New look at the 2020 Iowa House landscape (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline for candidates to qualify for the June primary ballot has passed, it’s time to revisit the 2020 Iowa House landscape. (A separate overview of state Senate races is in progress.)

Republicans now hold a 53-47 majority in the lower chamber, meaning Democrats need a net gain of four seats for control. Thanks to our state’s nonpartisan redistricting system, more than a dozen House districts should be highly competitive. This post covers 22 House districts that could fall into that category. One or both parties spent significant funds on twenty Iowa House races in 2018, not counting House districts 82 or 16, where Republican candidates ended up winning by small margins.

Since Bleeding Heartland first reviewed the House landscape last May, both parties have had some recruiting successes, while other districts still lack a top-tier challenger. The Secretary of State published the full list of Democratic and GOP primary candidates here. In some races that are currently uncontested, major parties may get candidates on the ballot later by holding a special nominating convention.

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What took them so long?

Better late than never. Governor Kim Reynolds recommended on March 15 that Iowa schools close for four weeks to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The same day, Republican legislative leaders announced the House and Senate will suspend operations for at least 30 days after meeting on March 16 “to consider resolutions regarding continuity of government to ensure delivery of essential services to Iowans.” Clerks and secretaries have been told they will be paid through April 21, but “March 16 will be your last day of employment.”

While several state legislatures around the country hit the pause button last week, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver waited for recommendations from the governor or the Iowa Department of Public Health.

As recently as the late afternoon on March 13, Reynolds was assuring the public, “At this time, Iowa is not experiencing community spread of the virus.” Such a definitive statement was not warranted, given how few people had been tested for COVID-19.

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Iowa House unanimously votes to outlaw "gay/trans panic" defense

Iowa House members voted 95 to 0 on March 5 to prohibit criminal defendants from claiming any violent crime was justified because of emotions related to discovering the victim’s “sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

House Judiciary Committee chair Steven Holt introduced the bill later renamed House File 2503. The initial draft applied to those charged with causing the death of another person. An amendment drafted by Republican State Representative Bobby Kaufmann and Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett broadened the scope to cover anyone accused of a violent crime.

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Iowa needs level playing field for collective bargaining

Bruce Lear connects the dots on how state funding for public education plays into contract talks between administrators and the teachers union. -promoted by Laura Belin

For weeks, the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate and the Republican-controlled Iowa House debated whether public schools should get punched in the stomach or punched in the face. Both will hurt. Both will leave a mark.

There is no doubt the 2.5 percent increase in state funding for public schools, proposed by Governor Kim Reynolds and the House, as well as the 2.1 percent increase favored by the Senate were woefully low. That funding won’t match rising costs for school districts, no matter what contortions the Republican party goes through.  In the end, the punch came right to the face from both chambers when legislators agreed to split the difference: a 2.3 percent increase in State Supplemental Aid.

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