Republicans found shortcut around Iowa Supreme Court on abortion

Spirits lifted in the pro-choice community when Iowa House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl did not call up a constitutional amendment on abortion shortly after the legislature reconvened this month.

Republican leaders wanted to pass the amendment, which had advanced from committee months earlier. When a high-profile bill doesn’t come to the floor, it often means the majority party doesn’t have the votes for final passage.

Indeed, at least three of the 53 House Republicans resisted immense pressure to vote for legislation designed to overturn an Iowa Supreme Court ruling protecting “the constitutional right of women to terminate a pregnancy.”

Unfortunately, the holdouts agreed to a last-minute abortion restriction that may provide a faster way to undo the high court’s work.

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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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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 Senate district 32 preview: Craig Johnson vs. Pam Egli

Republicans won six Democratic-held Iowa Senate districts in 2016. All of them were among the eighteen Iowa Senate districts where voters had favored President Barack Obama in 2012 but Donald Trump four years later.*

Some of the largest swings toward Trump occurred in northeast Iowa. Parts of four counties make up Senate district 32, where Democrat Pam Egli recently announced that she will challenge first term State Senator Craig Johnson.

While this race does not currently appear to be among the best 2020 pickup opportunities for Democrats in the upper chamber, it could become competitive. Either way, state legislative elections in this part of Iowa will be important to watch for signs of whether Republicans are able consolidate their 2016 gains.

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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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