Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Republicans steer Iowa to the right, reflecting a rural-urban divide more like rest of the nation

Senate GOP Leader Bill Dix
Known for political temperance, Iowa has suddenly joined in with its Midwestern neighbors in veering rightward on the political spectrum, longtime Des Moines correspondent Thomas Beaumont reports for The Associated Press: "It was one of four states – along with Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire – that flipped to complete GOP control in the November election, but Iowa's rush of new legislation has been the most intense." Last week, Iowa lawmakers approved a bill, similar to one proposed in Wisconsin six years ago, "that strips most public sector unions of long-held collective bargaining rights, including health insurance."

Despite an $110 million budget shortfall, Republicans are talking about a tax cut, Beaumont notes. Among other items, they are also "pressing to eliminate state money for all Planned Parenthood services, outlaw the use of fetal tissue for medical research, subject doctors who perform abortions to lawsuits by women at any time in the future, scrap minimum-wage increases in Iowa's largest counties and block municipalities from enacting sexual orientation discrimination protections." All this in a state that voted repeatedly for Barack Obama.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix dismissed the notion "that Iowa has shifted in a lasting way beyond its half-century tradition for political balance. Instead, he says Republicans are seizing upon voter sentiment, which coincides with 20 years of pent-up Republican policy changes," Beaumont reports. "To act cautiously in light of November's heavy Republican legislative victories could hurt the GOP's chances of holding its majority, so it's all or nothing, Dix said."

In contrast, "Republican Ron Corbett, House speaker the last time his party controlled the Iowa Capitol, said Republicans showed more willingness to work with Democrats back then. That's also in part because rural Democrats were more powerful, he said. Today, the rural-urban divide in the Iowa Legislature more closely resembles that nationwide, with Republicans dominating rural areas and Democrats the urban districts."

Some Iowa residents aren't fond of risk-taking. "Thousands protested at the Capitol in Des Moines last week. And Senate Democrats held an all-night debate Wednesday night, after every member of the minority spoke to oppose it, while only two Republicans stood to promote it," Beaumont reports. "Republicans stymied each of Democrats' dozens of attempts to amend the bill."

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