Senator-Elect Smith meets 2019 Intern Shelby Young

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Senator-Elect Jackie Smith of Sioux City attended an orientation for new members of the Iowa House and Senate at Iowa Statehouse. Newly elected Democratic and Republican legislators met with veteran legislators, Governor Reynolds, and with nonpartisan staff members who help draft legislation and provide non-partisan reports on the budget and state issues.

In the Statehouse Rotunda, Smith met with legislative intern Shelby Young of Exira. Young is earning community college credit while helping lawmakers communicate with Iowans about statehouse issues.

2019 Iowa Senate Democratic Committee Assignments

DES MOINES– Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen released committee assignments today for Democratic State Senators for the 2019 session of the Iowa Legislature.

“Democratic Senators are committed to working with the Governor and Republican legislators on issues where we can find common ground over the next two years, especially ensuring Iowans have access to affordable health care and better-paying job opportunities,” Petersen said.
“However, if Republicans continue pushing an agenda that hurts the health care, education and pocketbooks of working Iowans, we will be fierce in our opposition.”

The 88th General Assembly will begin on Monday, January 14, 2019.

Standing Committees

13 total members
1. Kinney –RM
2. Mathis
3. Ragan
4. R. Taylor
5. Wahls

21 members
1. Bolkcom –RM
2. Celsi
3. Dotzler
4. Lykam
5. Mathis
6. Ragan
7. T. Taylor
8. Wahls

15 members
1. Lykam – RM
2. Bisignano
3. Bolkcom
4. Mathis
5. Petersen
6. Quirmbach

15 members
1. Quirmbach –RM
2. Celsi
3. Danielson
4. Smith
5. Wahls

Statutory, 6 members; 3 each
1. Jochum -RM
2. Kinney
3. Mathis

Government Oversight
5 members
1. Bisignano –RM
2. Celsi

Human Resources
13 members
1. Mathis –RM
2. Bolkcom
3. Jochum
4. Quirmbach
5. Ragan

15 members
1. Kinney –RM
2. Bisignano
3. Hogg
4. Petersen
5. R. Taylor

Labor & Business Relations
11 members
1. T. Taylor –RM
2. Bisignano
3. Dotzler
4. R. Taylor

Local Government
11 members
1. J. Smith –RM
2. Hogg
3. Mathis
4. Quirmbach

Natural Resources & Env.
13 members
1. Hogg –RM
2. Bolkcom
3. Celsi
4. Lykam
5. J. Smith

Rules & Administration
11 members
1. Petersen –RM
2. Bolkcom
3. Jochum
4. Ragan

State Government
15 members
1. Bisignano –RM
2. Celsi
3. Danielson
4. Jochum
5. T. Taylor

13 members
1. Danielson – RM
2. Kinney
3. Lykam
4. J. Smith
5. T. Taylor

Veterans Affairs
11 members
1. R. Taylor – RM
2. Danielson
3. Dotzler
4. Ragan

Ways & Means
17 members
1. Jochum –RM
2. Bolkcom
3. Danielson
4. Dotzler
5. Quirmbach
6. Wahls

Appropriations Subcommittees

Administration & Regulation
1. Celsi –RM
2. R. Taylor

Agriculture & Natural Resources
1. Mathis –RM
2. Kinney

Economic Development
1. Dotzler- RM
2. J. Smith

1. Wahls –RM
2. Quirmbach

Health & Human Services
1. Ragan –RM
2. Bolkcom

Justice Systems
1. Hogg- RM
2. T. Taylor

Transportation, Capitals
1. Lykam –RM
2. Petersen

1. Jochum –RM
2. Hogg

Partial review of privatized Medicaid disaster doesn’t answer concerns

Iowa Senate News Release
For Immediate Release:  November 26, 2018


Statement from Senator Pam Jochum on partial review of Medicaid privatization disaster

“The partial review of the Medicaid privatization disaster by the departing State Auditor is a big pile of excuses with no good answers for Iowa taxpayers who are being ripped off.

“State Auditor Mary Mosiman joins a long line of Republican politicians – led by Governor Reynolds and Republican legislative leaders – who still cannot answer these simple questions:

  • What data is there to show that privatized Medicaid is making Iowans healthier?
  • What data is there to show how much the out-of-state corporations still owe Iowa hospitals, doctors and other health care providers for services provided to Medicaid members?

