How you can stop the effort to roll back transgender equality in Iowa

UPDATE: House Judiciary Committee Chair Steven Holt confirmed by email on January 29, “The bill is dead. I will not assign it to sub-committee.”

Original post follows:

Nine Iowa House Republicans are trying to make it legal to discriminate against transgender Iowans in many areas of daily life, including education, employment, and housing.

House File 2164 would remove gender identity protections from the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity language to that law in 2007 was one of the hard-fought victories of the new Democratic legislative majority.

The civil rights law bans discrimination against protected classes in “public accommodations, employment, apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs, vocational schools, or housing.” Iowa House and Senate Republicans set a terrible precedent last year by altering the code to deny gender-affirming surgery to transgender Medicaid recipients. (That law is being challenged in court.) So it’s not surprising a group of social conservatives want to deny all civil rights to trans Iowans.

It’s far from clear there are 51 votes to get this horrible proposal through the Iowa House, or that state Senate leaders would want to pass it in the upper chamber. After the jump I’ve highlighted how fair-minded Iowans can help keep this bill from becoming law.

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Chad Behn, Todd Rasmussen running in Iowa Senate district 24

The longest-serving Iowa Senate Republican will not seek re-election, he announced on January 24.

State Senator Jerry Behn has represented districts including Boone County in the Iowa Senate for 24 years. Behn briefly ran for governor in 2009 and served as Senate minority leader from late 2011 until shortly after the 2012 election. He currently holds the positions of Senate president pro-tem and vice chair of the chamber’s Ethics Committee.

The senator’s son Chad Behn, a farmer and Boone County supervisor, launched his campaign on January 27 (news release enclosed below). Plenty of family legacy candidates have successfully run for the Iowa legislature, including House Speaker Pat Grassley (grandson of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley), former House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (daughter of onetime House Speaker Del Stromer), and State Representative Bobby Kaufmann, who represents the district that previously elected his father, current Iowa GOP state chair Jeff Kaufmann.

However, Behn will have serious competition for the GOP nomination. Boone County Republicans co-chair Todd Rasmussen created a Facebook page to promote his state Senate campaign only hours after Jerry Behn made his plans clear.

Rasmussen already has support from State Representative Phil Thompson, who was elected in House district 47 in 2018, and his brother John Thompson, a former member of the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee. In this photo posted on the Todd Rasmussen for Iowa Facebook page, Phil Thompson is on the far right, Rasmussen is second from right, U.S. Representative Steve King is in the center, and John Thompson is standing behind him. CORRECTION: John Thompson is not pictured here, but he has endorsed Rasmussen for Senate district 24.

No Democrats have declared in Senate district 24. Greg Piklapp told Bleeding Heartland on January 27 that he has ruled out this race to focus on his Boone City Council work and the boards and committees on which he already serves. David Weaver, the 2018 Democratic nominee in House district 47, also told me he’s not running for the Senate this year.

Tim Winter, who ran for House district 48 last cycle, said he is focused on chairing the Boone County Democrats and organizing the February 3 caucuses.

Other Democrats are said to be considering this race. It would be a long shot, given recent political trends.

Senate district 24 covers Boone, Greene, and Hamilton counties, plus some rural areas and small towns in Webster and Story counties.

Although Barack Obama narrowly outpolled Mitt Romney in this district by 50.0 percent to 48.4 percent in 2012, Behn defeated his Democratic challenger Shelly Stotts by nearly 3,000 votes (54.7 percent to 45.2 percent) the same year.

Like many other Iowa Senate districts, this area swung heavily to Donald Trump in 2016, giving him 56.0 percent of the vote to 37.4 percent for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Behn won his sixth term against Democratic challenger Keith Puntenney by more than 8,000 votes, taking 63.8 percent of ballots cast. Neither party spent significant money on this race. (Puntenney is better known for being one of the Iowa landowners who sued unsuccessfully to block the use of eminent domain to seize farmland for the Bakken pipeline.)

Even in 2018, a better year for Democrats in much of Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds gained 53.8 percent of the vote in Senate district 24, while Democratic candidate Fred Hubbell won 44.0 percent.

Republicans have represented both state House seats that are part of this Senate district for the past decade. Chip Baltimore defeated Democratic State Representative Donovan Olson by a hair in 2010, then held House district 47 until his retirement in 2018. Rob Bacon has held House district 48 since 2012; he moved down from the Iowa Senate that year after redistricting paired him up with a more senior Republican.

I will update this post as needed when other candidates emerge.

UPDATE: Kim Weaver told me on January 28 that she is considering running for this Senate seat. Weaver recently moved to Boone and is familiar with all the counties in the area, having been the 2016 Democratic nominee in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

January 27 news release:

Chad Behn Announces Candidacy for Iowa Senate District 24

BOONE – Today, Chad Behn is announcing his run Iowa Senate District 24.

“Living and farming in this area for many years, I know what rural communities have to offer and know what they need to grow,” said Behn. “My goal in the Iowa Senate will be to fight for smaller government, job growth, and ensuring our communities have what they need to prosper and succeed.”

Chad is son of Senator Jerry Behn, who announced his retirement last week.

Chad grew up in the Boone and attended Boone High School, graduating in 1996. From there went on to DMACC and graduated. Then he went to Presentation College in South Dakota, graduating in 2000 and receiving a bachelor’s degree in Communications. Chad has served as a county supervisor since 2016. Chad has been farming row crops full time for over 18 years. He is a member of the Central Iowa Community Services Mental Health Board, the Emergency Management Association Board, 911 board, and a member of the Farm Bureau. He currently lives in Boone and has two sons.

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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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2019 Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Bleeding Heartland continues to catch up on the legislature’s significant actions during the session that ended on April 27. Previous posts related to the work of the Iowa House or Senate can be found here.

Republicans showed little interest in amending the Iowa Constitution during the 2019 session. Only one amendment passed both chambers. If and when that proposal appears on a statewide ballot, it will spark a costly and divisive campaign about gun rights and regulations.

The Senate and House debate over the pro-gun amendment is the focus of the first half of this post. Arguments raised on both sides will surely return in future television commercials and mass mailings.

The rest of the post reviews this year’s unsuccessful attempts to change the constitution. One amendment (backed by Governor Kim Reynolds) made it through the Iowa House, and four others advanced from a House or Senate committee but did not come up for a floor vote. The rest did not get through a committee, even though some of the same ideas went further last year.

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Where things stand with MidAmerican's bad solar bill

As state lawmakers wrap up their work for 2019, one of the biggest question marks surrounds MidAmerican Energy’s push to make future solar development unaffordable for most Iowa homeowners and small businesses.

Four weeks after the bill cleared the Iowa Senate, it is still hung up in the House, where a group of Republicans recently took an unusual step to signal their opposition.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2019

The Iowa House opened its 2019 session today with 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats. State Representative Michael Bergan was sworn in for a second term, even though his Democratic opponent Kayla Koether is contesting the outcome. A special committee will consider her complaint in the coming weeks.

The new state representatives include 66 men and 34 women (24 Democrats and ten Republicans, record numbers for both parties).

Four African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, and Phyllis Thede) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 96 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), and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

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