Governor resumes public events; no word on follow-up test (updated)

Governor Kim Reynolds returned to the capitol on January 18, after canceling her public events on January 13 and 14. Announcing those cancellations, staff said in a statement that the governor “is not feeling well, but has tested negative for COVID-19.” Her spokesperson Alex Murphy did not respond to subsequent messages seeking to clarify whether Reynolds was tested again over the holiday weekend.

At least five individuals associated with the Iowa House or Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, including Democratic State Senators Zach Wahls and Nate Boulton. (The legislature does not require lawmakers or staff to report coronavirus infections.) Reynolds, Wahls, and Boulton are all vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19.

The governor spent considerable time with her face uncovered around other unmasked people last week: at a crowded Iowa GOP breakfast on January 10, while delivering her Condition of the State address in the House chamber the following day, and while attending the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice’s report to lawmakers on January 12.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2022

The Iowa House opened its 2022 session on January 10 with 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats, a one-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year, thanks to a special election last fall.

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 in 2020.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) 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’s session. The most significant: Republican Mike Bousselot won a September special election following the death of Republican John Landon, and Republican Jon Dunwell won an October special election after Democrat Wes Breckenridge left the legislature for another job.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House has two members with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican). As for popular first names, there are six Davids (three go by Dave), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Tom or Thomas, three named Steve or Steven, three named Charles (a Chuck and two Charlies), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), three Jons and two Johns, and two men each named Gary, Dennis, and Ross. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), two Shannons, an Ann and an Anne, and two women named Mary (down from four in 2020).

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Iowa House district 58 to be open; Todd Prichard retiring

State Representative Todd Prichard announced on Facebook January 11 that he will not seek another term in the Iowa House. The Democrat from Charles City won his first legislative race in a 2013 special election and has been re-elected four times. He served as House minority leader from November 2018 until June 2021.

Prichard was the Iowa House member with the most crossover appeal in 2020, based on results from the presidential and legislative races in all districts. His decision to retire at the end of this year opens up the new House district 58, where recent voting trends favor Republicans.

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What the federal government has done for veterans in 2021

November 11 was first celebrated as “Armistice Day” in 1919 and became a national holiday in 1926. Since 1954, it has been known as Veterans Day.

It’s customary for American politicians to release statements on this day thanking veterans for their service to the country. But what has the government done concretely to return the favor to veterans? This year, more than usual.

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Why did so many Democrats vote for Iowa's COVID-19 vaccine law?

Governor Kim Reynolds was “proud” to sign a bill designed to make it easier for Iowans to get around COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the workplace. State Representative Henry Stone, who floor managed the bill in the House, said Republicans worked on this legislation for months, seeking ways to lessen the impact of the Biden administration’s expected rules requiring large employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or frequent testing of employees.

Democrats had no input on the proposal and did not see the bill text until hours before lawmakers debated House File 902 on October 28. Nevertheless, both chambers approved the bill by surprisingly large margins: 68 votes to 27 in the House and 45 votes to 4 in the Senate.

Why did so many Democrats vote for a bill that one supporter described as “a joke” during debate?

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House Ethics panel deadlocks over Heritage Action complaints

Voting along party lines, the Iowa House Ethics Committee failed to take action October 5 on two complaints relating to possible undisclosed lobbying by the national conservative group Heritage Action.

Democratic State Representative Todd Prichard filed the complaints in May after a leaked video showed Heritage Action’s executive director Jessica Anderson boasting that the group had worked “quickly” and “quietly” with Iowa lawmakers to help draft and pass a new election bill. In the complaints, Prichard asserted that Anderson and Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Reform Initiative, violated the Iowa legislature’s lobbying rules by not registering as lobbyists.

Key Republican lawmakers have denied that Heritage Action influenced the new election law’s provisions.

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