Author: Iowa Senate Democrats

Senate Dem Leader’s 2018 session closing remarks

As we wrap up the 2018 Legislative session, I want to thank my Democratic colleagues for the honor of leading our team as the Senate Democratic Leader.

I also want to give a shout out to the retirees for their service: Senator Bertrand and Senator Chelgren.  We’re looking forward to giving Senators Rozenboom, Brown, C. Johnson, Lofgren and Breitbach the ability to sit on the same side of the aisle with your caucus next year.

To our Democratic colleagues who are retiring: Senator Dvorsky, Senator McCoy, and the legendary Senator Wall Horn – we will truly miss having the three of you on our team.

I also want to take a moment to ask the chamber to join me in showing our appreciation to our smart, talented, caring and hard-working caucus staffs – from both the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

Thank you to the Secretary of the Senate and his staff, the Senate pages and all the hard-working staff at the Legislative Services Agencies.

Let’s give all of them a round of applause.

Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader, all of my Senate Colleagues, and to all of the Iowans we represent: During my opening day address of this session, I said that Iowans want their leaders to work together, to lead with civility, and to make good things happen for the people of our state.

Senate Democrats listened to the people they serve and responded by offering real solutions to real problems.  With very few exceptions, those ideas fell on deaf ears.

Senate Republicans leaders said their agenda was simple: “KICK THE DOOR IN!”

Unfortunately, Iowans are already feeling the consequences of having the door kicked in on them.

The Republican-controlled legislature and Governor Reynolds did a lot of bad things to good people this session.

Iowans believe we should be investing in education and job training – that is how we can help each other get ahead in life.

Instead, you kicked the door in on our school children, college students, educators and Iowans seeking job training to advance their careers.

This year, Republicans cut funding to community colleges and state universities, making it harder for Iowa families to afford sending their kids to college.

Businesses have been telling us that Iowa has a skilled worker shortage.  Yet, Republicans failed to adequately support apprenticeship and job-training programs that can help Iowans advance their careers and bring home a bigger paycheck to support their families.


Republicans kicked the door in on our seniors and retirees.

Republicans made choices with the state budget.  And those choices resulted in damaging consequences.

When you made a decision to underfund programs for our seniors, you turned your back on taking great care of our older population – helping them stay connected to their communities and helping them live happy, healthy, and safe lives in their homes for as long as possible.

Instead, you alarmed tens of thousands of retirees who were worried because you were working with out-of-state interests to dismantle or weaken the retirement security of Iowans.

Our parents and grandparents living in nursing homes are still stuck with your oversight by telephone – when many of them cannot even hear well enough to talk on the phone.

You did nothing to protect seniors from financial exploitation, neglect and abuse or help families struggling to find caregivers for the people they love.


Republicans kicked the door in on Iowa workers and job creators in our small towns.

Instead of boosting support for Iowa entrepreneurs creating solar jobs in small towns, we saw you threaten the very programs that helped them get their local businesses off the ground.

We have bright young people who could put our state on the map in the tech sector, but Republicans did nothing to help them get their businesses rolling.

We could have worked together to increase our commitments to the renewable energy sector that is fueling our economy and creating jobs in small towns across our state.


Republicans kicked the door in on Iowan’s health care.

Republicans helped Governor Reynolds sell out Iowa’s health care to Wall Street companies.

What did Iowans get?

Less care and Iowa health care providers struggling to get paid.

Republicans took control of women’s health care with dangerous policies that hurt Iowa women and girls.  Additionally, it will hurt our state’s reputation and ability to attract new businesses, families and millennials who want to live and work in a state that values women.


Republicans kicked the door in on balancing the state budget.

There is a reason why Republicans couldn’t balance the budget the past two years.

Republicans made a choice – an active decision to sell off Iowa tax dollars at fire sale prices to out-of-state corporations and millionaires.

You’ve ripped off hard-working Iowans who will be stuck with the consequences of your deliberate actions.

This year, like last year, we saw Republican leaders putting cover-ups and cronyism ahead of doing what was right.

First, we saw the entire Senate Republican caucus continue to follow the bad decisions of their leadership who chose to fire Kirsten Anderson just hours after she turned in a complaint of sexual harassment.  It wasn’t until the Waveland Tap video surfaced and one of your leaders kicked the door in on himself that your caucus finally took any meaningful, bipartisan action on improving the work environment in the Iowa Senate.

Iowa taxpayers were outraged that they were stuck footing the bill for the $1.75 million lawsuit and paying the salaries and benefits of the perpetrator and retaliators for years.  It is still shocking to know that the only person fired in the scandal was the victim – Kirsten Anderson.

