moines next January. Communications staff working for the governor and House and Senate leaders did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s questions.

Any new abortion ban would be challenged immediately, and two years might pass before the Iowa Supreme Court rules on whether that law violates the state constitution. So anti-abortion advocates will want the legislature and governor to start the process sooner rather than later.

But even with the large House and Senate majorities Iowa Republicans now enjoy, it may not be easy to draft a bill that can get through both chambers.

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Iowa governor passes over GOP foe of school vouchers for judgeship

Governor Kim Reynolds got just about everything she wanted from the Iowa legislature during the 2023 session. But she signaled this week that she isn’t ready to let bygones be bygones when it comes to Republicans who have stood in her way.

The governor’s office announced three District Court judicial appointments on June 16, including Michael Carpenter for District 8A, covering ten counties in southeast Iowa. The other person nominated for that judgeship was former State Representative Dustin Hite.

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What's done, what's left as Iowa legislature's 2023 session winds down

The Iowa House and Senate finished work this week on several priority bills for Republicans, and leaders are closer to agreement on the next state budget.

The accelerating pace raises the prospect that the Iowa legislature may adjourn for the year close to the session’s scheduled end date of April 28. Stalemates over policies related to education and COVID-19 vaccines pushed the last two legislative sessions well into overtime; the 2021 session ended on May 19, and last year’s work wrapped up on May 24.

This piece highlights where things stand with high-profile bills approved in either the House or Senate this week, and other legislation that will likely be part of late deal-making. Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will focus on many of those bills separately.

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What's in, what's out of Iowa governor's big education policy bill

Both chambers of the Iowa legislature have approved versions of Governor Kim Reynolds’ so-called “parental empowerment” bill, which would rewrite many state policies related to public schools. The state Senate changed some parts of the bill before approving Senate File 496 along party lines on March 22.

The House adopted a more extensive rewrite before passing the bill on April 4, by 55 votes to 42. Six Republicans (Michael Bergan, Austin Harris, Chad Ingels, Megan Jones, Brian Lohse, and Hans Wilz) joined all 36 House Democrats to vote no.

This post walks through the provisions in the governor’s initial proposal (Senate Study Bill 1145), noting how each section changed during Iowa Senate debate, and again when House Republicans approved a 38-page amendment before sending the legislation back to the upper chamber.

Reynolds is likely to get most of what she asked for, but the bill that eventually lands on her desk may contain quite a few additional changes to Iowa Code.

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Can Iowa's "bathroom bill" withstand court challenge?

UPDATE: The governor signed this bill on March 22. Original post follows.

Republicans took another step last week toward making the Iowa legislature’s 2023 session the worst ever for LGBTQ people. After letting similar bills die without committee approval as recently as 2021, the GOP fast-tracked legislation this year that prohibits transgender people from using the school restroom or locker room that corresponds to their gender identity.

The Iowa Senate passed the latest “bathroom bill,” Senate File 482, on March 7 in a party-line vote. The Iowa House approved the bill on March 16 by 57 votes to 39, with five Republicans (Chad Ingels, Megan Jones, Brian Lohse, Phil Thompson, and Hans Wilz) joining every Democrat present in opposition.

Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill, along with legislation banning gender-affirming health care for minors. At this writing, neither bill has been forwarded to her office.

Iowa’s GOP trifecta won’t have the final word on the subject, however. Transgender plaintiffs have challenged restrictive bathroom policies in several states, and I expect one or more Iowa students to file suit soon after Senate File 482 goes into effect.

During the floor debates in the Iowa House and Senate, lawmakers pointed to key issues courts will consider as they weigh the bill’s stated goal (protecting students’ privacy) against its adverse impact on a specific group (students whose sex listed on a birth certificate does not match their gender identity).

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Democrats blew a chance to connect with rural Iowa

Wally Taylor is the Legal Chair of the Sierra Club Iowa chapter.

Sierra Club has been opposed to the carbon dioxide pipelines that several corporations are trying to build across Iowa since the projects were first announced. The pipeline companies claim the capturing of carbon dioxide from ethanol plants will address climate change, save the ethanol industry, and provide economic benefits. There is no merit to any of these claims.

One thing we learned from the Dakota Access pipeline fight several years ago is that the crucial strategy to oppose the pipelines is to organize the impacted landowners into a unified opposition. Through the fantastic work of Sierra Club’s Conservation Program Coordinator, Jessica Mazour, the landowners have created a groundswell of opposition. Their efforts helped persuade Republican legislators to introduce bills that would restrict or prohibit the use of eminent domain for the pipelines.

