What took them so long?

Better late than never. Governor Kim Reynolds recommended on March 15 that Iowa schools close for four weeks to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The same day, Republican legislative leaders announced the House and Senate will suspend operations for at least 30 days after meeting on March 16 “to consider resolutions regarding continuity of government to ensure delivery of essential services to Iowans.” Clerks and secretaries have been told they will be paid through April 21, but “March 16 will be your last day of employment.”

While several state legislatures around the country hit the pause button last week, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver waited for recommendations from the governor or the Iowa Department of Public Health.

As recently as the late afternoon on March 13, Reynolds was assuring the public, “At this time, Iowa is not experiencing community spread of the virus.” Such a definitive statement was not warranted, given how few people had been tested for COVID-19.

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Iowa Democrats postpone county conventions; No changes at legislature

UPDATE: The Iowa legislature on March 16 suspended the 2020 session for at least 30 days. The Iowa Democratic Party sent guidance to county chairs the State Central Committee on March 23 on conducting county conventions “using an absentee system.” I’ve enclosed that document at the end of this post.

The Iowa Democratic Party is postponing county conventions scheduled for March 21 “to a future date to be determined,” the party announced today.

But for now, leaders of the Iowa legislature have no plans to pause activities at the state Capitol. They should reconsider.

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Iowa lawmakers chose corporate agriculture and factory farms again

Emma Schmit (Food & Water Action) and Ava Auen-Ryan (CCI Action): Certain Iowa leaders kept the factory farm moratorium from advancing this year, despite unprecedented support. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowans kicked off 2020 with an unprecedented push to stop factory farms and address climate chaos, but this legislative session’s first deadline passed with no action. 

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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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Iowa Republican lawmakers having trouble with oversight concept

Members of the Iowa House and Senate begin the work of the 2020 legislative session this morning. Speaking to journalists last week, GOP leaders described plans to work on a wide range of issues in the coming months, including workforce development, taxes, child care, and medical cannabis.

But top statehouse Republicans aren’t planning any oversight hearings on what’s been happening at the Glenwood Resource Center for Iowans with severe intellectual disabilities.

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