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.

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What is our shared public education vision?

Heather Matson: It is abundantly clear that the governor and many Republican legislators are only listening to the Iowans who agree with them. -promoted by Laura Belin

It’s often said that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” I am deeply disappointed, and quite frankly, furious, that what Iowans heard from Governor Kim Reynolds in her Condition of the State speech was a decision to cynically use the challenges we have faced over the last year as a means to further divide us and score long sought-after political points. And she is doing it under the euphemistic guise of “school choice.”

Let’s be clear: The governor, with the support of House and Senate Republicans, is continuing a war on public education in the state of Iowa. They have no idea of a shared vision for our state, and especially one for public education, which I will get to at the end, so please stick with me. 

But first, a few thoughts on the Republican proposals. 

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Open letter to Ann Meyer on teacher recruitment, retention

Republican State Representative Ann Meyer introduced a bill to address a pressing problem for Iowa schools. Randy Richardson argues we don’t need a new task force to figure out why students aren’t becoming teachers or why teachers are leaving the profession. -promoted by Laura Belin

Dear Ann,

I read with great interest House File 101, which you introduced this week. As you know, the bill calls for the creation of a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Task Force consisting of 21 people appointed by the Iowa Department of Education director. The task force will study why students aren’t entering the teaching field, why many teachers are leaving the profession, and what can be done to attract a more diverse group of teaching candidates.

A reasonable person would assume that the task force would be made up of a large number of teachers, since they would offer some key insights into the issues. Unfortunately, your bill requires the appointment of only three teachers (and one of them can come from an Area Education Agency).

While the intent of the bill is laudable, the need for a task force to determine why this is an issue is laughable.

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Leaders need to be role models

Bruce Lear reviews Iowa Republican leaders’ latest words and actions on COVID-19. -promoted by Laura Belin

There have always been individuals in jobs we hold to a higher standard. We expect more from them because they are in the public spotlight and have a certain prestige.

To name just a few, we expect doctors, teachers, and star athletes to serve as role models, and most of these professions follow a code of ethics. If that code is broken, the public or their employer scream foul.

I guess Iowa Republican legislators and our governor don’t consider themselves role models, or they would require masks and social distancing at the capitol. Also, their policies would protect students and educators by allowing local decision making.

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We must take action now on Iowa's failed COVID-19 response

Tanya Keith is an activist and small business owner in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

At the beginning of the pandemic, I called my parents and sister in Massachusetts and pleaded with them to move to Iowa. At the time, Massachusetts was having what we considered a raging outbreak, and central Iowa had no confirmed cases. My thinking was they would be so much safer here, because by the time the pandemic reached Iowa, we would know better and therefore do better. I thought my family would be safest here.

But now the tables have turned. Massachusetts has taken science-based action to control the pandemic, and Iowa maintains one of the worst COVID-19 responses in the U.S. (and therefore the world). I haven’t seen my family in over a year, and I can’t imagine how I would safely get to them even if Massachusetts allowed travel from Iowa. Rampant disease spread causes a strain on my business as I try to protect people I hire from working with each other. The school year I most looked forward to: our eldest’s senior year, our middle’s 8th grade, and our youngest’s kindergarten year are all happening remotely.

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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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