Iowa Republicans ready to back statewide absentee mailing—with a catch

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate kept quiet for weeks.

He said nothing in public as Republican lawmakers sought to stop him from taking steps that contributed to record-breaking turnout in Iowa’s primary election.

He said nothing when legislators agreed to allow him to exercise emergency powers over an election only with approval from the GOP-dominated Legislative Council.

He had no public comment when Governor Kim Reynolds signed that bill.

Nor did he react when Republicans on the Legislative Council voted down a Democratic motion to let the secretary of state send absentee ballot request forms to all registered Iowa voters before the November election.

Pate’s staff did not respond to journalists’ inquiries about whether he would attempt to send a universal absentee request mailing this fall.

The secretary of state finally broke his silence on July 16 with a written proposal to mail every active registered Iowa voter an absentee ballot request form. But that’s not all. Pate’s also seeking to stop county auditors from making it easier for their constituents to return complete and accurate requests for absentee ballots.

Republicans on the Legislative Council will surely approve Pate’s request when they meet on July 17. But it’s not clear the secretary of state has the legal authority to limit what county auditors send voters.

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Iowans lose out to industrial ag in 2020 legislative session

Emma Schmit is an Iowa organizer for Food & Water Watch. -promoted by Laura Belin

While coronovirus disrupted the Iowa legislative session this year, it failed to hinder business as usual.

Once again, legislators across the state preferred to serve Big Ag instead of their constituents. It’s hardly a surprise given the hundreds of thousands of dollars that flow into the coffers of our elected officials from Farm Bureau, Bayer-Monsanto and fat cats of the factory farm industry, including the Hansen and Rastetter families. While the needs of everyday Iowans were ignored for yet another year, industrial agribusiness cemented its rule over our state.

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Iowa SOS will need permission for future emergency election changes

Secretary of State Paul Pate will need approval from the Legislative Council in order to use his emergency powers to alter election procedures, under a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed on June 25.

While Republicans have a majority on that legislative body, it’s not clear they would use that power to prevent Pate from repeating steps that led to record-breaking turnout for the June 2 primary.

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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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Iowa deserves to be more than just a feedlot between two rivers

Emma Schmit is an Iowa organizer for Food & Water Watch. -promoted by Laura Belin

In December, U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced a historic new vision for agriculture and food in the United States. The Farm System Reform Act would overhaul our unsustainable food and agriculture model and strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act to give independent family farmers a fighting chance against monopolistic, corporate integrators. It restores mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, so consumers know where their food is coming from.

What makes it truly revolutionary, though, is that it calls for an end to factory farming. The Farm System Reform Act is the first ever national factory farm ban legislation.

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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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