Second, Senate Republicans made an active decision to protect Governor Reynolds by ensuring the results of the investigation of her long-time friend and former Iowa Finance Director will not be completed until after the gubernatorial election.  Iowans.

Colleagues, we can do better!


I am in the Iowa Senate because I love Iowans!

They are caring, hard-working people.  They deserve leaders who are focused less on kicking in doors, and more on taking care of them.

It is time to put Iowans first again.

It’s time to invest in our people and our state’s future by

  • making our schools number one again
  • ensuring Iowans have access to good paying jobs no matter where they live
  • putting Iowans back in charge of our health care instead of turning it over to Wall Street companies and politicians.

Iowans – thank you for making your voices heard this legislative session.  Democrats love you and we look forward to working with you to ensure bluer skies are ahead for state – and a much bluer Iowa Senate.








Senate Dem Leader on passage of GOP tax scheme

Iowa Senate News Release
For Immediate Release:  May 5, 2018 


“Republicans passed a tax giveaway bill today that gives most of the benefits to out-of-state companies and millionaires.  It’s a bad deal for most Iowans. It will raise property taxes on families, seniors and small businesses, and it will result in cuts to health care, job creation, education and other critical services.

“Senate Democrats came into the 2018 session promising to support tax reform that would:

  1. Make the tax system fairer for working families and small businesses
  2. Make Iowa businesses more competitive
  3. Take into account our current budget crisis
  4. Tackle corporate tax giveaways, the fastest growing part of the state budget

“By every measure, the tax plan unveiled in the 11th hour of the 2018 session and passed by the Senate today fails every one of those tests. That’s because the bill is filled with giveaways to millionaires, wealthy corporations and people who don’t even live in Iowa.”

-end –

2018 End-of-Session Report

The Democratic plan for 2018 calls for Putting Iowans First

  • Investing in public schools & preventing more school closures
  • Keeping job training & college affordable for all Iowans
  • Making child care more affordable for working parents & those training for better jobs
  • Raising wages for Iowans
  • Increasing use of renewable energy & fuels
  • Revitalizing rural Iowa with good jobs & a great quality of life
  • Examining tax breaks for big, out-of-state corporations that put the state budget in the red & don’t create Iowa jobs
  • Requiring the Senate GOP to pay for their $1.75 million sexual harassment suit instead of taxpayers
  • Ending privatized Medicaid, especially for our most vulnerable Iowans
  • Keeping health care affordable & accessible for all Iowans
  • Fixing & investing in Iowa’s mental health system
  • Cleaning up the corruption & cronyism in state government

 Gov. Reynolds & Republican lawmakers: Misplaced priorities & mismanagement

  • Instituting the most restrictive abortion ban in the country (SF 359)
  • Slashing investment in skilled worker initiatives (SF 2117, HF 2493)
  • Making record-low investments in public schools (HF 2230)
  • Sending more money to out‐of‐state, for‐profit online schools (SF 475)
  • Raising tuition & reducing opportunities with millions in mid‐year cuts to community colleges & state universities (SF 2117)
  • Allowing unregulated health care plans that can deny people based on pre‐existing conditions (SF 2349)
  • Reducing services at county courthouses with mid‐year cuts (SF 2117)
  • Cutting $4.3 million from an already strapped Department of Human Services (SF 2117)
  • Eliminating protections in current gun ownership laws (HJR 2009)
  • Banning sanctuary cities even though Iowa doesn’t have any (SF 481)
  • Putting Iowans’ safety at risk with lower inspection standards (HF 2297)
  • Cutting energy efficiency programs & discriminating against renewable energy options (SF 2311)
  • Passing a huge tax giveaway that overwhelmingly benefits corporations & the wealthy (SF 2417)
  • Failing to extend funding for school infrastructure & providing more than $100 million in property tax relief with SAVE (HF 2481)
  • Failing to take advantage of industrial help as a promising agricultural commodity (SF 2398)
  • Allowing doctors to give incomplete information to pregnant women (SF 2418)


