November 26, 2022

Adair County’s state legislators talk new district lines

Adair County resident and state Rep. Ray “Bubba” Sorensen is not new to Union County. He’s not new to Dallas County either.

But as he enters his next legislative session next year, portions of Union and Dallas counties will be new to his work.

Union County had one senator and representative and senator. But redistricting, which happens after the U.S. Census every 10 years, changed that. Sorensen and Sen. Amy Sinclair of Wayne County both have the Union County townships of Lincoln, Dodge, New Hope, Jones and Pleasant. They both have all of Adair County.

Sorensen’s district includes Adair, Madison and a portion of Dallas counties.

Sorensen was born in Creston and was first elected to the state legislature in 2018.

Sinclair was elected to legislation 10 years ago, also after redistricting. This year was nothing new to her.

Living in Wayne County, Sinclair taught in the Central Decatur schools and at Southwestern Community College, preparing students to complete their GED testing, as well as teaching parenting and adult basic education classes. Her classes were not at the Creston campus. She later served as a federal grants coordinator and after-school program director for Wayne Community School District.

She had served two terms on the Wayne County Board of Supervisors. She was also an active board member for the 10-15 Regional Transit System, Iowa’s 5th Judicial District, South Iowa Area Crime Commission, Southeast Iowa Response Group-Hazmat Operations, Community Health Centers of Southern Iowa, and Chariton Valley Transportation Planning Affiliate.

In state legislation she has been involved in education, judiciary commerce and ways and means.

Sinclair said she knows Sorensen but has not had many opportunities for their paths to cross.

“I have done some forums with him. We have been talking about moving forward and communication,” she said.

With the session two months away, Sinclair expects property taxes to be the most common issue among voters.

“I think that goes hand in hand with inflation. People’s wallets are not getting fatter, but costs are going up. Iowa’s property tax system is based on sale value. If local governments haven’t dropped their rates, property tax becomes an issue,” she said.

She also wonders about the redistricting process. “It is a little strange. I see a lot of senators lost a majority of the population they have served.”

Sinclair said that has consequences.

“They picked up a majority of people they have never met. There has got to be a better way to do that. I’m not sure how that will be done. I like the system, but make it such one of the primary factors would be to keep a priority (of the population) or not disrupting the borders much. We shouldn’t be dividing a county,” she said.

The motive behind redistricting is to have balanced population. Her district includes all of Adair, Madison, Clarke, Lucas, Decatur, Wayne and portions of Dallas, Union and Appanoose counties.

“Union County is fortunate to have four and double the efforts. We can loop the other person in and be another voice for the people who have reached out,” Sinclair said.

“I think they have tried and kept counties whole, which is why Union County was whole for so long. But now Dallas County is splintered. Look at Polk, it’s fractured.”

Sorensen said the districts show how the populations have changed. He said Sinclair’s district stretches from her home near the Missouri border to Dallas County.

“I’ve worked with Sinclair on multiple bills. With 150 legislators, you will usually cross paths with them on an issue,” he said.

Sorensen said one of his issues working with economic development is growth and access of broadband internet connections for more Iowans, especially rural areas. He was recently re-elected chairman of the economic development committee.

“When I was elected, and that was pre-COVID, we were struggling with rural Iowa getting broadband connections. I scraped and clawed for $5 million. Then COVID hit,” he said.

After COVID hit, the masses were working from home and online shopping grew even more.

“We garnered a $100 million appropriation,” Sorensen said about funding ways to expand broadband. “COVID was awful, but it illustrated how deficient we were in broadband and meat processing. This is what we need to fix it.”

Sinclair was named president of the Senate in November.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.