State Representative Steven Holt introduced one of those bills. Initially numbered House File 368, it was renumbered House File 565 following approval by the House Judiciary Committee.

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Iowa ban on gender-affirming care would face uphill battle in court

UPDATE: The governor signed this bill on March 22. Original post follows.

Moving with unusual speed last week, Iowa Republican lawmakers approved Senate File 538, which broadly prohibits gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and surgery, for Iowans under age 18.

Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill soon, having used several opportunities over the past year to position herself against transgender youth.

The new law would certainly be challenged in court, as similar bans prompted lawsuits in Arkansas and Alabama.

During hours-long debates in the Iowa Senate and House, lawmakers raised points that would be central to litigation over whether banning gender-affirming care violates the constitutional rights of transgender children, their parents, and medical professionals.

For this post, I’ve pulled video clips to illustrate some of the core legal questions surrounding the bill. But there is much more of value in the passionate speeches delivered about Republicans’ latest attempt to target LGTBQ Iowans. You can watch the full Senate debate here (starting around 7:32:30) and the House debate here (starting around 1:40:45).

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Where things stand with bills targeting Iowans on public assistance

Proposals that would cause thousands of Iowans to lose Medicaid coverage or federal food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are eligible for floor debate in both the Iowa House and Senate.

Republicans in each chamber’s Health and Human Services Committee changed some provisions in the bills, now numbered House File 613 and Senate File 494, then approved the legislation before the March 3 “funnel” deadline. However, the amended versions would still threaten health care or food assistance for many Iowans who now qualify.

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What Iowa's remarkable medical malpractice debate revealed

“Medical Malpractice Reform gets Iowa back in the game of recruiting and retaining physicians to care for Iowans!” Governor Kim Reynolds tweeted on February 16. She had just signed House File 161, a bill limiting damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Reynolds waited a long time for that moment. Two years running, similar proposals failed to reach her desk for lack of support in the GOP-controlled state House.

The bill signing capped one of the most dramatic debates in recent Iowa political memory.

It’s rare for more than a handful of Republican lawmakers to go on record against any bill that’s a priority for leadership. Not only did seventeen GOP lawmakers oppose passage of House File 161, six members of the majority party explained their objections during the hours-long debates in the House and Senate on February 8.

In addition to exposing divisions within Republican ranks, some remarks from the legislative proceedings may become important if the new law is challenged in court.

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The twelve Iowa Republicans who voted against school vouchers

Less than two weeks after making her latest pitch for “school choice,” Governor Kim Reynolds got what she wanted. The Republican-controlled legislature approved the governor’s expansive school voucher program, by 55 votes to 45 in the Iowa House and 31 votes to 18 in the Senate.

The state of play in the lower chamber was in doubt as recently as a few days ago. Reynolds had only one public event on her schedule last week, but she held private meetings with more than a few House Republicans who either opposed her plan or were on the fence about approving an unlimited new entitlement for families choosing private schools. According to the fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which does not include all expenses, the proposal will cost Iowa’s general fund an additional $878.8 million over the next four fiscal years, with costs reaching about $345 million during the fourth year.

House leaders changed the chamber’s rules to keep the voucher bill out of the Appropriations and Ways and Means committees, where there might not have been enough Republican support to send the legislation to the floor. Senate leaders used a procedural trick to prevent any Democratic amendments from being considered.

No GOP lawmakers spoke against the bill during the floor debates in either chamber. Three Republican holdouts (State Representatives Chad Ingels, Brian Lohse, and Tom Moore) indicated during the five-hour House session that they would like to be recognized by the chair. But each turned off their light at some point before being called on to speak.

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Iowa House leaders back rule change to grease skids for school vouchers

Iowa House Republicans are seeking to change a longstanding chamber rule, in order to make it easier to pass Governor Kim Reynolds’ school voucher plan.

Since Republicans gained control of the Iowa House for the 2011 session, every rules package has contained the following language under Rule 32:

All bills to appropriate money shall be referred to the appropriations committee, and all bills pertaining to the levy, assessment, or collection of taxes or fees shall be referred to the committee on ways and means.

House Study Bill 31 would exempt “bills assigned to the Education Reform Committee” during the 2023 session or any special legislative session from moving through the Ways and Means and Appropriations committees.

