# Cherielynn Westrich



Iowa Democrats won't speak truth to ethanol power

The biofuels industry got a big win in the Iowa legislature this week, as the state House and Senate approved a bill requiring most gas stations in the state to dispense a higher ethanol blend known as E15 from at least half of their pumps.

All but a handful of Democratic legislators voted for the bill, and no Democrat spoke against the proposal during Senate or House floor debate.

It was the latest example of how Iowa Democratic politicians have embraced biofuels industry talking points and avoided challenging any policies seen as supporting ethanol.

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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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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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Which southeast Iowa Republican will be the odd man out?

Iowa’s new political maps created some headaches for southeast Iowa Republicans. State Senators Ken Rozenboom and Adrian Dickey were both drawn into the new Senate district 44, while State Senators Tim Goodwin and Jeff Reichman were drawn into the new Senate district 50.

On the House side, a potential match-up between State Representatives Jeff Shipley and Joe Mitchell in the new House district 87 seemed more easily resolved. Part of Shipley’s current district (Davis County) is in the new House district 26, which has no incumbent. I assumed Shipley would move there.

But not so fast! Former State Senator Mark Chelgren told the Ottumwa Courier on November 4 that he plans to run in the empty House district 26.

It’s the second attempted comeback for Chelgren, who served two terms in the district containing Ottumwa before retiring in 2018. He sought the GOP nomination for this year’s special election to replace Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who left the Iowa Senate to serve in Congress. But at a district convention, local Republicans preferred Dickey, who had been recruited by party leaders.

To my knowledge, neither Shipley nor Mitchell has publicly announced their plans.

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First look at finalized Iowa maps, with incumbent match-ups

Iowa lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Legislative Services Agency’s second redistricting plan on October 28, by 48 votes to 1 in the Iowa Senate and 93 votes to 2 in the House. Democrats had already committed to approving any nonpartisan maps. Republicans liked that this plan (unlike the first LSA proposal) creates four U.S. House districts that Donald Trump carried. It also gives the party an excellent chance to maintain their Iowa House and Senate majorities.

Republican State Senator Ken Rozenboom cast the only vote against the maps in the upper chamber. The plan puts him in the same district as his GOP colleague Adrian Dickey.

In the lower chamber, only GOP State Representatives Tom Jeneary and Jon Jacobsen voted against the redistricting plan. Both are placed in House districts with other Republican incumbents, but Jacobsen told Bleeding Heartland in a telephone interview that’s not why he opposed the plan. Rather, he said the legislative maps carve up Pottawattamie County outside Council Bluffs into several districts represented by incumbents who live elsewhere.

I’ll have more to say about some legislative districts in forthcoming posts. For now, here are the basics about the plan Governor Kim Reynolds will soon sign into law. UPDATE: The governor signed the bill on November 4.

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Anti-vaxxers hate Iowa's "vaccine passports" bill

The governor signed this bill on May 20. Original post follows.

“I look forward to signing this important legislation into law!” Governor Kim Reynolds tweeted on May 6, after the Iowa House and Senate approved a bill purportedly banning “vaccine passports.”

House File 889 fits a pattern of Republican bills that are best described as solutions in search of a problem. No state or local government agency intends to issue COVID-19 vaccine passports, nor are Iowa-based businesses rushing to require that customers show proof of coronavirus vaccinations.

A “message” bill can be useful politically, if it pleases a constituency Republicans need in the next election. The odd thing about this last-minute push is that Iowa’s most vocal vaccine skeptics don’t support the bill heading to the governor’s desk. On the contrary, they’re demanding a veto in the name of freedom.

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