Five thoughts about Linda Upmeyer's tenure as Iowa House speaker

Iowa House Republicans meet in Des Moines this morning to elect new leaders for the 2020 legislative session. Linda Upmeyer announced on September 30 that she will step down as House speaker when the legislature reconvenes in January and will not seek re-election next November. She said in a written statement that she wants to spend more time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Speaking to WHO Radio’s Jeff Angelo on October 1, Upmeyer said she was also influenced by her predecessor Kraig Paulsen’s decision to leave the post long before an election. A new speaker is “well-served” by having a session under their belt, which helps them with fundraising and recruiting candidates, she explained. “I wanted to make sure that whoever was going to be leading the caucus in the future had those tools at their disposal going into this next election.”

Sources close to the legislature indicate that current House Appropriations Committee chair Pat Grassley is likely to become the next speaker, with Matt Windschitl moving up from House speaker pro-tem to majority leader. Current Majority Leader Chris Hagenow may not be part of the new leadership team, for reasons that remain unclear. UPDATE: The caucus selected Grassley as speaker, Windschitl as majority leader, and State Representative John Wills as speaker pro tem.

I’ve been thinking about Upmeyer’s legacy and how she influenced the chamber.

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The level playing field has tipped against Iowa teachers

Republicans claimed collective bargaining changes would level the playing field in contract talks. Randy Richardson, retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, examines the impact on teachers. -promoted by Laura Belin

In February 2017, Republican lawmakers rammed through a bill that quickly changed the dynamic of collective bargaining for public employees in Iowa. The bill eliminated virtually all of the mandatory items that unions and their employers were required to bargain, with the exception of base salary. It left in place a short list of “permissive” items that public employees and employers could bargain by mutual consent, and prohibited bargaining on some other topics. The bill sparked outrage among all public employees and their supporters.

Shortly before the bill became law, House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow published an article on the Iowa House Republican website called “Collective Bargaining: Fact vs. Fiction.” One passage from that article became a major Republican talking point in defense of their actions. Hagenow wrote,

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Reynolds, GOP killed way to reduce racial, economic disparities in Iowa courts

Governor Kim Reynolds made headlines last week with two vetoes: blocking language targeting the attorney general, and rejecting a medical cannabis bill that had strong bipartisan support in both chambers.

A provision she didn’t veto drew little attention. For the foreseeable future, it will prevent Iowa courts from using a tool designed to make the criminal justice system more fair to defendants of all races and income levels.

Reynolds should appreciate the value of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), since she works closely with two former State Public Defenders: Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and the governor’s senior legal counsel Sam Langholz. But last year she ordered a premature end to a pilot program introducing the tool in four counties. The governor’s staff did not reply to repeated inquiries about the reasoning behind Reynolds’ stance on this policy.

Notably, the owner of Iowa’s largest bail bonding company substantially increased his giving to GOP candidates during the last election cycle, donating $10,100 to the governor’s campaign and $28,050 to Republicans serving in the state legislature.

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Nick Miller challenging Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 19

Nick Miller announced his candidacy in Iowa House district 19 at a May 23 event in his home town of Polk City. The fifth-generation Iowan, who is also a small business owner and Drake University student, would face House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow in the general election if he becomes the Democratic nominee. Miller said his campaign will be grounded in the principles of “Investing, Educating, and Sustaining.”

I want to represent all working families and Iowans; I want to represent a new generation of Iowans; and, I want be a voice for the voiceless and will stand up and fight for what is right.

Although I didn’t include this district in my overview of potentially competitive state House races, I’ll be watching this campaign for a couple of reasons.

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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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