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Iowa Politics Roundup: Legislature Swiftly Approves New Political Map PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 15 April 2011 10:24

It was the first bill called up in the morning on the first day lawmakers were eligible to vote on a new map of congressional and legislative districts.

After it was taken up, the Iowa House took only a few minutes to approve the map on a 91-7 vote.

The Senate quickly followed suit, swiftly approving House File 682 on a 48-1 vote and sending it to Governor Terry Branstad.

The new map will have sweeping implications on Iowa’s political landscape for the next decade. Some incumbents will be pitted against one another, others will move, some will hang it up, and newcomers will see an opportunity to run for political office.

Senate President Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg) called the plan “amazing,” noting that there’s only an 84-person deviation from one congressional district to another and that the boundaries do not cross county lines.

Kibbie said he anticipates that Iowa will be the first state in the nation to approve its new congressional and legislative boundaries reflecting population shifts from the 2010 U.S. Census.

“Iowa sticks out like a sore thumb with all the states in the nation with the way we do redistricting,” Kibbie said. “This plan treats Democrats and Republicans, I say, equally. This plan has fewer senators thrown together, fewer House people together than the 1980 plan, the 1990 plan, or the 2000 plan.”

“It is indeed a fair plan,” agreed Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton). “The call for

term limits is fulfilled by those of us going into new districts and trying to sell our thoughts.”

Senator Sandy Greiner (R-Keota) was the only “no” vote in the Senate.

The seven voting against the bill in the Iowa House were all Republicans: Clel Baudler of Greenfield, Mark Brandenburg of Council Bluffs, Royd Chambers of Sheldon, Mary Ann Hanusa of Council Bluffs, Jeff Kaufmann of Wilton, Renee Schulte of Cedar Rapids, and Annette Sweeney of Alden.

The map reduces Iowa from five congressional districts to four. It pits Democratic U.S. Representatives Bruce Braley of Waterloo against Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon in the First District.

Minutes after final legislative approval of the new map, Loebsack released a statement officially announcing his candidacy for re-election in Iowa’s Second Congressional District. He said he and his wife, Terry, will move from Mount Vernon to Johnson County, in hopes of continuing to represent a district that includes 14 of the 15 southeast-Iowa counties Loebsack has represented since his first election in 2006.

The map also puts Republican U.S. Representatives Steve King of Kiron and Tom Latham of Ames together in the Fourth Congressional District.

The map also pits 27 Iowa House members against a fellow incumbent and would create 14 open

Iowa House districts with no incumbent. In the Senate, 12 senators would face off against fellow incumbents unless one chooses to move. Some senators who were elected to 4-year terms will have their terms cut short by the new map.

Unlike other states – in which the redistricting process is partisan – Iowa’s map is drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, without consideration of incumbent lawmakers.

Plan to Legalize Internet Poker Delayed

A gambling bill on Thursday cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee 9-6, but the bill would no longer make Iowa one of the first states in the nation to legalize Internet poker.

Instead, Senate File 458 would now have the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission produce a report that would look further into the issue and what it would mean in terms of state regulation, additional gaming, and underage gaming.

“It does not legalize online poker play,” said Senator Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo), the bill’s floor manager. “It just asks for a report.”

Backers of legalizing Internet poker said that about 150,000 Iowans are taking part in Internet poker illegally every day, and the revenue is currently benefiting offshore Internet-gambling companies.

Also under the bill, a casino that has established itself for at least eight years and has successfully passed two referendums would no longer be subject to an automatic county referendum on its gambling license in the future. That part of the bill would be retroactive to 1994.

Yet another part of the bill would allow direct-deposit wagering on horse racing as it’s done in 20 other states.

“Through direct-deposit wagering, it allows us to capture money that is being lost across the country because currently, if you want to bet on the Kentucky Derby, you have to do it through Kentucky or 20 other states’ programs,” Dotzler said. “This way, we create one here in Iowa, and they can bet on Iowa horses right here instead of using some other state.”

Initial proposals to end live greyhound racing in Iowa or subject Iowa’s casino floors to the state smoking ban did not have the votes and were not offered as amendments Thursday.

The Iowa Conference of United Methodist Church, the Iowa Catholic Conference, the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, and The Family Leader are among those registered against the bill. At least a dozen other lobbyists, many representing gambling interests, have registered as “undecided” and have yet to take a public position on the bill.