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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House bill would update Iowa divorce law, removing tool for abusers

Amanda Rex-Johnson reports on a lesser-known bill that made it through the Iowa legislature’s first “funnel.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Two types of people immerse themselves in politics: those who are motivated by personal achievement, and those who find motivation born in affliction, for whom adversity becomes a catalyst.

While I’ve always expressed my convictions, often in the political sphere, opinions alone don’t typically change the rules that govern society. It wasn’t until Iowa law affected my family that I was prodded into action.

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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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Final look at nine Iowa Senate races to watch, with ratings

Few Iowa politics watchers doubt that Democrats will gain ground in the state House today–the only question is how much will the Republican majority shrink.

In contrast, the Iowa Senate landscape could shift in either direction. Republicans now hold 29 seats and are unopposed in Senate district 1, where independent Senator David Johnson is retiring. They are also outspending several Democratic incumbents in districts Donald Trump carried in the last presidential election. Democrats currently hold 20 Senate seats, but they could add to their ranks today, despite a difficult map and a couple of bad breaks over the summer.

Here’s how the key races look going into election day, based on voter registration totals, recent voting history, absentee ballot numbers, and where Democratic or Republican leaders have made large expenditures.

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GOP outspending Democrats in almost every competitive Iowa Senate race

As was the case two years ago, Democratic candidates are at a financial disadvantage in almost all of the Iowa Senate districts both parties are targeting.

The disparity adds another challenge to a party already facing a difficult path to gaining ground in the upper chamber. Republicans currently hold 29 of the 50 Senate seats and are guaranteed to pick up the district independent Senator David Johnson is vacating.

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Five ways ending straight-ticket voting could affect Iowa's 2018 election

For the first time in living memory, Iowans will not have the option of filling in one oval to vote a straight ticket for a political party in this year’s general election. Republicans eliminated straight-ticket voting here in 2017, as GOP legislators have done in several other states in recent years. The more publicized provisions of Iowa’s new law, on voter ID and signature verification, will benefit Republicans by creating obstacles for eligible voters in groups that tend to favor Democrats (people with lower incomes, college students, racial minorities, and senior citizens).

By contrast, the impact of eliminating straight-ticket voting is less clear. More Iowans filled in the Republican oval than the Democratic one in the 2014 election, the only midterm for which such statistics are available.

One thing is for sure:

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