Iowa lawmakers pass another unconstitutional "Ag Gag" bill

Iowa legislators just can’t quit violating the constitution in the service of livestock farmers and their lobby groups.

Two months after a federal judge comprehensively dismantled Iowa’s 2012 law prohibiting “agricultural production facility fraud,” the state House and Senate approved a bill creating the crime of “agricultural production facility trespass.” Governor Kim Reynolds has indicated she will sign the legislation. (UPDATE: She signed it on March 14.)

Although the drafters modeled the new bill after portions of an Idaho statute that survived a legal challenge, federal courts could and should strike down this law. Like the previous “ag gag” legislation, its primary purpose is to suppress speech reflecting certain viewpoints.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2019

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2019 session on January 14 with 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. A record eleven senators are women (six Democrats and five Republicans), up from six women in the chamber at the start of the last legislature’s work.

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. Note that Democratic Senator Nate Boulton will serve on committees after all. Minority Leader Janet Petersen had declined to assign him to any committees last month.

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, Tom, and Jeff.

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New family planning program fails Iowans. Republicans don't want to know

Republican lawmakers made big promises last year that Iowans would have “more access” to family planning services under a new state program that excluded Planned Parenthood.

As anyone could have foreseen, the opposite was true. In the first nine months of the State Family Planning Program’s existence, the number of Iowans enrolled dropped by a third. The number who obtained at least one reproductive health care service fell by more than 40 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter the program was operating. The number of health care providers billing the program also declined by 40 percent during the same time frame.

Republican lawmakers don’t want to hear how poorly the new system is serving their constituents. Even worse, GOP state senators voted unanimously last week to compound the mistake by blocking Planned Parenthood from participating in sex education programs.

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Republicans running scared in Iowa House district 6 (updated)

The Republican Party of Iowa is spending heavily to defend Iowa House district 6, where voters will choose a successor to State Representative Jim Carlin on January 16. The Iowa GOP did not intervene to support Carlin before last month’s special election for Senate district 3, considered safe Republican territory. Carlin won that race by a little less than 10 percent. Amazingly, the Democratic candidate gained more votes in the half of the district that Carlin has represented in the Iowa House.

Campaign finance reports (here and here) show the state GOP has spent more than $118,000, mostly on television and radio commercials in the Sioux City market and direct mail to residents of House district 6. I enclose below the positive television commercial about Republican candidate Jacob Bossman and several direct mail pieces attacking Democratic nominee Rita DeJong.

The tv spot relies heavily on an image of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley with his longtime staffer. Grassley headlined a rally to support Bossman on January 13, but the party didn’t have to pay his travel expenses. The senator is passing through western Iowa on the federal government’s dime as part of his annual 99-county tour. UPDATE: A reader notes the “rally” was moved from a room that would hold 250 people to the lobby, so the few dozen attendees would appear to fill up the venue.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2018

The Iowa Senate begins work today with 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and one independent, former Republican David Johnson.

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 noted changes since last year’s legislative session.

Just six senators are women (five Democrats and a Republican), down from ten women serving in the chamber in 2013 and 2014 and seven during 2015 and 2016. All current 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 to join the Senate. No Asian-American has served in the state Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two with the surname Johnson, four Marks, and two men each named Bill, Richard (Rich and Rick), Robert (a Rob and a Bob), Dan, Jim, Tim, Tom, Jeff, and Charles (one goes by Chaz).

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