April 22, 2021

COLUMN: Partisanship in Iowa’s Capitol must end

By Steve Corbin, guest columnist

Are the currently elected 91 Republican and 59 Democrat Iowa legislators working for you? “No” is the common answer from voters of all political persuasions.

Sixty-nine percent of adults feel political polarization and divisiveness are a very serious threat to our future (2020 Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture). Mindy Romero, Director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy, notes democracy is not strong if people “don’t believe the decisions of elected officials represent the interests of their constituents” (Desert Sun, March 20).

If Iowa legislators were asked if they truly worked for Iowans, many would confess ideological maneuvering (voting the “party line”) and cuddling up to lobbyist (think: contributions) supersedes supporting “no harm” legislation.

Witness what has occurred in Des Moines since 2017 when the GOP garnered trifecta-control. What an absolute mess.

Iowa has become a divisive gun slinging open carry state who limits city, county and school board decision-making capability, permits Governor Kim Reynold’s (Rep.) to release open records requests only with her approval and fosters Big Brother legislative power over K-12 curriculum, diversity training curriculum, women’s rights, public university tenure and big-tech social media messaging.

“Iowa Nice” is a myth since Iowa is now known for anti-low income housing, cutting benefits to the unemployed, pro-home schooling with no accountability or oversight, repressive human freedoms, regressive state actions and pro-voter suppression.

The Iowa legislature has evolved into imposing solutions in search of a problem. If there was ever a time for bipartisanship to occur, now is the time.

When Democrats controlled the Iowa House, Senate and Governor’s Office during the 2007-2011 time period, there were six Democrats – known as the Iowa Six Pack – who operated in a bipartisan fashion. Their six votes could kill or support any bill. They collaborated on both sides of the aisle and found solutions to some of Iowa’s toughest challenges. Iowa’s Capitol has been void of a similar bipartisan group for over a decade.

It would be wise for Iowa legislators to seriously examine the bipartisanship attempts in Washington, DC and California as a model to emulate.

In 2010, the U.S. Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus was created to ensure the needs of Americans were put before partisanship. Currently it is composed of 52 legislators; 26 Democrats and 26 GOP.

Historically, the only Iowans of this caucus were former Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) and retired Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa City). None of Iowa’s current congressional delegates are members of the bipartisanship caucus. (This, in and of itself, speaks volumes.)

Since its creation, the Problem Solvers Caucus has proposed, supported and passed bipartisan legislation on healthcare, infrastructure, gun control and budget negotiations. The group has apprised President Biden of 11 areas where there is an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation and solutions.

California was the first state to establish the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, comprised of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans. The forum for compromise – as it’s described -- is committed to putting partisanship aside to find workable solutions and create results (CalMatters.org, Feb. 8).

Among their ideas is to consolidate and reorganize California’s 200 state agencies, operate with a two-year budget cycle with one year focused on oversight and streamline the legislative process.

Over 225 years ago, George Washington called political parties “the worst enemy” and the “ruin of liberty.” We are witnessing that in Iowa, aren’t we?

Wouldn’t it be novel if Iowa’s legislators would create their own Problem Solvers Caucus? Ask you Senator and Representative if they are interested in being a member of a bipartisan group and help launch the caucus? If their answer is “no,” do you really want him/her representing you?

Let’s end partisanship in Des Moines before it further destroys Iowa.

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Steve Corbin is Emeritus Professor of Marketing, University of Northern Iowa and nine year freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding or endorsement from any for-profit business, not-for-profit organization, political action committee or political party.