Speaker Pat Grassley created the Education Reform Committee for the express purpose of considering major legislation, such as the governor’s plan to provide state funds to families choosing to enroll their children in private schools. The panel’s five members include Grassley, Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, and Speaker Pro-tem John Wills, all of whom support “school choice.” So the Education Reform Committee is guaranteed to advance the bill, perhaps with some amendments.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2023

The Iowa House opened its 2023 session on January 9 with 64 Republicans and 36 Democrats, a four-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year.

Thirty-eight representatives (24 Republicans and fourteen Democrats) were just elected to the chamber for the first time in November. Two Republicans previously held other legislative offices: Craig Johnson served one and a half terms in the Iowa Senate, and David Young served two terms in Congress.

The House members include 71 men and 29 women (sixteen Democrats and thirteen Republicans), down from 31 women who served for the last two years. The record for women’s representation in the Iowa House was 34 female lawmakers in 2019.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Jerome Amos, Jr., Ruth Ann Gaines, Mary Madison, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. As Abdul-Samad began his seventeenth year at the capitol, he surpassed Helen Miller as Iowa’s longest-serving Black state legislator.

Republican Mark Cisneros was the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature in 2020, and Democrat Adam Zabner is now the second Latino serving in the chamber. Republican Henry Stone became only the second Asian American to serve in the House after the 2020 election, and Democrat Megan Srinivas was also elected in November. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Elinor Levin is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. She and Zabner are also the first Jews to serve in the chamber for more than three decades. Abdul-Samad is the only Muslim member of the House, and Srinivas is Hindu.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session. The biggest change is that House Speaker Pat Grassley created an Education Reform Committee to consider the governor’s school voucher plan and other controversial education bills. The House also eliminated the Information Technology Committee.

Some non-political trivia: the 100 Iowa House members include two with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Thompsons and a Thomson (all Republicans). As for popular first names, there are four men named David or Dave, four named Thomas or Tom, three Roberts (a Robert, a Bob, and a Bobby), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), a Jon and two Johns, two named Charles (a Chuck and a Charley), and two men each named Jeff, Ken, Steve, Matt, Austin, and Josh or Joshua. There are also two Elizabeths (one goes by Beth), an Ann and an Anne, and two women each named Heather, Megan, and Shannon. As recently as 2020, four women named Mary served in the Iowa House, but just one was sworn in this week.

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Will Pat Grassley's power play get school vouchers through Iowa House?

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley sent Governor Kim Reynolds a message this past week: her school voucher plan will need to go through him before it reaches the House floor.

In an unusual move, the speaker put himself in charge of a new five-member Education Reform Committee “dealing with bills containing significant reforms to our educational system.”

The decision could signal Grassley’s determined to get a “school choice” bill to Reynolds’ desk, after House Republicans couldn’t find the votes for the proposal over the past two years.

Alternatively, it could give more cover to GOP holdouts by sparing them from voting against the governor’s plan in committee.

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Iowa lawmakers ban schools, day cares from requiring COVID-19 vaccines

Iowa Republican lawmakers gave anti-vaccine forces a parting gift on what may be the final day of the 2022 legislative session. On a party-line vote of 29 to 16, the Senate approved a ban on COVID-19 vaccination requirements for young children in day care or students at any level of education.

House members approved House File 2298 in February, and the bill made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee in time for the legislature’s second “funnel” deadline. It had languished on the “unfinished business” calendar for two months as House and Senate leaders negotiated behind the scenes on various unresolved issues.

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Iowa legislature finally agrees on new bottle bill

Iowa lawmakers have amended the state’s recycling law for the first time since its passage in 1978. Senate File 2378 changes what is commonly known as the “bottle bill” in ways that will please beverage distributors, retailers, and redemption centers.

In a mostly party-line vote on May 23, the Iowa Senate concurred with the version of the bill House members approved last month. Governor Kim Reynolds has not publicly commented on the proposal but is expected to sign it into law.

Legislators who voted against the bill warned that it would harm consumers and reduce recycling.

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Iowa's new garbage search law looks unconstitutional

Iowans have “no reasonable expectation of privacy in garbage placed outside of the person’s residence for waste collection in a publicly accessible area,” according to a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law on April 21.

Lawmakers approved Senate File 2296 in response to a June 2021 Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which declared warrantless garbage searches unconstitutional.

Whether the new law can withstand scrutiny is unclear. Attorneys who opposed the bill have pointed out that the legislature and governor cannot override the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution. But it could be years before a challenge to the law reaches the high court.

