Six themes from the Iowa legislature's opening day in 2021

The Iowa legislature’s 2021 session began on January 11 with the usual appeals to work together for the good of Iowans. But potential for bipartisan work on high-profile issues appears limited, as the Republicans who enjoy large majorities in the state House and Senate have quite different priorities from their Democratic counterparts.

At the end of this post, I’ve posted the substantive portions of all opening remarks from legislative leaders, as prepared for delivery. The speakers focused on the following matters:

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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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Best of Bleeding Heartland's original reporting in 2020

My primary goal in running this website is to provide Iowa political news and analysis that’s not available anywhere else. I’m proud of what Bleeding Heartland accomplished in 2020 and want to highlight some of the investigative reporting and accountability journalism published first or exclusively here.

A forthcoming post will review the site’s most popular pieces from 2020, which included many I worked hardest on or most enjoyed writing.

As always, I’m grateful for readers whose appetite for this kind of reporting keeps me going.

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Iowa takes big tumble in national energy efficiency rankings

Democratic legislators, environmental organizations, and consumer advocates warned in 2018 that a bill backed by Iowa’s major utilities would destroy our state’s decades-long tradition of being a “national leader in energy efficiency.” But Republican members of the Iowa House and Senate didn’t listen, and Governor Kim Reynolds ignored calls to veto Senate File 2311.

That law is the main reason Iowa dropped sharply in a new review of state policies on energy efficiency.

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U.S. census delay should not derail Iowa redistricting

The U.S. Census Bureau is unlikely to deliver state population totals on its usual timetable, Michael Wines and Emily Bazelon reported for the New York Times on November 19. The news was encouraging for those who support an accurate, complete census, because a delay beyond January 20 would stop the Trump administration’s unconstitutional plan “to remove unauthorized immigrants from the count for the first time in history, leaving an older and whiter population as the basis for divvying up [U.S.] House seats […].”

I wondered how an adjusted timetable could affect Iowa’s redistricting. Could Republicans who retained control of the Iowa House and Senate use a delay as a pretext for bypassing our state’s current nonpartisan process?

Not without changing state law.

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An open letter to Speaker Grassley and Majority Leader Whitver

From a concerned member of the Iowa legislature’s staff. -promoted by Laura Belin

To Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley and Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver:

On November 16, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new public health disaster emergency proclamation that recognizes the increasing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in our state. In it, the governor ordered that all “social, community, business, or leisure gatherings or events of more than 15 people” be prohibited in all indoor locations, barring some exceptions.

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