Introducing the Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws

Bradley Knott: The Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws is giving a Iowans a voice and showing elected officials that voters support reforming Iowa’s cannabis laws.

Cannabis reform is sweeping the country. From ruby red South Dakota and Montana to perpetually blue New York and New Jersey, majorities from across the political spectrum are voting for reform. In some states it’s a stronger medical program. In other states voters have gone all in for both medical and recreational cannabis.

In Iowa, we don’t have a choice. We don’t even have a voice.   

When Democratic State Senators Joe Bolkcom, Janet Petersen, and Sarah Trone Garriott introduced a bill to give Iowans a voice, GOP leadership told them it was D-O-A – dead on arrival. 

Sound familiar?

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Governor, GOP legislature sound death knell for "Iowa nice"

Herb Strentz: Iowa is now governed by a disgraceful Trump cult, masquerading as the once respected Republican Party.

The phrase “Iowa nice” used to be an annoyance to some of us, when used to express the idea that Iowans are nicer than other people. Those of us who have lived in other states, or have family and friends elsewhere, know Iowa has no monopoly on nice people.

But now, instead of being annoyed, there is good reason to mourn the loss of “Iowa nice,” thanks to Governor Kim Reynolds and the Republican-controlled state legislature.

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How Jake Chapman, Sarah Trone Garriott are appealing to voters

Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman made it official on January 31: he will seek re-election in the new Senate district 14, rather than moving to safer Republican territory nearby. His decision sets up what should be a competitive race against Democratic State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott this November.

Bleeding Heartland previously reviewed the political landscape and recent voting history of Senate district 14, a swing district mostly populated by suburban voters. As the campaign progresses, I’ll check in regularly on how Chapman and Trone Garriott are making their case.

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Will Jake Chapman's big swing at teachers play in a swing district?

Opening day speeches at the Iowa legislature are often filled with boring platitudes. But Senate President Jake Chapman dispensed with cliches about bipartisan work for the common good in his welcoming remarks on January 10.

Instead, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican called on colleagues to “take a stand” against what he described as a “sinister agenda” by the media and teachers, “who wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children.”

Chapman’s broadside made headlines across the state and quickly inspired a new RAYGUN t-shirt: “Just another SINISTER TEACHER who’s passionate about education.”

Many conservatives have applauded Chapman for his crusade to remove books he considers “obscene” from public schools and create a felony offense for teachers and librarians who disseminate such material. But Iowa’s new political map put the Senate president in a swing district for the first time. He hinted last month that he will seek re-election there, rather than moving to a solid Republican district nearby.

Conspiracy theories that play well in some GOP circles could drive suburban moderates toward Democratic State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, who is already running in Senate district 14.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2022

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2022 session on January 10 with 32 Republicans and eighteen Democrats. Twelve senators are women (seven Democrats and five Republicans), up from eleven women in the chamber prior to the 2020 election and double the six women senators who served prior to the 2018 election.

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 biggest change: Republican Dave Rowley was elected in December to succeed Republican Zach Whiting, who resigned to take a job in Texas.

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, and two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs and two men each named Zach, Craig, Mark, Dan, Jim, and Tim.

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Iowa Senate district 14 preview: Sarah Trone Garriott vs. Jake Chapman

Democratic State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott confirmed on December 1 that she will move to Dallas County and seek re-election in the new Iowa Senate district 14. Her decision sets up a potential 2022 race against Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman, the second-ranking Republican.

Chapman has not confirmed his plans. But in a December 2 Facebook post, he hinted that he will stay in the suburban swing district where he now lives. (I expected him to move to a nearby district that is safe for the GOP, as Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver is doing.)

A race between Chapman and Trone Garriott would likely be one of next year’s most expensive Iowa legislative campaigns, and would be closely watched for signs of political change in the suburbs.

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