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"Frankenstein bill" produces rare defeat for Iowa House GOP

You don’t see this every day—or every year. Despite having a 60 to 40 majority, Iowa House Republicans lost a floor vote this week on a high priority bill for GOP leaders.

Controlling the calendar is one of the most important powers of the majority party. Nothing comes to the Iowa House floor unless Speaker Pat Grassley and Majority Leader Matt Windschitl want members to vote on it. Leaders typically don’t bring up any legislation unless they are confident they have the votes to pass it.

On March 16, Grassley thought he had 51 votes for a mash-up of two controversial bills. But his ability to count (and to persuade reluctant members of his caucus) fell short.

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Governor resumes public events; no word on follow-up test (updated)

Governor Kim Reynolds returned to the capitol on January 18, after canceling her public events on January 13 and 14. Announcing those cancellations, staff said in a statement that the governor “is not feeling well, but has tested negative for COVID-19.” Her spokesperson Alex Murphy did not respond to subsequent messages seeking to clarify whether Reynolds was tested again over the holiday weekend.

At least five individuals associated with the Iowa House or Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, including Democratic State Senators Zach Wahls and Nate Boulton. (The legislature does not require lawmakers or staff to report coronavirus infections.) Reynolds, Wahls, and Boulton are all vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19.

The governor spent considerable time with her face uncovered around other unmasked people last week: at a crowded Iowa GOP breakfast on January 10, while delivering her Condition of the State address in the House chamber the following day, and while attending the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice’s report to lawmakers on January 12.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2022

The Iowa House opened its 2022 session on January 10 with 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats, a one-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year, thanks to a special election last fall.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women in 2020.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session. The most significant: Republican Mike Bousselot won a September special election following the death of Republican John Landon, and Republican Jon Dunwell won an October special election after Democrat Wes Breckenridge left the legislature for another job.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House has two members with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican). As for popular first names, there are six Davids (three go by Dave), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Tom or Thomas, three named Steve or Steven, three named Charles (a Chuck and two Charlies), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), three Jons and two Johns, and two men each named Gary, Dennis, and Ross. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), two Shannons, an Ann and an Anne, and two women named Mary (down from four in 2020).

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First look at Iowa's new House, Senate maps in cities, suburbs

Now that Iowa’s political maps for the next decade have been finalized, it’s time to look more closely at the district lines in and near larger metro areas. Although most districts anchored in cities are safe for Democrats, these metros will include quite a few battleground Iowa House and Senate races over the next two election cycles. Several “micropolitan” districts containing mid-sized cities remain competitive as well, and a forthcoming post will cover those maps.

I’ll write more about the political landscape of individual House or Senate districts once lawmakers and other contenders have confirmed their plans for next year. Several incumbent match-ups have already been worked out, and I’m continuing to update this post. (Please send tips on candidate announcements.)

I’ve grouped each Iowa Senate district with the two state House districts it wholly contains.

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Five terrible bills Iowa Republicans didn't pass in 2021

The Iowa House and Senate adjourned late in the evening on May 19 after finishing most of their work for this year. (Lawmakers will almost certainly come back for a special session to consider new maps of Iowa’s legislative and Congressional districts.)

In the coming days, Bleeding Heartland will closely examine several bills that passed in the late session rush. For now, I want to review the legislation that by some minor miracle didn’t make it to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk, in spite of support from powerful interests.

All of these bills are likely to return in some form during the 2022 session, so don’t celebrate too soon. House Republicans were unable to pass a “water quality” bill backed by agricultural groups in 2017. But the Iowa Farm Bureau and its allies spent the interim chipping away at the GOP holdouts. The bill sailed through the House early in the 2018 session. The same scenario could play out with any of the proposals discussed below.

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Gas companies want to profit off Iowans

Michael Schmidt, staff attorney for the Iowa Environmental Council, wrote this post, which first appeared on that organization’s blog. -promoted by Laura Belin

This legislative session has kept the Iowa Environmental Council busy, in part because of a bill that would protect gas company profits at the expense of Iowa customers. House File 555 and its companion, Senate File 455, would hurt Iowans by stopping cities and counties from protecting their local residents from dangerous gas infrastructure, high energy bills, and polluting fossil fuels.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2021

The Iowa House opened its 2021 session on January 11 with 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats, a big improvement for the GOP from last year’s 53-47 split.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women last year.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year.

