It's official. Governor Kim Reynolds is Iowa's first female Governor. Terry Branstad resigned from office after being confirmed by the US Senate as Ambassador to China; he and his family plan to leave for the new post immediately. He will now be referred to as Ambassador Branstad. Governor Reynolds has served as Lt. Governor with Branstad since their election in 2010.
It's been a historic few years for Iowa women, with the appointment of our state's first female Speaker of the House (Rep. Linda Upmeyer) in 2016 and the election of our first female US Senator (Sen. Joni Ernst) in 2014. Governor Reynolds previously served as a State Senator (2008-2011) and a county treasurer.
As you may recall, it was not clear if Governor Reynolds had the authority to appoint a new Lt. Governor, because Iowa's Constitution and laws do not explain how a Lt. Governor vacancy is to be filled. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller initially said that Governor Reynolds would be able to appoint a Lt. Governor, but changed his mind after more review in May.
Governor Reynolds decided to appoint Adam Gregg as her "Acting" Lt. Governor. While Lt. Governor Gregg will fulfill the dutiies of the office and get the $100,000+ salary of a Lt. Governor, he would not become Governor if Governor Reynolds were unable to finish her term. The Iowa Constitution states clearly that the next in line would be Senate President Jack Whitver. However, the next Governor's election is only 17 months away. Already seven Democrats have announced they are running (State Senator Nate Boulton, businessman Fred Hubbell, Polk County Conservation Director Rich Leopold, former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Dr. Andy McGuire, former Des Moines School Board President Jon Neiderbach, State Representative Todd Pritchard, and John Norris, who served several top appointments in the Obama Administration and was Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's Chief of Staff. On the Republican side, Cedar Rapids Mayor and former Speaker of the Iowa House Ron Corbett, are also considering challenging a Reynolds-Gregg ticket. Corbett has said he will let everyone know his decision (to run or not) on June 20.
Several key staff will also be leaving the Governor's Office, including Michael Bousselot, who has been the Governor's Chief of Staff since 2015. Jake Ketzner, who worked on Branstad's staff before as a legislaitve liaison and has worked on several campaigns, will be the new Chief of Staff. For a full list of Governor's staff changes, click here.
Sadly, there will be a new face at the desk of Rep. Greg Forristall. Rep. Forristall died on May 10, following a battle with cancer. Rep. Forristall was Vice Chair of the House Education Committee and was on the House Labor, Human Resources and Ways and Means Committees. He was from Macedonia, and represented House District 22, which includes most of rural Pottawattamie County and some of the Eastern part of Council Bluffs. The Governor has called a special election for Tuesday, June 27.
Both Republicans and Democrats held conventions to nominate their candidates on May 30, but there was controversy on both sides. Forristall's wife Carol, who has served as his legislative clerk and spent 35 years as a public school music teacher, announced she would run and seemed to have the support of legislative leaders. But local leaders picked someone else to represent the Republican party - Jon Jacobsen, a Council Bluffs bank vice-president and lawyer. Following that decision, Carol Forristall filed papers to run as an Independent (no party). There is also a Libertarian candidate running (Byron Jack Holder).
Democrats nominated Ray Stevens, who has a military and community college teaching background and now works at the Council Bluffs Water Works, to run for the seat. Unfortunately, Mr. Stevens didn't get his nomination papers to the Secretary of State by the deadline, so he will not appear on the ballot. He still plans to run, but Democrats will not have a candidate on the ballot. He will run as a "write-in" candidate. So that means, the choice for District 22 will be:
If you live in this district and are not already registered to vote, you can do so until June 16. After that time, you will have to follow same-day voter registration requirements (photo ID and proof you are living at your current address). Voters can ask for a mail-in ballot until June 23, and can vote in-person absentee ballot at the Pottawattamie County Courthouse until June 26. For more information about the special election, go to sos.iowa.gov/elections/electioninfo/sh22special.html.
As if this was not enough change, the Iowa Senate has shuffled its committee leadeship assignments around, taking away the chairmanships of two Republican Sioux City Senators - Sen. Bill Anderson will no longer chair the Senate Commerce Committee (Adel Senator Jake Chapman will take over that role) and Sen. Rick Bertrand will no longer chair the Transportation/Infrastructure Appropriations Subcommittee (Sen. Craig Johnson of Independence is the new chair).
You can see this updated list here. In addition, we have already updated the 2017-2018 Guide to the Iowa Legislature which we will continue to update and offer online until later this year, when we're sure there will be no other changes. We will mail out a hard copy of this Guide to our subscribers in the Fall of 2017 - so if you do not recieve infoNET by email or mail, register with ID Action and you'll get a free copy mailed to you!
Before becoming Ambassador, Governor Branstad finished signing bills into law. The Legislature sent 174 bills to the Governor this year - and all were signed into law. The Governor did veto parts of four budget bills, but those vetoes did not affect any of the issues we've tracked for our readers. The vetoes include:
Normally we report statistics on the number of bills introduced, and the number of bills signed. For example, this year, the Governor signed 100% of the bills sent to him, and 10% of the bills introduced this year became law. That means only one in every ten bills sponsored by a legislator made its way to become law this year. That's about the same as other years, which usually range between 9-11%. James Lynch, a Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter, did some additional analysis to compare the 2017 Legislature to other years:
More bills doesn't mean better bills, and those that like less government may not want to measure success by the number of bills passed. What is a fact - the new Republican leaders of the Iowa Senate and their House counterparts wasted no time in passing bills they had been waiting to do for years. Things like defunding Planned Parenthood, medical malpractice reform, workers compensation changes, state employee union changes, and broad gun rights legislation. All that, done in 15 weeks.
If your issues didn't make the cut this year, they still can be debated next year when the Iowa Legislature resumes session on Monday, January 8, 2018. Legislators will also be able to introduce new ideas by requesting new bills. Some thoughts for those of you that want to see something happen in the Iowa Legislature next year:
This year, we tracked over 100 bills that might be of interest to our readers; 27 of those will become law on July 1, 2017 (unless we note otherwise). Here is a list of those new laws:
You can always read more about the bills that passed (and didn't pass) this year in the infoNET Bill Tracker.
While the Legislature has finished its work for the year, there is still plenty of activity going on over the summer months. Legislative leaders will meet later this month (June 22) to decide which issues to study over the "interim," the word legislators use to refer to the months they are not in session. These interim study committees will meet to discuss issues that needed more time than was available in the 15 weeks of legislative session. We know that interims have been requested to address:
We will post the interim committees approved on our website and Facebook page once announced on June 22. Make sure you check back to see if there are any issues of interest to you.
Legislators do not hold as many forums over the summer and fall, but your federal elected officials (Congress, US Senate) and the new Governor/Lt. Governor team are busy traveling the state. Make sure you check our Calendar regulary to find these opportunities to talk with your elected officials! Click here, or go directly to http://www.infonetiowa.org/calendar/events/.