The 2007 votes that made 2019 a historic year for transgender Iowans

Only three months in, 2019 is already the most significant year for transgender equality in Iowa since 2007, when state lawmakers and Governor Chet Culver added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the Iowa Civil Rights Act. That 1965 law hadn’t been significantly amended in decades.

The crucial Iowa House and Senate votes on the civil rights law happened during the first year since the 1960s that Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. Support for LGBTQ equality is often taken for granted now in Democratic circles, but the issue was seen as more politically volatile twelve years ago. The bill amending the civil rights act came late in the 2007 legislative session and could not have passed without some Republican votes.

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A tale of two personhood amendments

Two years ago, State Senator Jake Chapman’s Republican colleagues slapped down his efforts to force a Senate vote on language declaring that life begins at conception, with every fertilized egg “accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons.”

This week, Republicans helped Chapman accomplish what he failed to do then: sneak “personhood” language into a bill during Senate floor debate.

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How one Democrat's work will let Iowa Republicans pack the courts

Republican lawmakers and Governor Kim Reynolds are poised to give GOP officials and their proxies control over what has been a mostly non-partisan system for choosing Iowa judges since 1962.

Until a couple of months ago, I didn’t realize the Republican trifecta could blow up our judicial selection process in a matter of weeks. The Iowa Constitution spells out how vacancies on the bench are filled, and altering any language in our state’s founding document takes years.

Unfortunately, a time bomb has lurked in Article V, Section 16 for more than five decades. While most elements of the system can be changed only through a constitutional amendment, the manner of forming judicial nominating commissions (half appointed by the governor, half elected by attorneys) is specified only “Until July 4, 1973, and thereafter unless otherwise provided by law.”

How did that language end up in the constitution? A Linn County Democrat offered a fateful amendment 60 years ago.

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Sara Craig Gongol joins small group of top Iowa women staffers

The first woman elected to our state’s highest office has picked the third woman to serve as an Iowa governor’s chief of staff.

Sara Craig Gongol will replace Governor Kim Reynolds’ current chief of staff Ryan Koopmans, effective December 15. Craig Gongol was a leading campaign strategist for Reynolds this year and has been “a key member of my team” since 2014, the governor said in a December 11 press release.

The appointment inspired me to look into which women have held the top staff position for governors or members of Congress from Iowa. Like Craig Gongol, who ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 Iowa caucus campaign, several women who managed high-level Iowa campaigns went on to serve as chiefs of staff.

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Seven ways Mary Mosiman helped bury ISU's airplane scandal

A year ago this week, State Auditor Mary Mosiman released the findings from her office’s only examination of the wide-ranging scandal surrounding former Iowa State University President Steven Leath’s use of university-owned airplanes.

To say the self-styled “taxpayer’s watchdog” failed to properly investigate Leath’s personal trips on the taxpayer’s dime would be an understatement.

Mosiman did not try to find out how many times Leath misused ISU’s airplanes or how much his personal travel cost the university. Because the auditor looked the other way, Iowans will never know the scope of a top official’s misconduct at a large public institution.

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