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Senate Republicans misstate facts, misread Iowa law on absentee mailing

A wide-ranging election bill is eligible for Iowa Senate debate on June 10. Judging by the party-line vote in the State Government Committee on June 5, the Republican majority seems likely to rubber-stamp House File 2486 and send it to the Iowa House.

State Senator Roby Smith proposed many bad ideas in his 30-page amendment to that previously innocuous bill. The most controversial would prevent Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate from sending an absentee ballot request form to any voter who did not ask for one. Pate’s decision to send such forms to every registered Iowa voter contributed to record-setting turnout for the June 2 primary.

Smith has denied he is trying to suppress voting by mail. But talking points he and a Republican ally floated in recent days do not withstand scrutiny. Pate didn’t need lawmakers to appropriate state funds for the mass mailing, didn’t need legislative approval to send the forms, and didn’t exceed his authority under Iowa law.

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How you can stop the effort to roll back transgender equality in Iowa

UPDATE: House Judiciary Committee Chair Steven Holt confirmed by email on January 29, “The bill is dead. I will not assign it to sub-committee.”

Original post follows:

Nine Iowa House Republicans are trying to make it legal to discriminate against transgender Iowans in many areas of daily life, including education, employment, and housing.

House File 2164 would remove gender identity protections from the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity language to that law in 2007 was one of the hard-fought victories of the new Democratic legislative majority.

The civil rights law bans discrimination against protected classes in “public accommodations, employment, apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs, vocational schools, or housing.” Iowa House and Senate Republicans set a terrible precedent last year by altering the code to deny gender-affirming surgery to transgender Medicaid recipients. (That law is being challenged in court.) So it’s not surprising a group of social conservatives want to deny all civil rights to trans Iowans.

It’s far from clear there are 51 votes to get this horrible proposal through the Iowa House, or that state Senate leaders would want to pass it in the upper chamber. After the jump I’ve highlighted how fair-minded Iowans can help keep this bill from becoming law.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2020

The Iowa House opened its 2020 session on January 13 with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, a change from last year’s 54-46 split due to State Representative Andy McKean’s party switch shortly before lawmakers adjourned last year.

The House members include 67 men and 33 women (23 Democrats and ten Republicans). Although 34 women were elected to the chamber in 2018 (a record number), State Representative Lisa Heddens stepped down last summer, and Ross Wilburn won the special election to serve out her term in House district 46.

Five African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Wilburn) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the state Senate following the 2008 election. Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the lower chamber. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Smiths (both Democrats), while the other 98 members have different surnames. As for popular first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Thomas (two go by Tom), three Johns and two Jons, and three men each named Gary and Brian. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Bruce, Chris, Jeff, Michael (one goes by Mike), Ross, and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

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Where things stand with MidAmerican's bad solar bill

As state lawmakers wrap up their work for 2019, one of the biggest question marks surrounds MidAmerican Energy’s push to make future solar development unaffordable for most Iowa homeowners and small businesses.

Four weeks after the bill cleared the Iowa Senate, it is still hung up in the House, where a group of Republicans recently took an unusual step to signal their opposition.

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Iowa lawmakers pass another unconstitutional "Ag Gag" bill

Iowa legislators just can’t quit violating the constitution in the service of livestock farmers and their lobby groups.

Two months after a federal judge comprehensively dismantled Iowa’s 2012 law prohibiting “agricultural production facility fraud,” the state House and Senate approved a bill creating the crime of “agricultural production facility trespass.” Governor Kim Reynolds has indicated she will sign the legislation. (UPDATE: She signed it on March 14.)

Although the drafters modeled the new bill after portions of an Idaho statute that survived a legal challenge, federal courts could and should strike down this law. Like the previous “ag gag” legislation, its primary purpose is to suppress speech reflecting certain viewpoints.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2019

The Iowa House opened its 2019 session today with 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats. State Representative Michael Bergan was sworn in for a second term, even though his Democratic opponent Kayla Koether is contesting the outcome. A special committee will consider her complaint in the coming weeks.

The new state representatives include 66 men and 34 women (24 Democrats and ten Republicans, record numbers for both parties).

Four African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, and Phyllis Thede) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 96 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the state Senate following the 2008 election. Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the lower chamber. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Smiths (both Democrats), while the other 98 members have different surnames. As for popular first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Thomas (two go by Tom), three Johns and two Jons, and three men each named Gary and Brian. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Bruce, Chris, Jeff, Michael (one goes by Mike), and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

Continue Reading...
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