Several bipartisan bills were approved

  • Requiring ignition interlocks & no temporary license restrictions for OWIs (HF 2338)
  • Ensuring health care coverage for telemedicine services (HF 2305)
  • Expanding mental health services for complex needs (HF 2456)
  • Expanding Move Over law to make the roads safer (HF 2304)
  • Expanding consumer security freezes to protect credit (SF 2177)
  • Expanding Safe Haven laws (SF 360)
  • Helping more veterans by expanding the Veterans Trust Fund (SF 2366)
  • Creating security plans for all Iowa schools (SF 2364)
  • Prohibiting shaming of students who can’t pay for their lunch (HF 2467)
  • Protecting student athletes with new concussion protocols (HF 2442)
  • Requiring suicide prevention training for school employees (SF 2113)
  • Cracking down on electronic forms of identity theft (HF 2199)
  • Licensing for genetic counselors (SF 2228) & autism counselors (SF 192)
  • Enhancing funding for EMS transportation (HF 2285) & 911 HF 2254)
  • Establishing Future Ready plan to train more skilled workers (HF 2458)
  • Expanding work background checks for those with access to personal info (HF 2321, HF 637)
  • Cracking down on electronic eavesdropping (HF 2392)
  • Expanding help through Crime Victims Compensation Fund (SF 2165)
  • Giving schools (HF 2441) & communities (SF 2258) flexibility with certain funding to meet local needs
  • Improving teaching for those with dyslexia (SF 2360)
  • Approving a plan to start combatting Iowa’s opioid crisis (HF 2377)
  • Providing sharing incentives for schools to improve efficiency & save money (HF 633)
  • Protecting the privacy of student data (HF 2354)
  • Taking a first step toward fairer funding for rural schools with high transportation costs (SF 455)


Good news: These GOP bills failed

  • Raising property taxes & reducing local services by ending the state’s property tax backfill for local governments & school districts (SF 2420)
  • Shifting $200 million from public schools to private & home schools through vouchers (SF 2091)
  • Eliminating the Iowa Department of Public Health (HF 2017)
  • Reinstating the death penalty (SF 335)
  • Instituting political discrimination for university faculty (SF 288)
  • Intimidating abortion providers to limit health care choices for women (SF 26)
  • Ending retirement security for public employees, including teachers, fire fighter, & police officers (IPERS, PORS & 411) (SF 45)
  • Defining abortion as murder, even in cases of rape or incest (SF 54)
  • Putting Bible literacy classes in public schools (HF 2031)
  • Removing gender identity protections from Iowa Civil Rights Code (HF 2164)
  • Making Iowa Supreme Court Justices part‐time & paying them like lawmakers (HF 2036)
  • Giving Iowans a “license to discriminate” against fellow citizens who are different from them (SF 2338)
  • Creating new requirements & drug testing for recipients of Medicaid, FIP & SNAP, while limiting food items (SF 2370)
  • Requiring a super‐majority vote for Iowa Supreme Court decisions (SF 2282)
  • Ending state accreditation for community colleges (SF 2272)
  • Extending school bus riding times for K-12 students (SF 2137)

Senate Dem Leader on Reynolds signing extreme abortion restrictions

May 4, 2018

“This new law is another dangerous example of politicians dictating health care decisions for Iowa women.

“In the past two years, Governor Reynolds and other the Republican-controlled Legislature have made our state more dangerous for Iowa women. Instead of improving health care access for women, Governor Reynolds and the Republican-controlled Legislature have pushed through policies that put more women at risk, including:

  • Making it harder for women to prevent pregnancies by gutting Iowa’s highly successful family planning program.
  • Supporting a privatized Medicaid system — which serves nearly half of all pregnant moms — that isn’t paying bills for providers across our state.
  • Prohibiting many of the state’s most highly qualified providers from participating in their GOP Family Planning program while the families of Republican legislators could see whomever they chose under their taxpayer funded health insurance program.
  • Cutting home visits for at-risk newborn babies and their mothers.

“This new law is extreme because it restricts the  freedom of Iowa women and girls to care for their bodies, and it forces motherhood on Iowa women.

“This new law is dangerous.

“This new law is unconstitutional.”


Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen spoke against SF 359, the nation’s most extreme anti-woman law during debate on May 2, 2018.

Commerce Committee Report – week 17, 2018

SF 2311 – Public utilities;
HF 2234 – Foreclosure timeline. 



SF 2311 significantly deregulates gas and electric public utilities in Iowa. It removes or restricts oversight by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) on a wide range of issues, including energy efficiency, rate increases, coal plant emissions controls and consumer protections. It requires the IUB to review energy efficiency plan modification requests within 60 days after filing; issue orders approving or rejecting regulated emissions management projects within 90 days after filing; review any tariffs or rates imposed by rate-regulated public utilities within 30 days of filing; and specify in advance the ratemaking principles that will apply whenever a rate-regulated public utility requests advanced ratemaking for construction, investment or implementation of an emerging energy technology. It also authorizes the IUB to initiate a formal proceeding if reasonable grounds exist for investigating a public utility’s request to modify an energy efficiency plan to achieve projected annual costs below a two-percent threshold. To perform the duties associated with the legislation, including the shorter time frame for existing duties under current law, the IUB would need to hire two additional technical staff, at a cost of $228,924 annually.