“We remain concerned that the unexpected $100 million increase in payments to the out-of-state corporations running Medicaid will result in further cuts and delayed payments to Iowa health care providers that provide critical services to hundreds of thousands of Iowans, as well as additional cuts to education, health care and public safety to cover the additional payments to the corporations.

“We hope that the Governor and legislative leaders of both parties will work with the newly elected State Auditor, Rob Sand, to open up the books and give Iowans an honest assessment of the impact of privatized Medicaid on Iowa taxpayers, Medicaid members and health care providers.

“Finally, we renew our call for Governor Reynolds and legislative Republicans to finally reverse course and join legislative Democrats in supporting a return to a more efficient, publicly managed system.”


Senate Dems select leadership team

Iowa Senate News Release
For immediate release: November 11, 2018  


Democratic members of the Iowa Senate re-elected Sen. Janet Petersen today to serve as the Democratic Leader of the Iowa Senate.

Senator Petersen released this statement:

“I am honored to have the continued support of my fellow Democratic Senators.”

“For the past two years, the Republican-led Senate pushed through damaging policies that helped out-of-state companies and special interests instead of hard-working Iowa families.

“Senate Democrats will continue standing up for Iowans. We believe every Iowan – regardless of whether they live in rural areas, small towns, urban or suburban parts of our state – deserves access to affordable health care, strong public schools, and the chance to get ahead in life.

“We will work with the Governor and Republican legislators on issues where we can find common ground over the next two years. But, if we continue to see Republicans push an agenda that hurts the health care, education, and financial security of working Iowans, we will be fierce in our opposition.”

The new Democratic leadership team consists of these Senators:

  • Democratic Leader, Senator Janet Petersen, Des Moines
  • Democratic Whip, Senator Amanda Ragan, Mason City
  • Assistant Leaders:
    • Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City
    • Senator Bill Dotzler, Waterloo
    • Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque
    • Senator Liz Mathis, Hiawatha
    • Senator Herman Quirmbach, Ames
    • Senator Rich Taylor, Mount Pleasant

Petersen is in her second term in the Iowa Senate after serving six terms in the Iowa House. She represents Senate District 18 in northwest Des Moines.

In 2008, Petersen founded a nonprofit organization with four other central Iowa women called Healthy Birth Day. The organization, best known for its Count the Kicks campaign, is devoted to preventing stillbirths and improving birth outcomes.

Petersen and her husband Brian Pattinson have three children.

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Is rationing health care the Iowa GOP’s secret plan to “fix” Medicaid mess?

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen

In the final days of the 2018 campaign, a Northwest Iowa State Senator may have mistakenly released the Republican Party of Iowa’s secret plan to “fix” the Medicaid privatization mess.

During a forum last week sponsored by the Sioux City Rotary Club, State Senator Jim Carlin of Sioux City proposed rationing health care for Medicaid recipients.

Carlin specifically said lawmakers should “look into limiting the number of doctor visits” by people on Medicaid.

Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen called Carlin’s proposal “mean-spirited and dangerous.”

“This is another example of a politician playing doctor,” Petersen said. “The last thing that Iowa parents need is to be worried about politicians placing arbitrary caps on the number of times their children can visit the family doctor for an ear infection, a broken arm or diabetes. And how could the Legislature and Governor limit the number of doctor visits for disabled Iowans or those with chronic illnesses? That’s mean-spirited and dangerous.”

Throughout 2017 and 2018, Governor Reynolds and other Republican leaders acknowledged “mistakes were made” with Medicaid privatization, but they have offered no solutions for reversing course on a change that has turned over health care management for hundreds of thousands of Iowans to out-of-state corporations.

As a result, the Reynolds Administration, Senator Carlin and others in the Republican-controlled Legislature have led an effort that has:

  1. Cut and delayed payments to Iowa health care providers that provide critical services to hundreds of thousands of Iowans.
  2. Made health care services even less accessible to Medicaid members.
  3. Shifted more than $100 million away from education, health care and public safety to cover the additional payments to out-of-state corporations.

“Make no mistake about it, Senator Carlin’s plan would cost Iowa taxpayers more money in the long run and would further endanger the health and safety of Iowans,” Petersen said.

Read the full Sioux City Journal article:

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Iowa workers vote for strong unions

Oct. 29, 2018

Statement by Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen

“The results of the recertification elections today are a huge victory for working families across Iowa.

