Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2020

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2020 session on January 13 with 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. Eleven senators are women (six Democrats and five Republicans), up from six women in the chamber before the 2018 elections.

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. On the Democratic side, Eric Giddens now represents the Senate district where Jeff Danielson resigned last year.

A few words about demographics: all current state senators are white. To my knowledge, 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 Iowa legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first. No Asian American has served in the Iowa Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Taylors (both Democrats). As for first names, there are three Marks, three Zachs, and two men each named Dan, Jim, Tim, and Tom.

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Iowa Republican lawmakers having trouble with oversight concept

Members of the Iowa House and Senate begin the work of the 2020 legislative session this morning. Speaking to journalists last week, GOP leaders described plans to work on a wide range of issues in the coming months, including workforce development, taxes, child care, and medical cannabis.

But top statehouse Republicans aren’t planning any oversight hearings on what’s been happening at the Glenwood Resource Center for Iowans with severe intellectual disabilities.

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Reynolds vows action on voting rights backlog before Iowa caucuses

Governor Kim Reynolds promised this week that 347 people who have asked her to restore their voting rights will have their applications reviewed in time for the Iowa caucuses on February 3.

“We’re not where we need to be” on processing those applications promptly, Reynolds acknowledged during a January 7 forum for statehouse reporters, organized by the Associated Press.

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Kim Reynolds keeps giving away the store to for-profit Medicaid managers

Governor Terry Branstad and then Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds promised endlessly that privatizing Medicaid would make the system more “sustainable.” The talking point became a crutch for Governor Reynolds whenever she faced questions about problems privatization has created for patients, caregivers, and health care providers.

The old state-run Medicaid system wasn’t sustainable, Reynolds told reporters again and again. The new system was becoming more sustainable, she claimed during all three debates against her 2018 opponent Fred Hubbell.

The latest reality check arrived on July 10. For the second year in a row, for-profit companies that manage care for hundreds of thousands of Iowans on Medicaid will receive more than an 8 percent increase in government payments.

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Jim Kurtenbach to lead Iowa's HR agency. What was Kim Reynolds thinking?

Governor Kim Reynolds announced last week that Jim Kurtenbach will be the new director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services (DAS), effective July 1. Paul Trombino has held that position on an interim basis for about a month, after the Iowa Senate did not confirm previous DAS Director Janet Phipps.

Tapping Kurtenbach for this job was a strange choice. The agency has broad responsibility for human resources, procurement, and accounting on behalf of the state. Sexual harassment or discrimination by senior officials has led to several lawsuits against the state and millions of dollars in settlements in recent years. Yet not only does Kurtenbach lack relevant experience in the HR field, his hiring and managerial decisions a Iowa State University’s vice president and chief information officer were far from a model for best practices.

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Iowa DHS director Foxhoven resigns; governor appoints Gerd Clabaugh (updated)

Jerry Foxhoven has resigned as Iowa Department of Human Services director, effective today, Governor Kim Reynolds’ office announced on June 17. The news release did not give a reason for Foxhoven’s departure. Staff for DHS and the governor did not immediately respond to questions including:

  • Did Reynolds request Foxhoven’s resignation? UPDATE: Foxhoven confirmed that she did. See update below.
  • Was the resignation related to UnitedHealthcare’s impending departure from the Iowa Medicaid program on June 30?
  • Was the resignation related to DHS negotiations with Centene/Iowa Total Care, which will begin managing care for hundreds of thousands of Iowans on Medicaid as of July 1?

  • What is the status of negotiations with the state’s negotiations with Centene/Iowa Total Care regarding the Medicaid program?

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