Governor endorses plan targeting Iowans on public assistance

A longstanding effort by Iowa Senate Republicans to reduce the number of Iowans receiving various forms of public assistance got a quiet boost last week from Governor Kim Reynolds.

For the first time, the governor’s draft human services budget included provisions that would create asset tests for federal food assistance and require the Iowa Department of Human Services to establish a new “eligibility verification system” for Medicaid and several other public assistance programs.

State Senator Jason Schultz has pushed similar legislation for several years running. Each session, Senate Republicans have approved the bills, which died in the House Human Resources Committee (see here and here).

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Racial disparities narrow in Iowa's COVID-19 vaccinations

As Iowa prepares to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults on April 5, racial and ethnic disparities in the state’s vaccination rates have narrowed slightly since Bleeding Heartland last reviewed this data four weeks ago. However, people of color have still received far fewer vaccine doses per capita, compared to white Iowans.

At least 1,588,117 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to Iowa residents, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard on April 4. At least 662,885 Iowans have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine (that is, two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). Another 368,646 Iowans “have received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series, but have not completed the series.”

Breaking down the numbers by race and ethnicity, it’s apparent that Iowa has a long way to go to achieve equity in vaccine distribution.

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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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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2021

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2021 session on January 11 with 31 Republicans, eighteen Democrats, and one vacancy in the district formerly represented by Mariannette Miller-Meeks. A record twelve senators are women (seven Democrats and five Republicans), up from eleven women in the chamber last year and double the six who served prior to 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. A few committees have new Republican leaders.

All current state senators are white. The only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

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

UPDATE: Republican Adrian Dickey won the January 26 special election to represent Senate district 41, giving the GOP a 32-18 majority. After he’s sworn in, I’ll note his committee assignments below.

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Recount confirms Sarah Trone Garriott won Iowa Senate district 22

The only Iowa legislative race to go to a recount in 2020 was resolved this week. Democrat Sarah Trone Garriott won the open seat in Senate district 22 by 23,110 votes to 22,946 for Clive Mayor Scott Cirksena (50.1 percent to 49.8 percent), according to updated numbers on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website. The initial results following the canvass had Garriott ahead by 23,113 votes to 22,946. Cirksena called Trone Garriott on November 20 to concede.

The result gives Republicans a 32 to 18 majority in the upper chamber, for now. Trone Garriott was the only Democrat to win a GOP-held seat. Republican Jeff Reichman defeated Democratic State Senator Rich Taylor in Senate district 42. However, if Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks wins the second Congressional district race, which is now in a recount, she would resign from the legislature, setting up a special election in Senate district 41 early next year.

Trone Garriott will join the largest ever contingent of women in the Iowa Senate. In January they will number thirteen with Miller-Meeks or twelve without her.

Senate district 22 is among Iowa’s most over-populated legislative districts, due to rapid growth in the western suburbs of Des Moines during the past decade. While most competitive state Senate races had between 27,000 and 35,000 ballots cast, more than 46,000 people voted in Senate district 22. Trone Garriott won the Polk County side (precincts that are part of House district 43) by nearly a 10-point margin, 9,620 votes to 7,885. Cirksena won the Dallas County side (House district 44) by about 5 percent, 15,061 votes to 13,490.

When Iowa adopts a new political map next year, this Senate district could become more Democratic, assuming it loses territory on the Dallas County side. On the other hand, the next map could put Trone Garriott, a Windsor Heights resident, in the same district as fellow Senate Democrat Claire Celsi, who lives in the part of West Des Moines that’s currently in Senate district 21. I’ve enclosed both of those maps below, along with the news release announcing Trone Garriott’s victory.

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Record number of women will serve in Iowa Senate; fewer elected to House

Second in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

The non-profit 50-50 in 2020 dissolved early this year after working for a decade to increase women’s representation in Iowa politics. Although our state has elected a woman governor, a woman to the U.S. Senate (twice), and will have women representing three of the the four Congressional districts for the next two years, we have a long way to go toward parity in the Iowa legislature.

When lawmakers convene in Des Moines in January, women will make up one-quarter of the Iowa Senate for the first time. However, the number of women serving in the House will drop below one-third of the chamber.

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