Iowa State Fairgrounds closed; Polk County rents dorm for COVID-19 recovery

John Morrissey is a freelance writer in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa State Fair officials closed the fairgrounds on the east side of Des Moines to the public on March 18 and are readying the 4H dormitory near Dean Avenue to house homeless people in the Des Moines area who may come down with minor symptoms of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections.

These plans were formalized after Polk County officials were briefed recently with World Health Organization estimates about the spread of COVID-19. If it gets a foothold in the metro area, as many as 34,000 central Iowans could fall ill, and perhaps 1,500 will need intensive care treatment, said Polk County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt McCoy. He repeated the call from local and state officials for people to stay home and avoid contacts that may spread the disease. McCoy said he and other leaders are confident the area’s health care facilities can handle the challenge if the virus infections do not all occur at once.

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Iowa state treasurer: Use caution with gift cards

Shoppers in the U.S. spent an estimated $160 billion on gift cards in 2018, up from around $90 billion a decade earlier. The holiday season is the peak time for those purchases.

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald has warned that much of the value will go to waste. Years ago, his office had a tool to help Iowans recoup the cost of unused gift cards. But state legislators had a different idea.

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The 2007 votes that made 2019 a historic year for transgender Iowans

Only three months in, 2019 is already the most significant year for transgender equality in Iowa since 2007, when state lawmakers and Governor Chet Culver added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the Iowa Civil Rights Act. That 1965 law hadn’t been significantly amended in decades.

The crucial Iowa House and Senate votes on the civil rights law happened during the first year since the 1960s that Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. Support for LGBTQ equality is often taken for granted now in Democratic circles, but the issue was seen as more politically volatile twelve years ago. The bill amending the civil rights act came late in the 2007 legislative session and could not have passed without some Republican votes.

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Lessons of 2018: Both parties elected more women lawmakers than ever

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

The largest group of women ever to run for the Iowa legislature has produced the largest contingent of women lawmakers in state history.

For the first time, women will make up more than a third of Iowa House members and a majority of the lower chamber’s Democratic caucus.

The number of women serving in the Iowa Senate will exceed the previous record set in 2013 and 2014. In a major shift from the recent past, the women senators will include almost as many Republicans as Democrats.

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Voter fluidity and my outreach to new Democratic voters

Scott Thompson is a labor market economist and rural sociologist in Des Moines. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Voter fluidity

The large jump in registered Iowa Democrats this summer bears out anecdotal accounts from candidates and poll watchers about Republicans changing their party affiliation to vote in the Democratic primary. Statewide, Iowa had 594,199 active registered Democrats just before the June 5 primary, increasing to 618,388 by early July and holding at 618,472 in early August. In Polk County, where primary turnout was extremely high, the number of Democrats rose from 108,258 on June 1 to 114,629 in early July and ticked up to 114,812 as of August 1.

For the purposes of my work, I call this phenomenon voter fluidity. It happens when eligible voters who are already registered, with or without party affiliation, change their party status during an election cycle. Most often, a competitive caucus or primary drives that decision.

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