Democrats keep majority on Johnston city council

Bryan Burkhardt won the June 22 special election for a Johnston City Council seat despite a strong write-in campaign by local Republicans on behalf of Jim Gorsche. Unofficial results posted by the Polk County auditor’s office showed 1,032 votes for Burkhardt (51.1 percent), 783 write-in votes (38.8 percent), all but six of which were for Gorsche, and 203 votes for Adam Haar (10.1 percent).

Turnout was just under 14 percent, not bad for a summer local election, which received little media coverage.

Burkhardt, a Des Moines Area Community College professor and small business owner, will serve the remainder of Scott Syroka’s term, which runs through 2023. Elected to the council in 2019, Syroka resigned early this year to serve as deputy director of communications in the Biden-Harris administration’s Office of Personnel Management. John Temple has been filling the vacancy on the council since February; he didn’t compete in the special election.

Local elections are nonpartisan in Iowa, but Burkhardt and Haar, the top two vote-getters in the city’s May 25 primary, both had support from area Democrats. Gorsche finished third in the four-way primary.

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...

Policing bill would worsen Iowa's justice system disparities

Most of the new crimes and enhanced penalties that would be established under a policing bill approved by the Iowa House would have a disparate impact on Black people, according to analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Before passing Senate File 342, Iowa House members amended what had been a narrowly-focused bill on officer discipline to include several other so-called “Back the Blue” proposals: giving law enforcement more protection against lawsuits, increasing benefits for officers, and greatly increasing the criminal penalties for some protest-related actions.

For seven of the nine crimes addressed in the “Back the Blue” bill, now pending in the Iowa Senate, the LSA found the “conviction rate for African Americans exceeds the population proportion of the State, which would lead to a racial impact if trends remain constant.”

Continue Reading...

Iowa can lead the way

Bruce Lear: A bipartisan policing reform law enacted last year was supposed to be a start. As it turned out, that bill was also the the end. -promoted by Laura Belin

When a police officer pulls me over for a traffic stop, I don’t think death sentence. I think where is my registration and insurance card, and what did I do now?

That’s white privilege, and that’s not how any of this should work.

I know it’s possible to honor and respect the police, and still be horrified when unarmed person of color is murdered by a police officer, often on video, and then the officer is exonerated by internal investigation or by the courts.

I also know there is a middle ground between the “Defund the police” crowd and those who know we need strong, fair, well trained, law enforcement not required to play the role of social worker or psychologist. 

Something has to change in this country. Iowa lawmakers took a first step in 2020, but didn’t follow through this year.

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...

Barriers broken as Iowans elect more people of color to state House

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

More people of color than ever ran for the Iowa House in 2020. As a result, a more diverse group of state representatives will be sworn in next year.

Not only will the state House have a record number of members who are not white, people of color serving in the Iowa legislature will include some Republicans for the first time since the 1960s.

Continue Reading...
View More...