The bill exempts electric cooperative corporations and electric public utilities having fewer than 10,000 customers from regulated rates. It also prohibits the IUB from requiring gas and electric public utilities to adopt energy efficiency plans that result in projected annual costs in excess of two percent of the utility’s annual rate revenue.

The energy efficiency caps will result in fewer programs offered, such as popular rebate programs to install efficient commercial lighting or replace inefficient commercial heating and cooling systems, fewer measures in programs, or fewer incentives available for measures and programs, or a combination of all of these. Caps could also result in cancellation of incentives or programs mid-year and significant uncertainty about whether you can get a rebate for your efficient equipment, such as a new HVAC system (residential or commercial). Making efficiency programs lower quality and less workable will result in less participation and higher energy costs for consumers and businesses.

The bill takes solar price discrimination oversight of municipal utilities away from the IUB and makes other kinds of discrimination legal. While there is a section in the code that prohibits municipal utilities from discriminating against solar by charging higher rates, there are no parameters defined or basis to challenge a municipal utility for discriminating against a person who wants to install solar as it relates to time to respond or inter-connection fees for solar customers to connect with the utility. The only recourse for the solar customer is to challenge the action of the municipal utility in court.

Iowa has some of the lowest energy rates in the Midwest and the country, while developing one of the strongest clean energy economies. Energy efficiency and rebate programs have saved Iowa consumers billions of dollars, avoided the need to build costly new power plants, attracted businesses looking for low electric rates and created thousands of Iowa jobs. This bill undermines many of the policies that have led to Iowa’s cost-effective clean energy leadership. For example, it separates energy efficiency and demand-response programs. The Iowa Consumer Advocate (Utilities) has expressed concerns about many facets of the proposal, and Iowa families and businesses will likely see substantial utility rate increases.
[4/30: 28-20, party line ( Absent: D. Johnson, Zumbach)]


HF 2234 shortens the timeframe for residential foreclosures. The federal Dodd-Frank Act added a 120-day waiting period before a financial institution can start a foreclosure proceeding. Taking that into account, this proposal shortens Iowa’s foreclosure waiting periods (12 months to six months, and six months to three months.) The three-month waiting period applies to foreclosures in which the financial institution agrees to forgive the debt, which is the situation in most Iowa foreclosures. The six-month waiting period applies to the few foreclosure cases where the financial institution has not agreed to waive the debt. Both the three-month and six-month wait times do not begin until the 120-day Dodd-Frank waiting period has expired. Even with this legislation, Iowa will continue to have one of the longer foreclosure timeframes in the country The original bill inadvertently shortened redemption periods for agricultural mortgages as well as residential. The Senate unanimously adopted an amendment to restore redemption periods for agricultural mortgages to current law, which is a 12-month/six-month timeframe depending on whether the lender wants to waive rights to a deficiency judgment.

The House added a se

What’s it like to be a Senate page?

By 2018 Senate Page Tali Tesar

My name is Tali Tesar. I’m an 18-year-old high school senior from Clear Lake, and I recently had the wonderful opportunity to serve as a page for the 2018 Iowa Senate session.

I have always been interested in politics, so I was thrilled when I discovered there is a way to get involved at a young age. I believe that it’s important to gain real-world experience in a career field before deciding to go into it, whether through a job shadow, internship or a paid work. I hoped being a page would help me figure out if politics is where I should be headed.

The experience solidified my conviction. It also helped me learn more than most people will ever know about the process, the people and the behind-the-scenes activity that goes into lawmaking.

Tali Tesar talks with Senator Ragan about her experience as a page at the Statehouse.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is how crucial a role government plays in the lives of every citizen. From health care to education to taxes, legislators spend countless hours trying to do what is best for Iowans, especially those who are less privileged. It is incredibly empowering to witness that.

It was also exhilarating to feel that I was part of something bigger than myself, even though my responsibilities weren’t always exciting and often involved running around the Capitol on errands for senators. I will cherish fun memories with my fellow pages, watching emotional debates and spending some late nights on the job.

I head to Grinnell College to study political science in the fall with experience and connections that give me a head start. To any high school students interested in a career in politics or in becoming a more informed voter, working as a page is worth considering.

I’d be happy to answer questions about my experience and what you could expect from a semester as a page. Just send an email to [email protected].

Click here to learn more about being a legislative page.

Government Oversight Committee Report – Week 17, 2018

HF 2475­ – Small change to the ethics and regulation of lobbyists and gifts;
HF 2488 – Provides a temporary permit to practice cosmetology. 



