"Indeed, I tremble for my country"

Herb Strentz reviews current political divisions over examinations of systemic racism. -promoted by Laura Belin

Our nation’s long, tortured, and systemic racism was marked in late May by several commentaries and observances, which help explain why the adjectives “long,” “tortured,” and “systemic” are appropriate and, unfortunately, will likely remain so.

The June issue of National Geographic offered a centennial retrospective of June 1, 1921, when “a white mob massacred as many as 300 people in the prosperous Black district of Tulsa, Oklahoma.” The New York Times offered an interactive account of the massacre.

May 25 also marked the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Economist, a British weekly, offered a cover story, commentary, and Special Report on Race in America. A provocative point made by The Economist’s statistics and analysis is “America is becoming less racist but more divided by racism.”

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Anti-vaxxers hate Iowa's "vaccine passports" bill

The governor signed this bill on May 20. Original post follows.

“I look forward to signing this important legislation into law!” Governor Kim Reynolds tweeted on May 6, after the Iowa House and Senate approved a bill purportedly banning “vaccine passports.”

House File 889 fits a pattern of Republican bills that are best described as solutions in search of a problem. No state or local government agency intends to issue COVID-19 vaccine passports, nor are Iowa-based businesses rushing to require that customers show proof of coronavirus vaccinations.

A “message” bill can be useful politically, if it pleases a constituency Republicans need in the next election. The odd thing about this last-minute push is that Iowa’s most vocal vaccine skeptics don’t support the bill heading to the governor’s desk. On the contrary, they’re demanding a veto in the name of freedom.

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It's as bad as the voucher bill

Bruce Lear identifies problems with a charter school bill Iowa House Republicans passed on March 24. -promoted by Laura Belin

When I was a teenager, my Mom told me, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” I didn’t believe it then, but I do now. It’s especially true when the majority party tries to sneak a bad bill through the Iowa House after midnight.

That’s exactly what happened when Republicans passed House File 813, an effort to promote charter schools, with no public hearing and little public notice. This bill would change how a charter school may be started in Iowa by keeping the provision in current law allowing application to a local school board, but expanding that application process so the “founding group” may bypass the local school board and go directly to the Iowa Department of Education.

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Randy Feenstra's selective concern for farmers

Andy Kopsa: Iowa’s new member of Congress from the fourth district brags that he “delivers for farmers.” Unless you are a Black farmer, that is. -promoted by Laura Belin

Politicians love farmers. Every caucus season they prove it: they throw a foot up on a hay bale and stump to a crowd at the Iowa State Fair, shove a pork chop into their mouth, use the term “heartland” and “kitchen table” a minimum of 400 times.

Vice President Mike Pence and the Iowa GOP love farmers so much that he came to town just after the August 2020 derecho to launch the Farmers and Ranchers for Trump Coalition. Senator Joni Ernst and Governor Kim Reynolds took time out of their disaster recovery schedule to accompany Pence to Living History [not a real] Farms. Pence didn’t visit a single farm, but he found time to host an exclusive fundraiser in Urbandale before flying away home.

U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra (IA-04) also loves farmers a lot. He introduced an amendment to allocate more aid to Iowans impacted by the derecho last year during a House Agriculture Committee markup of the proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. Feenstra’s amendment passed by a single vote.

That vote came from Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03), the lone Democrat to cross the aisle.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2021

The Iowa House opened its 2021 session on January 11 with 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats, a big improvement for the GOP from last year’s 53-47 split.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women last year.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below 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 changes since last year.

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