Iowa OSHA's call for "immediate" action on COVID-19 came too late

Eleven weeks after beginning to inspect workplace safety at the Iowa capitol, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) informed legislative leaders about conditions “that may expose workers to COVID-19 hazards.” OSHA recommended “immediate corrective actions where needed,” as well as a review of safety and health practices “to ensure consistency” with advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines

What took them so long?

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In unprecedented move, Iowa Senate GOP bypasses budget subcommittees

Passing a budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 is the most important unfinished business for the Iowa legislature’s regular 2021 session. But House and Senate Republican leaders haven’t found consensus on spending targets for several large pieces of the roughly $8 billion state budget.

In a move without precedent in decades, Senate Republicans declined this this year to participate in the joint appropriations subcommittees where lawmakers review and discuss agency spending requests. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and Appropriations Committee chair Tim Kraayenbrink did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about who made the decision or why.

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Iowa Republicans don't want to wait for accurate census data

Iowa Republican legislators want to avoid leaving redistricting in the hands of the Iowa Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver indicated during a March 12 legislative forum in Ankeny. In fact, GOP leaders may follow the state of Ohio’s lead in suing the U.S. Census Bureau to obtain the 2020 population data sooner.

The bureau has said it will send states the numbers they need to conduct redistricting by September 30, more than seven months later than usual. Under Iowa law, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) is to submit plans for new legislative and Congressional districts by April 1. The state constitution calls for the legislature to adopt a map of Iowa House and Senate districts by September 1. If the map hasn’t become law by September 15, authority over redistricting moves to the Iowa Supreme Court, which is to have a new legislative map drawn by December 31.

Whitver told the Ankeny audience he didn’t know how Republicans would approach the problem, adding, “We’re looking at all options, and everything from suing the Census Bureau to make sure that we get that data to any other options on the table.”

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2021

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2021 session on January 11 with 31 Republicans, eighteen Democrats, and one vacancy in the district formerly represented by Mariannette Miller-Meeks. A record twelve senators are women (seven Democrats and five Republicans), up from eleven women in the chamber last year and double the six who served prior to 2018.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. A few committees have new Republican leaders.

All current state senators are white. The only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs, three Zachs, and two men each named Craig, Mark, Dan, Jim, and Tim.

UPDATE: Republican Adrian Dickey won the January 26 special election to represent Senate district 41, giving the GOP a 32-18 majority. After he’s sworn in, I’ll note his committee assignments below.

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We must take action now on Iowa's failed COVID-19 response

Tanya Keith is an activist and small business owner in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

At the beginning of the pandemic, I called my parents and sister in Massachusetts and pleaded with them to move to Iowa. At the time, Massachusetts was having what we considered a raging outbreak, and central Iowa had no confirmed cases. My thinking was they would be so much safer here, because by the time the pandemic reached Iowa, we would know better and therefore do better. I thought my family would be safest here.

But now the tables have turned. Massachusetts has taken science-based action to control the pandemic, and Iowa maintains one of the worst COVID-19 responses in the U.S. (and therefore the world). I haven’t seen my family in over a year, and I can’t imagine how I would safely get to them even if Massachusetts allowed travel from Iowa. Rampant disease spread causes a strain on my business as I try to protect people I hire from working with each other. The school year I most looked forward to: our eldest’s senior year, our middle’s 8th grade, and our youngest’s kindergarten year are all happening remotely.

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