Poorly-drafted law opened door to Iowa City mask order

Republican lawmakers intended to prohibit schools, cities, and counties from requiring masks when they amended an education bill on the final day of the legislature’s 2021 session. But House File 847, which Governor Kim Reynolds rushed to sign within hours of its passage, was not well crafted to accomplish that goal.

An apparent drafting error opened the door for the mask order Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague announced on August 19, with the full support of the city council.

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Governor rushes to ban local, school mask mandates

Governor Kim Reynolds has 30 days to consider any bills sent to her during the final days of a legislative session, but she could hardly wait 30 seconds to sign one of the bills approved hours before the Iowa House and Senate adjourned for the year.

The governor’s office announced at 12:36 am that Reynolds had signed House File 847, an education bill amended on May 19 to prohibit school districts and local governments from following best practices for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Moments earlier, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley had brought the bill to the governor’s desk.

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The majority should never decide minority rights

On this Transgender Day of Visibility, I want to take a moment to reflect on one part of Selzer & Co’s latest Iowa poll for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom. The survey asked 775 Iowa adults whether they supported various Republican proposals, including this one: “Require public school students to use the restroom of the gender assigned at birth even if the student does not identify as that gender now.”

Nick Coltrain summarized the findings: 47 percent of respondents said they favor restricting school bathroom use, 42 percent opposed, and 11 percent were not sure.

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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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How many Iowa candidates "won" under rules Republicans forced on unions?

Sixth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad set out to cripple public sector unions in 2017 by enacting a law that eviscerated bargaining rights and established new barriers to union representation. Under that law, public employees must vote to recertify their union in each contract period (in most cases, every two or three years). Anyone not participating in the election is considered to have voted against the union. So a successful recertification requires yes votes from a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit.

The law hasn’t accomplished its goal of destroying large unions that typically support Democratic candidates. The vast majority of bargaining units have voted to recertify in each of the past four years. This fall, all 64 locals affiliated with the Iowa State Education Association voted to keep having that union negotiate their contracts. AFSCME Council 61, which represents most Iowa state and local government workers, was nearly as successful, with 64 out of 67 units voting to recertify.

I decided to return to a question Bleeding Heartland first pondered in 2017: how many candidates for other Iowa offices could declare victory under the system Republicans forced on labor unions?

I found that even after Iowa’s highest-turnout election in decades, our state would have no representation in Congress if contenders needed a majority vote among all constituents. “Winners” could be declared in about a third of state legislative races.

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