# Todd Taylor



Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2023

The Iowa Senate began its 2023 session on January 9 with 34 Republicans and sixteen Democrats, the largest majority seen in the chamber for about five decades. Five of the last seven Iowa general elections have been Republican waves.

Fourteen senators (nine Republicans, five Democrats) were just elected to the chamber for the first time in November. Seven of them (four Republicans and three Democrats) previously served in the Iowa House.

Fifteen senators are women (eight Democrats and seven Republicans), up from twelve women in the chamber prior to the 2022 election and more than double the six women senators who served prior to the 2018 election.

Democrat Izaah Knox is the second Black state senator in Iowa history. The first was Tom Mann, a Democrat elected to two terms during the 1980s. The other 49 senators are white. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Democrat Janice Weiner became the first Jewish person to serve in the Iowa Senate since Ralph Rosenberg left the legislature after 1994. Democrat Liz Bennett became the first out LGBTQ state senator since Matt McCoy retired in 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. The Senate has added a new Technology Committee and renamed what used to be “Labor and Business Relations” as the Workforce Committee.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs and two men each named Mark, Mike, and Dan.

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Fourteen Iowa Senate races to watch on election night 2022

Editor’s note: This analysis has been updated with unofficial results from all the races. Original post follows.

The major parties have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the most competitive 2022 Iowa House and Senate races.

This post highlights seven state Senate districts where one or both parties have spent large sums, and another seven where even without a big investment by Democrats or Republicans, the results could shed light on political trends.

All voter registration totals listed below come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 1. All absentee ballot figures come from the Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 7. All past election results come from the map Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App.

All figures for in-kind spending by the Iowa Democratic Party or Republican Party of Iowa come from filings with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. I focus on in-kind spending, because candidates in battleground Iowa legislative races typically give most of their funds to the state party. The party then covers the bulk of the large expenditures for direct mail and/or television, radio, and digital advertising.

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Governor appoints board member Iowa Senate already rejected

In another end run around the Iowa Senate confirmation process, Governor Kim Reynolds has named Cheryl Arnold to serve on Iowa’s Public Relations Board (PERB), which adjudicates labor disputes within state and local government or school districts.

The governor’s office has not publicly announced the nomination, and at this writing, the board’s website lists only one member (Erik Helland) on what Iowa law designates as a three-person board. Reynolds informed Secretary of the Iowa Senate Charlie Smithson about Arnold’s appointment in a letter dated August 15, which Smithson provided to Bleeding Heartland.

Arnold previously served as chair of the PERB for a little more than a year. She left the position after Iowa Senate Democrats voted against her nomination near the end of the 2020 legislative session. Appointments subject to Senate confirmation need a two-thirds vote for approval, giving Democrats the power to block nominations while in the minority.

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Governor still playing musical chairs with employment board

For a second straight year, Governor Kim Reynolds has reappointed Erik Helland to Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) after Helland failed to win Iowa Senate confirmation. In an apparent effort to circumvent the legally required confirmation process, Reynolds appointed Helland to a different position on the three-member board, which adjudicates labor disputes within state and local government or school districts.

She used the same maneuver last summer to name Helland as PERB chair after the Iowa Senate did not confirm him during the 2021 legislative session.

The governor has not filled the now-vacant position of PERB chair, saying in a recent letter to the top Iowa Senate staffer that her administration “has initiated, but has not yet completed, the selection process.” That leaves the board with no quorum; Reynolds has kept one position unfilled since August 2020.

The long-running vacancy allows the governor’s preferred nominees to remain on the board, even if they don’t receive a two-thirds confirmation vote in the state Senate. Asked for comment on Helland’s reappointment, the Democratic senators who reviewed the PERB nominees accused the governor of “a partisan power grab” and “rigging the appointment process so she can get her way.”

Reynolds’ spokesperson Alex Murphy did not respond to eight inquiries about the PERB appointments between late May and July 28.

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Six terrible bills Iowa Republicans didn't pass in 2022

After a hectic two days at the capitol, the Iowa House and Senate finished their work for the year shortly after midnight on May 25.

In the coming days, Bleeding Heartland will cover some of the final bills in detail. As usual, there were a few surprises in the “standings” bill, such as a provision expanding open enrollment from public schools. While Democrats opposed many bills sent to Governor Kim Reynolds this week, including a ban on COVID-19 vaccine requirements for schools or child care centers, they welcomed one of the last-minute proposals, which exempts diapers and period products from Iowa’s sales tax.

This piece will focus on bills that didn’t make it through, despite a push from Reynolds or top Republican lawmakers.

I anticipate future legislative battles over most if not all of these proposals. Earlier this year, the governor signed into law two priority items that failed to advance in 2021: a measure banning transgender Iowans from girls’ and women’s sports, and deep cuts to unemployment benefits.

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Iowa Democrats won't speak truth to ethanol power

The biofuels industry got a big win in the Iowa legislature this week, as the state House and Senate approved a bill requiring most gas stations in the state to dispense a higher ethanol blend known as E15 from at least half of their pumps.

All but a handful of Democratic legislators voted for the bill, and no Democrat spoke against the proposal during Senate or House floor debate.

It was the latest example of how Iowa Democratic politicians have embraced biofuels industry talking points and avoided challenging any policies seen as supporting ethanol.

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