IA-01: Mathis set to clear Democratic field

Less than a week after launching her Congressional campaign, State Senator Liz Mathis has eliminated any chance of serious competition for the Democratic nomination in the first district.

Mathis announced support last week from more than 100 well-known Iowa Democrats, including all recent U.S. House representatives, every current statewide official, and 48 current state legislators. It’s not just the number of endorsements that will discourage others who may have considered running for Congress in northeast Iowa. Prominent voices representing all wings of the Democratic Party are behind Mathis.

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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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Iowa Republicans have abandoned executive branch oversight

Governor Kim Reynolds has been lucky at key points in her political career. Terry Branstad passed over more experienced contenders to select her as his 2010 running mate, allowing a little-known first-term state senator to become a statewide elected official. Six years later, Donald Trump won the presidency and named Branstad as an ambassador, setting Reynolds up to become governor without having to win a GOP primary first.

Most important, Reynolds has enjoyed a Republican trifecta her entire four years as governor. Not only has she been able to sign much of her wish list into law, she has not needed to worry that state lawmakers would closely scrutinize her administration’s work or handling of public funds.

During the legislative session that wrapped up last month, the GOP-controlled House and Senate rejected every attempt to make the governor’s spending decisions more transparent. They declined to hold even one hearing about questionable uses of federal COVID-19 relief funds or practices at state agencies that disadvantaged thousands of Iowans.

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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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Pandering on police budgets won't save Democrats from bad-faith GOP attacks

Some bills are designed to solve real problems, some create the appearance of solving a real problem, and others just cue up attack ads.

So it was with Senate File 479, which passed on March 10 with a large bipartisan majority even though no organizations are lobbying for it.

The bill would make local governments “ineligible to receive any state funds” if they reduced a law enforcement agency’s budget by a larger percentage than the reduction in the government entity’s total budget. While floor managing the measure, Republican State Senator Chris Cournoyer said, “This is not the time to cut funding” for law enforcement. She claimed the bill would “keep our communities and our citizens safe” and asked colleagues to “show their strong support for law enforcement with a yes vote.”

Ten Democrats–Tony Bisignano, Nate Boulton, Bill Dotzler, Eric Giddens, Kevin Kinney, Jim Lykam, Liz Mathis, Amanda Ragan, Jackie Smith, and Todd Taylor–joined the 31 Republicans present to approve the legislation.

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