Iowa journalists form new group, with politicians as gatekeepers

After months of planning, journalists announced the creation of the Iowa Capitol Press Association on November 30. The group’s mission “is to support robust coverage of Iowa state government for the benefit of the public and to promote policies that encourage transparency and access” as well as safe working conditions for reporters.

Association president Erin Murphy of Lee Newspapers said in a news release, “Our members have enjoyed a respectful working relationship with our leaders in state government. We look forward to working with them to foster a climate of transparency and accountability, for the benefit of the people of Iowa.”

For now, Republican legislative leaders and their partisan appointees will have the final say on who can participate in the association.

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U.S. census delay should not derail Iowa redistricting

The U.S. Census Bureau is unlikely to deliver state population totals on its usual timetable, Michael Wines and Emily Bazelon reported for the New York Times on November 19. The news was encouraging for those who support an accurate, complete census, because a delay beyond January 20 would stop the Trump administration’s unconstitutional plan “to remove unauthorized immigrants from the count for the first time in history, leaving an older and whiter population as the basis for divvying up [U.S.] House seats […].”

I wondered how an adjusted timetable could affect Iowa’s redistricting. Could Republicans who retained control of the Iowa House and Senate use a delay as a pretext for bypassing our state’s current nonpartisan process?

Not without changing state law.

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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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An open letter to Speaker Grassley and Majority Leader Whitver

From a concerned member of the Iowa legislature’s staff. -promoted by Laura Belin

To Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley and Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver:

On November 16, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new public health disaster emergency proclamation that recognizes the increasing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in our state. In it, the governor ordered that all “social, community, business, or leisure gatherings or events of more than 15 people” be prohibited in all indoor locations, barring some exceptions.

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Iowa GOP lawmaker seeks review of governor's emergency powers

Republican State Representative Steven Holt plans to review possible changes to the governor’s emergency powers, “including requiring legislative approval for declared emergencies lasting over a certain period of time,” he posted on Facebook November 17. Holt has been a vocal critic of business closures to reduce spread of COVID-19 and is unhappy with several aspects of Governor Kim Reynolds’ latest emergency proclamation.

First elected to the legislature in 2014, Holt has chaired the House Judiciary Committee since 2019. Republican leaders have not yet announced committee assignments for the 2021 session, when their majority will grow to 59-41.

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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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