“With the deck stacked against them by the Governor and Republican-controlled Legislature, Iowa workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of being represented by strong unions.

“Our friends and neighbors across the state who work every day to teach our kids, keep our families and communities safe, and protect the most vulnerable Iowans need to have a voice in the workplace. Iowans depend on their voices being heard.

“Congratulations to Iowa’s public workers and their unions for this huge victory today.”



Privatizing IPERS: An Analysis of Senate File 45 (Updated 10/26/18)

SENATE FILE 45 was introduced by Senator Brad Zaun (R) on the first day of the 2017 legislative session.  (PDF of this document)

Senator Zaun is the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Vice Chair of the Labor and Business Relations Committee, and a member of the State Government and Commerce Committees

The bill mandates employees newly hired on or after July 1, 2019, who would otherwise be members of the public safety peace officers’ retirement (PORS), accident/disability system, the Iowa public employees’ retirement system (IPERS), the statewide fire and police retirement system (411), or the judicial retirement system, SHALL NOT become members of their respective retirement systems.  These are all state defined benefit pension plans.

Instead, Senator Zaun’s bill directs each retirement system to develop an alternative defined contribution plan for employees newly hired on or after July 1, 2019. This would repeal the current pension systems in Iowa and replace them with a private market/401(k) type plan.

The bill directs each retirement system to submit a plan to create an alternative defined contribution plan to the public retirement systems committee by October 1, 2018.

This is a bad bill – built on a bad idea.

While Senate File 45 would get rid of all public defined benefit pensions,  this year most discussion is on the IPERS pension system.

IPERS is 82.4 percent funded, which rating agencies say is like being an “A” student.  While some public worker pension systems in other states are in bad shape, Iowa’s system was ranked as the 10th best-positioned pension system in the country.  Iowa also has the 4th lowest debt, including pension liability, in the country.

  • One in 10 Iowans is a member of IPERS.  Most of IPERS members are teachers and school staff, followed by law enforcement, social workers, prison staff, transportation workers, and other public employees.
  • The average IPERS retiree leaves public employment after 22 years of service.
  • The average IPERS retiree receives an annual benefit of $16,000. Benefits are calculated based on a formula of years of service and highest average salary, with a maximum benefit of 65 percent for 35 years or more of service.  No one makes more in IPERS retirement than they did while they were working.
  • This benefit is secure and paid for a lifetime, but does not include a cost-of-living adjustment.  Every year spent in retirement means the IPERS monthly benefit has less buying power. That’s why IPERS is only one part of retirement planning and is designed to be combined with Social Security and other personal savings and investments.


October 2018 Update

While SENATE FILE 45 did not advance in the 2017 – 2018 session, leading Iowa Republicans continue to back the ideas contained in the bill.

On April 24 of 2017, shortly after the 2017 session adjourned, Governor Reynolds told reporters that her priorities for the next session included “Water quality, tax reform and a study of the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System,” according to reports in the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Quad City Times.

On August 28 of 2017, then Senator, now Senate President ,Charles Schneider (R) invited the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation to give a presentation to members of the IPERS Benefits Advisory Committee.  The Reason Foundation is an advocate for private market/401(k) type retirement plans.   The IPERS response to the Reason Foundation’s presentation can be found here:

On December 18 of 2017, the Legislature’s Public Retirement Systems Committee met for a contentious meeting, headlined by one newspaper as: “Iowa lawmakers grill IPERS officials about public pension funding.”  The committee adjourned without making recommendations for legislation in 2018.

On June 22 of 2018, Governor Kim Reynolds was interviewed on Iowa Press (  The Governor repeatedly talked of making changes to IPERS while “maintaining the commitments that have been made.”  IPERS managers have consistently warned that changing to a 401(k) plan for new members would threaten benefits to current members.

On October 23 of 2018, individual editorials from Governor Reynolds and Iowa House Republican Speaker Linda Upmeyer appeared in major papers.  Both claimed there are no plans to change IPERS.

On October 25 of 2018, House Democratic Leader Mark Smith revealed that Speaker Upmeyer had previously voted for “a 401(k)-style plan that would divert money from IPERS.” (HSB 512, House State Government Committee Vote, March 2, 2006)

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Produced by the Iowa Senate Democratic Research Staff: 515-281-5804