One more glass ceiling broken at the Iowa capitol

Iowa House Democrats elected State Representative Jennifer Konfrst as the new minority leader on June 14. She is the first woman to lead the House Democratic caucus, which now has 21 women and 20 men. (That’s down from the record number of 24 Democratic women among the 47 Iowa House Democrats who served in 2019.)

Konfrst had served as House minority whip since late last year and appeared to be the only contender to succeed Todd Prichard, who announced early this month that he would soon step down as caucus leader.

Women have now held the top positions in each party’s caucus in each Iowa legislative chamber. Mary Lundby became the top Iowa Senate Republican in 2006 and served as co-majority leader in the chamber, evenly split 25-25 at the time. She also served as Senate minority leader in 2007.

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Why Iowa Senate Democrats backed a GOP tax bill

When the Republican-controlled Iowa House and Senate approved large tax cuts in 2018, not a single Democrat voted for the legislation. Critics pointed out that the bill hailed by Governor Kim Reynolds was skewed to provide most of the benefit to wealthy people, with little savings for middle class Iowans.

Much of that bill went into effect immediately, but lawmakers put some portions on hold until 2023, provided that state revenue hit certain targets. In her annual address to legislators in January, Reynolds called for eliminating “the unnecessary triggers that were put in place in 2018,” so all of the tax cuts would go into effect.

Republicans embraced that idea in Senate File 576, which would take out the triggers and phase out Iowa’s inheritance tax by 2024. Democrats didn’t support the bill when the Senate’s tax-writing committee voted on it this month. But a surprise to many observers, including the GOP floor manager Dan Dawson, every senator from both parties voted for Senate File 576 on March 17.

Why did Democrats come around to supporting a bill that is estimated to reduce state revenues by more than $100 million annually, beginning in fiscal year 2023?

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Rest in peace, Mary Maloney

Democrats all over Iowa were saddened by the news that Polk County Treasurer Mary Maloney died unexpectedly on January 29. Many who offered their condolences on social media described Maloney as a true public servant. Her work since 1989 to modernize the treasurer’s office and keep it running smoothly was highly regarded. She was often the highest vote-getter in Iowa’s largest county when she was on the ballot, even outperforming other Polk County officials who ran for re-election unopposed.

Many personal friends and colleagues remarked on how kind and caring Maloney was. I’ve enclosed some remembrances below. Although I didn’t know Maloney well, her kindness came through in all of my interactions with her over the years.

The Bleeding Heartland community sends healing thoughts to all of Mary Maloney’s loved ones, especially her husband and four children.

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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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