# Pam Jochum



Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2023

The Iowa Senate began its 2023 session on January 9 with 34 Republicans and sixteen Democrats, the largest majority seen in the chamber for about five decades. Five of the last seven Iowa general elections have been Republican waves.

Fourteen senators (nine Republicans, five Democrats) were just elected to the chamber for the first time in November. Seven of them (four Republicans and three Democrats) previously served in the Iowa House.

Fifteen senators are women (eight Democrats and seven Republicans), up from twelve women in the chamber prior to the 2022 election and more than double the six women senators who served prior to the 2018 election.

Democrat Izaah Knox is the second Black state senator in Iowa history. The first was Tom Mann, a Democrat elected to two terms during the 1980s. The other 49 senators are white. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Democrat Janice Weiner became the first Jewish person to serve in the Iowa Senate since Ralph Rosenberg left the legislature after 1994. Democrat Liz Bennett became the first out LGBTQ state senator since Matt McCoy retired in 2018.

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. The Senate has added a new Technology Committee and renamed what used to be “Labor and Business Relations” as the Workforce Committee.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs and two men each named Mark, Mike, and Dan.

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Iowa Democrats won't speak truth to ethanol power

The biofuels industry got a big win in the Iowa legislature this week, as the state House and Senate approved a bill requiring most gas stations in the state to dispense a higher ethanol blend known as E15 from at least half of their pumps.

All but a handful of Democratic legislators voted for the bill, and no Democrat spoke against the proposal during Senate or House floor debate.

It was the latest example of how Iowa Democratic politicians have embraced biofuels industry talking points and avoided challenging any policies seen as supporting ethanol.

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One Iowa lobbyist's startling—but informative—admission

March 18 was the Iowa legislature’s second “funnel” deadline. Other than tax or appropriations bills, most legislation must have been approved by one chamber and at least one committee in the other chamber in order to stay “alive” for the rest of the year.

Every year, some bills that clear the Iowa House or Senate nearly unanimously die without action in the other chamber, or remain alive in name only, having been gutted while moving through committee.

Why would a proposal with support across the spectrum run into trouble? Sometimes a committee chair or member of leadership has a specific reason for wanting to kill a bill. Other times, powerful interest groups put on a full-court press to slow the momentum of a popular idea.

It’s often hard to get lawmakers or lobbyists on the record about why a bill died under such circumstances. But a few days ago, one experienced lobbyist laid it on the table during a Senate subcommittee hearing.

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Midwifery licensure would improve maternal health, infant outcomes

Bethany Gates is a Certified Professional Midwife from Vinton (Benton County), where she lives with her husband, Judah, and their 4 daughters.

Certified Professional Midwives are midwives who practice in an out-of-hospital setting. Iowa CPMs attend home births; in other states, CPMs attend home births and births in birth centers. 

Here in Iowa, CPMs are unregulated, and the Iowa Code does not have any section addressing their practice. While this may sound like freedom in theory, the reality is that midwives face many challenges as they strive to provide quality care, because Iowa does not license the profession.

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Chris Hall rules out running for governor

State Representative Chris Hall will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor, he told Bleeding Heartland on February 7. Having seriously considered the race, he concluded it was not possible to raise the resources or name identification to run a viable campaign.

Hall added, “I care deeply about the direction of the state and Democratic Party, and hope to contribute meaningfully to both.” He has represented part of Sioux City in the Iowa House since 2011, serving in recent years as the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. He has not announced whether he will seek a seventh term in the state legislature.

Business owner Deidre DeJear is the only active Democratic candidate for governor; State Representative Ras Smith left the field last month. While other Democrats are rumored to be thinking about the race, time is running short. Candidates for governor must submit nominating papers to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office by March 18, including signatures from at least 3,500 eligible Iowa voters, with at least 100 signatures from at least nineteen counties.

Any new contender would need to put together a statewide organization before the June 7 primary. The nominee will face Governor Kim Reynolds, whose campaign had $4.78 million cash on hand as of December 31, compared to $8,547.28 in the bank for DeJear.

Prominent Democrats who ruled out running for governor last year include State Senator Pam Jochum, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne, and State Auditor Rob Sand.

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