# Iowa House



The twelve Iowa Republicans who voted against school vouchers

Less than two weeks after making her latest pitch for “school choice,” Governor Kim Reynolds got what she wanted. The Republican-controlled legislature approved the governor’s expansive school voucher program, by 55 votes to 45 in the Iowa House and 31 votes to 18 in the Senate.

The state of play in the lower chamber was in doubt as recently as a few days ago. Reynolds had only one public event on her schedule last week, but she held private meetings with more than a few House Republicans who either opposed her plan or were on the fence about approving an unlimited new entitlement for families choosing private schools. According to the fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which does not include all expenses, the proposal will cost Iowa’s general fund an additional $878.8 million over the next four fiscal years, with costs reaching about $345 million during the fourth year.

House leaders changed the chamber’s rules to keep the voucher bill out of the Appropriations and Ways and Means committees, where there might not have been enough Republican support to send the legislation to the floor. Senate leaders used a procedural trick to prevent any Democratic amendments from being considered.

No GOP lawmakers spoke against the bill during the floor debates in either chamber. Three Republican holdouts (State Representatives Chad Ingels, Brian Lohse, and Tom Moore) indicated during the five-hour House session that they would like to be recognized by the chair. But each turned off their light at some point before being called on to speak.

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Bruce Rastetter weighs in with Iowa lawmakers on school vouchers

One of Iowa’s largest Republican donors, whose company is seeking to build a carbon dioxide pipeline across Iowa, has urged state lawmakers to pass Governor Kim Reynolds’ “school choice” proposal.

Bruce Rastetter sent identical emails to numerous members of the Iowa House and Senate, from both parties, on January 19. The message (enclosed in full below) called the plan for state-funded accounts to cover private school costs “historic” and “important to families all across Iowa.”

Rastetter is the founder and CEO of Summit Agricultural Group. Its affiliate Summit Carbon Solutions is seeking to build a CO2 pipeline linking 30 ethanol plants in five states, and Rastetter has signed appeals to landowners in the pipeline’s path as Summit seeks voluntary easements. Summit has filed for but not yet received a permit from the Iowa Utilities Board. Its plan (along with other carbon pipeline proposals) has aroused intense opposition in rural Iowa.

Summit’s lobbyists have not registered a position on the school voucher bill, which Iowa House and Senate committees approved this week. Republican leaders are expected to bring it up for floor votes in both chambers next week.

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Iowa House leaders back rule change to grease skids for school vouchers

Iowa House Republicans are seeking to change a longstanding chamber rule, in order to make it easier to pass Governor Kim Reynolds’ school voucher plan.

Since Republicans gained control of the Iowa House for the 2011 session, every rules package has contained the following language under Rule 32:

All bills to appropriate money shall be referred to the appropriations committee, and all bills pertaining to the levy, assessment, or collection of taxes or fees shall be referred to the committee on ways and means.

House Study Bill 31 would exempt “bills assigned to the Education Reform Committee” during the 2023 session or any special legislative session from moving through the Ways and Means and Appropriations committees.

Speaker Pat Grassley created the Education Reform Committee for the express purpose of considering major legislation, such as the governor’s plan to provide state funds to families choosing to enroll their children in private schools. The panel’s five members include Grassley, Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, and Speaker Pro-tem John Wills, all of whom support “school choice.” So the Education Reform Committee is guaranteed to advance the bill, perhaps with some amendments.

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Five ways Kim Reynolds changed her school voucher plan

As expected, Governor Kim Reynolds devoted a significant share of her Condition of the State speech on January 10 to her plan to divert more public funds to private K-12 schools across Iowa.

Although the central purpose of the plan remains the same—giving state funds to families who choose to send their children to a private school—the latest version is vastly larger in scope, and will be more costly.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2023

The Iowa House opened its 2023 session on January 9 with 64 Republicans and 36 Democrats, a four-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year.

Thirty-eight representatives (24 Republicans and fourteen Democrats) were just elected to the chamber for the first time in November. Two Republicans previously held other legislative offices: Craig Johnson served one and a half terms in the Iowa Senate, and David Young served two terms in Congress.

The House members include 71 men and 29 women (sixteen Democrats and thirteen Republicans), down from 31 women who served for the last two years. The record for women’s representation in the Iowa House was 34 female lawmakers in 2019.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Jerome Amos, Jr., Ruth Ann Gaines, Mary Madison, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. As Abdul-Samad began his seventeenth year at the capitol, he surpassed Helen Miller as Iowa’s longest-serving Black state legislator.

Republican Mark Cisneros was the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature in 2020, and Democrat Adam Zabner is now the second Latino serving in the chamber. Republican Henry Stone became only the second Asian American to serve in the House after the 2020 election, and Democrat Megan Srinivas was also elected in November. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Elinor Levin is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. She and Zabner are also the first Jews to serve in the chamber for more than three decades. Abdul-Samad is the only Muslim member of the House, and Srinivas is Hindu.

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 biggest change is that House Speaker Pat Grassley created an Education Reform Committee to consider the governor’s school voucher plan and other controversial education bills. The House also eliminated the Information Technology Committee.

Some non-political trivia: the 100 Iowa House members include two with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Thompsons and a Thomson (all Republicans). As for popular first names, there are four men named David or Dave, four named Thomas or Tom, three Roberts (a Robert, a Bob, and a Bobby), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), a Jon and two Johns, two named Charles (a Chuck and a Charley), and two men each named Jeff, Ken, Steve, Matt, Austin, and Josh or Joshua. There are also two Elizabeths (one goes by Beth), an Ann and an Anne, and two women each named Heather, Megan, and Shannon. As recently as 2020, four women named Mary served in the Iowa House, but just one was sworn in this week.

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Iowa House race exposes problems with Scott County's ballot count

Fifth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2022 state and federal elections.

Iowa’s final unresolved race from 2022 wrapped up on December 7 when Republican Luana Stoltenberg was declared the winner in House district 81. She received 5,073 votes (50.05 percent) to 5,062 votes (49.95 percent) for Democrat Craig Cooper. Stoltenberg led by 29 votes on election night in the district, which covers part of Davenport. But the Democrat pulled ahead by six votes once Scott County officials tabulated hundreds of overlooked absentee ballots.

It’s rare for a recount in an Iowa legislative race to alter the vote totals by more than a dozen. It’s even more rare for a recount to produce fewer overall votes for each candidate. Yet as Sarah Watson noted in her story for the Quad-City Times, the three-member recount board’s final “totals showed 31 fewer votes for Cooper and 14 fewer votes for Stoltenberg.”

Cooper conceded the race but expressed “grave concerns” about the inconsistent ballot counts in a December 7 Facebook post.

It’s clear that something went very wrong with the processing of absentee ballots in Iowa’s third largest county. The problems warrant further investigation to prevent anything like this from happening again.

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