Rest in peace, John Landon

State Representative John Landon passed away on July 29, his family announced. He was serving his fifth term representing Iowa House district 37, covering part of Ankeny. In tributes posted publicly, many Republican colleagues commented on Landon’s kindness and work ethic, including Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of State Paul Pate, House Speaker Pat Grassley, and Garrett Gobble, who now represents the other Ankeny House district.

Landon had chaired the House Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee since 2015, and also served this year on the Commerce and Transportation committees. Although he missed much of the 2021 legislative session while being treated for the illness that claimed his life, he was able to floor manage the bill setting the fiscal year 2022 budget for a number of state agencies and the offices of the governor, secretary of state, and state auditor.

Democratic State Representative Bruce Hunter, who served on the budget panel Landon led, told Bleeding Heartland on July 30 that Landon was “the nicest guy in the House” and someone who reached across the aisle when bills or amendments were being considered.

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Housing discrimination bill in limbo amid concerns over federal funding

Nearly six weeks have passed since Republican lawmakers approved a bill prohibiting local governments from banning “source of income” discrimination. Yet Senate File 252 still has not been sent to Governor Kim Reynolds, according to the legislature’s website.

While Iowa’s legislature is in session, the governor has three days to sign or veto any bill that reaches her desk, or it will become law without her signature. The governor’s staff often asks for an extra week or two to review a measure’s contents. But there is no recent precedent for the legislature to sit on a bill for this long.

The governor must eventually act on every bill the legislature passes. The unusual delay has fueled speculation that Reynolds may cast a rare veto of a bill approved by the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Communications staff for the governor and legislative leaders did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about why Senate File 252 has been held up. But signs point to the bill jeopardizing some federal housing funds.

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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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Iowa governor offers state employees two-year pay freeze

At televised news conferences, Governor Kim Reynolds often expresses appreciation for Iowans “doing the right thing” and helping our state get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her gratitude apparently doesn’t extend to some 19,000 state employees, many of whom worked longer hours than ever this year, under extraordinary stress. The governor’s offer to nurses, university staff, corrections officers, and others represented by AFSCME Council 61: no raise for the two years beginning on July 1, 2021.

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A last-minute Republican double-cross on absentee voting in Iowa

UPDATE: Governor Kim Reynolds signed this legislation on June 30.

Iowa Republicans have perfected the art of sneaking attacks on constitutional rights or the rule of law into budget bills shortly before adjourning for the year.

Last-minute budget amendments in 2019 sought to shorten the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice’s term, increase the governor’s influence over selecting judges, restrict medical care for transgender Iowans, and stop Planned Parenthood from obtaining sex education grants. Those measures spawned four lawsuits.

Judges will surely hear challenges to legislation Republicans enacted while burning the midnight oil this past weekend. A forthcoming post will address a 24-hour waiting period for abortion, approved during the session’s closing hours.

This post focuses on provisions that would make it harder for Iowans to vote by mail. Marc Elias, one of the country’s most prominent Democratic election lawyers, promised on June 14, “This will not stand. We will sue.”

Don’t bet against him. A Polk County District Court already struck down similar language in an administrative rule as “irrational, illogical, and wholly unjustifiable.”

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