HF 2475 concerns the ethics and regulation of lobbyists and gifts. Currently, the definition of “lobbyist” has eight exceptions, including that a person is not a lobbyist if they are a member, director, trustee, officer or committee member of a business, trade, labor, farm, professional, religious, education or charitable association, foundation or organization who is not paid or is not specifically designated as a lobbyist. For that exception to apply, the person must not be paid compensation AND must not be specifically designated as a lobbyist. A House amendment changes the title slightly and makes the bill effective upon enactment.
[5/2: 46-0 (Excused: Bertrand, Chelgren, Sinclair, Hogg)]


HF 2488 allows the Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences to issue a temporary permit to practice cosmetology to demonstrate cosmetology arts and sciences or to provide cosmetology arts and sciences services at not-for-profit events. Such a permit must be issued for a specific event and may be issued to a salon, school of cosmetology arts and sciences or person. The temporary permit must be posted and visible to the public at the location where the cosmetology arts and sciences services are provided. The temporary permit is valid for no more than 12 days, and an applicant must submit a completed application and an application fee at least 30 days before the permit is needed. The board cannot issue more than four temporary permits to an applicant in a calendar year. A person providing cosmetology arts and sciences services at a not-for-profit event must hold a current license to practice.
[5/2: 46-0 (Excused: Bertrand, Chelgren, Sinclair, Hogg)]

Human Resources Committee Report – week 17, 2018

SF 359 – Fetal tissue and six-week abortion ban;
HF 2377 – Opioid tracking. 



SF 359 makes all cells and tissues external to the fetal body (cord blood) exceptions to “fetal body parts.” The second division of the bill establishes a ban on abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy. The definition of “medical emergency” is changed to preserving the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness or injury. This definition does not include:

  • Psychological condition of the mother.
  • Emotional condition of the mother.
  • Family circumstances.
  • Woman’s age.
  • Serious risk to the future health of the mother.

The second division also adds a definition of “medically necessary.” For abortions, that would include:

  • A pregnancy that is the result of rape (IF reported to law enforcement or a family physician within 45 days of the incident).
  • A pregnancy that is the result of incest (IF reported to law enforcement or a family physician within 140 days of the incident).
  • A miscarriage.
  • A fetal abnormality (IF the physician determines that the fetus would not live).

Abortion is prohibited if there is a detectable heartbeat except in cases of a medical emergency or medical necessity. This does not take into account psychological or emotional conditions, family circumstances, the woman’s age or the future health of the mother.

This law will not apply if a physician determines the post-fertilization age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more. In those cases, the 20-week abortion law passed in 2017 will apply.
[5/2: 29-17 (Yes: Republicans and D. Johnson; Excused: Allen, Bisignano, Taylor, Zumbach)]


HF 2377 addresses Iowa’s opioid crisis. Under the bill, prescribing practitioners must register for the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP); information in the PMP must be submitted within one business day; a surcharge can be added to registration fees to administer the PMP; electronic prescribing will be required for all opioids by January 1, 2020; an annual report will be sent by the Board of Pharmacy to prescribers detailing their history of prescribing controlled substances; the Pharmacy Board may establish penalties for those who prescribe too much of a controlled substance; more substances are added to Schedule I and II; and Good Samaritan language allows a person to seek help for themselves or another individual using drugs.
[4/30: 48-0 (Excused: D. Johnson, Zumbach)]

Labor & Business Relations Committee Report – Week 17, 2018

SF 2353 – WIOA federal conformity 



SF 2353 confirms Iowa Code to the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA). The bill adds definitions; makes changes to the conflict of interest policy for State Workforce Board members; updates the political and gender balance of the State Board; and requires electronic posting of certain State Board information.

The bill makes changes to the membership of the local workforce boards; requires a majority of members representing business; makes the Chief Elected Officials responsible for appointees to the local boards, instead of the Governor; provides a list of functions to be carried out by local workforce boards; and makes changes to the political and gender balance of local boards.

As amended by the House, the bill makes the Iowa Department of Education the lead agency collaborating with Iowa Workforce Development on industry and sector partnerships.
[4/30: 46-2 (No: Bisignano, Taylor; Excused: D. Johnson, Zumbach)]

Local Government Committee Report – Week 16, 2018

SF 2227 – County resolution publication 



SF 2227 requires county auditors to print either a summary of all resolutions or the complete text of resolutions adopted by a board of supervisors. The full text of a resolution should be posted on the county’s Internet site, if available, including links to information relevant to the resolution. Currently, the entire text of the resolution must be printed.
[4/24: 45-0 (Excused: Bertrand, Boulton, D. Johnson, Zaun, Zumbach)]