Iowa House Democrats advised to get COVID-19 tests after session

Top Iowa House Democrats advised members of the caucus to get tested for novel coronavirus this week, House Minority Leader Todd Prichard confirmed on June 19.

“In addition to wearing masks, socially distancing, and going through the health screenings daily during session, we did recommend members get tested following session,” Prichard said via email. He added that his team was “not aware of any members or staff” exposed to COVID-19 at the capitol as legislators wrapped up their work for the year.

Prichard had no comment on Bleeding Heartland’s other questions, related to Republican State Representative Gary Worthan’s absence from the Iowa House chamber beginning on June 5.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2020

The Iowa House opened its 2020 session on January 13 with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, a change from last year’s 54-46 split due to State Representative Andy McKean’s party switch shortly before lawmakers adjourned last year.

The House members include 67 men and 33 women (23 Democrats and ten Republicans). Although 34 women were elected to the chamber in 2018 (a record number), State Representative Lisa Heddens stepped down last summer, and Ross Wilburn won the special election to serve out her term in House district 46.

Five African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Wilburn) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the state Senate following the 2008 election. Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the lower chamber. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Smiths (both Democrats), while the other 98 members have different surnames. As for popular first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Thomas (two go by Tom), three Johns and two Jons, and three men each named Gary and Brian. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Bruce, Chris, Jeff, Michael (one goes by Mike), Ross, and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

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Urbandale's longtime Republican mayor now a Democrat

Urbandale Mayor Bob Andeweg recently changed his party registration and will manage Democratic State Representative John Forbes’ 2020 campaign in Iowa House district 40.

Speaking at a fundraiser for Forbes in Lions Park on September 7, Andeweg said he’s “been a Republican my whole life.” Because he believes in nonpartisan local government, he has rarely spoken publicly about his party affiliation as mayor since 2005 or on the city council prior to that. Regarding his party switch, Andeweg said, “I truly believe this is where I need to be at this point in time.”

He and Forbes have been friendly since the early 1990s, and Forbes managed Andeweg’s first campaign for city council in 1999. He fell short in that effort but was later appointed to fill a vacancy, then won his next city council race and subsequently four terms as mayor. The two men “worked well together” when Forbes served on the city council, and Andeweg praised Forbes’ ability to get things done in a Republican-controlled chamber.

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Remembering my dear friend, Jerry Tormey

Many central Iowa Democrats are grieving for Jerry Tormey, a tireless activist who passed away on July 23. Tamyra Harrison now works for The Salvation Army but got to know Jerry well as executive director of the Polk County Democrats, a job she held from 2004 to 2017. -promoted by Laura Belin

There are a lot of different people we meet on the journey through our lives. Some people bring joy to a room just by being present. Some people are so kind of heart they bring out the very best in those around them. Some people radiate joy. Some people always think of others, putting their needs, or that of a greater cause, above themselves. Some people give more of their time to make the world a little better than seems possible, yet always makes time for doing a little more when asked. Some people perform little, seemingly insignificant, acts of kindness every single day without even trying, just by calling to say hi, checking on someone who had bad news, being an ear when needed, remembering a birthday and so much more.

It is rare to find all of this in one individual, but that was Jerry Tormey. We were so blessed to have had our lives touched by him in so many ways, and his influence and legacy will live on.

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Some bad laws for Iowa's environment take effect today

Continuing Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of the Iowa legislature’s work during the 2019 session.

Iowa’s environmental community had something to celebrate when state lawmakers adjourned for the year without passing legislation that would crush small-scale solar development. An unusual coalition including solar installers, environmental groups, and livestock farmers helped keep the bill bottled up in the Iowa House despite intense lobbying by MidAmerican Energy and its allies, along with massive spending by undisclosed donors.

Unfortunately, lawmakers approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed several other measures that will be detrimental for Iowa’s natural resources and take our state’s energy policy in the wrong direction. The new laws take effect today, as the 2020 fiscal year begins.

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