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Stories about Iowa

Iowa updates eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance program

The Iowa Department of Workforce Development issued a rule on January 10, 2022, that doubled the number of work search activities claimants have to conduct weekly from two to four. Work search activity refers to the requirement that an individual engages in documented efforts to search for work while receiving benefits through unemployment insurance. The rule also reduced the number of qualifying work search activities from 27 to a narrower list of 12.

Unemployment insurance claimants have to respond to calls they receive from state career councilors and may have to meet with a counselor weekly to remain eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Not all workers will have to meet with a career councilor under the policy, but all claimants have to respond if they are contacted.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

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Filing deadline passes for Dec. 14 special election in Iowa State Senate District 1

The filing deadline to run in the Iowa State Senate District 1 special election passed on Nov. 19. The special election is being held on Dec. 14. Governor Kim Reynolds (R) called the special election on Nov. 3, following the resignation of incumbent Zach Whiting (R) on Oct. 30. Whiting resigned to accept a position with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 

Two candidates filed to run in the special election: Dave Rowley (R) and Mark Allen Lemke (D). The candidate withdrawal deadline was Nov. 22. 

As of November, 66 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 21 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Iowa has held 22 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2020.

Entering the 2021 special election, the Iowa State Senate has 18 Democrats and 31 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 26 seats. Iowa has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. 

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Iowa, Massachusetts enact new district maps

Iowa enacted new congressional and state legislative maps, and Massachusetts enacted new state legislative maps, on Nov. 4.

Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 444 of 1,972 state Senate seats (22.5%) and 1,243 of 5,411 state House seats (23.0%).

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed new congressional and state legislative maps into law after the state’s Legislative Services Agency had proposed them on Oct. 21. The Iowa legislature approved the maps on Oct. 28 by a vote of 48-1 in the state Senate and 93-2 in the state House. The legislature could only vote to approve or reject the maps and could not make any amendments. These maps take effect for Iowa’s 2022 congressional and legislative elections.

Bloomberg Government’s Greg Giroux said about Iowa’s congressional redistricting plan, “The map, drafted by the state’s nonpartisan legislative agency, created three districts where Donald Trump would’ve narrowly defeated Joe Biden in the 2020 election and a fourth that’s heavily Republican…The map paired the homes of Reps. Cindy Axne (D) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) in the politically competitive 3rd District, which takes most of its population from Axne’s current district in and around Des Moines.”

The Iowa Legislative Services Agency prepares the state’s redistricting plans and is assisted by a five-member advisory commission consisting of one person each appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate. The fifth member of the commission is selected by the other four. All five members cannot hold a partisan public office or be an officer in a political party, nor can they be related to or an employee of either the legislature or any individual legislator.

Upon signing the maps, Gov. Reynolds said, “Today I signed the bipartisan redistricting maps into law. I am confident in how the process played out—just as the law intended, and I believe these new districts will fairly and accurately represent the citizens of Iowa for the next decade.” After the legislature approved the maps, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R) said, “Despite years of fear-mongering about gerrymandering and claims the first map could not be improved, the Iowa Senate followed the process outlined in Iowa Code, and a more compact map with better population differences has been approved.”

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed the state’s new legislative redistricting plan into law. The state House passed the maps by a vote of 158-1 on Oct. 21. The state Senate approved the legislative plans on Oct. 27 by a vote of 36-3. The legislature began consideration of the state’s redistricting plans on Oct. 19. These maps take effect for Massachusetts’ 2022 legislative elections. 

After the legislature approved the maps, State Sen. William Brownsberger (D) said, “It’s a quality final product. We have used every minute we’ve had to keep vetting, to keep adjusting . . . and to respond to input that we’ve received.” After the redistricting plans were enacted, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin (D) issued a statement expressing concern regarding how the maps would be implemented: “I am extremely disappointed that these bills were signed into law in their current form and I think it is a devastating blow to the voters of Massachusetts. With local precincts divided multiple ways, it will inevitably lead to chaos at the polls and make it impossible for voters to understand who their elected representatives are.”

In Massachusetts, state legislative district lines are drawn by the legislature with committee work performed by the state’s Special Joint Committee on Redistricting. State statutes require that state legislative district boundaries be contiguous and “reasonably preserve counties, towns, and cities intact, where otherwise possible.” Redistricting plans are subject to veto by the governor.

Ten states have adopted congressional district maps, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required), and 34 states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans after the 2020 census. Congressional redistricting has been completed for 99 of the 435 seats (22.7%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Twelve states have adopted legislative district maps, one state’s legislative map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, one state enacted its legislative boundaries based on Census estimates, which will be revised in an upcoming special session, and 36 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.

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Challenger defeats two-term incumbent for Des Moines city council seat

On Nov. 2, Indira Dixon Sheumaker defeated Councilman Bill Gray and Marcus Coenen in the general election for the Ward 1 position on the Des Moines, Iowa, City Council. Dixon Sheumaker received 46.4 of the vote while Gray received 36.3% and Coenen received 16.8%. Gray was first elected to the council in 2014.

According to WHO13, Dixon Sheumaker helped organize marches in the city following the killing of George Floyd in 2020, and she works with the Black Liberation Movement. In a statement following her win, she said she “campaign[ed] on a platform centered on Defunding the Police for Safety and Justice.”

The city council is made up of seven members, including the mayor. The mayor and two city council members are elected at large, and four city council members are elected by district. Two other seats—one ward and one at-large—were also up for election this year.

Des Moines is the capital of Iowa and the state’s most populous city. The city’s population was 214,133 as of the 2020 census.



Voters flip Iowa House seat to Republican in Oct. 12 special election

A special general election was held for Iowa House of Representatives District 29 on Oct. 12. Jon Dunwell (R) won the special election with 59.8% of the vote, defeating Steve Mullan (D).

The special election was called after Wesley Breckenridge (D) resigned to take a job with the Iowa Law Enforcement Agency on Sept. 10. Breckenridge served from 2017 to 2021. Breckenridge defeated Dunwell for the House 29 seat in the 2020 election. 

This was the third state legislative special election held in Iowa in 2021. A special election for Senate District 41 was held on Jan. 26 and for House District 37 on Sept. 14.

As of Oct. 13, three seats had flipped as a result of state legislative special elections. Connecticut State Senate District 36 flipped from Democratic to Republican, and New Hampshire House of Representatives District Hillsborough 7 flipped from Republican to Democratic. 

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Candidates set for Iowa House 29 special election

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Iowa House of Representatives District 29 had until Sept. 28 to file. The general election is scheduled for Oct. 12. 

The Democratic candidate is Steve Mullan, and the Republican candidate is Jon Dunwell.

The special election was called after Wesley Breckenridge (D) resigned to take a job with the Iowa Law Enforcement Agency on Sept. 10. Breckenridge served from 2017 to 2021. Breckenridge defeated Dunwell for the House 29 seat in the 2020 election. 

As of Sept. 30, this will mark the third special election for the Iowa State Legislature in 2021. A special election for Senate District 41 was held on Jan. 26. Adrian Dickey (R) defeated Mary Stewart (D). The seat became vacant after Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) resigned to assume a seat on the U.S. House of Representatives. On the Sept. 14, Mike Bousselot (R) defeated Andrea Phillips (D) in the House District 37 special election. The seat became vacant after John Landon (R) died in July 2021.

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Special election for vacant Iowa House seat called for October

A special election has been called to fill the vacant Iowa House of Representatives seat in District 29. The seat became vacant on Sept. 10 when former state Rep. Wesley Breckenridge (D) resigned to take a job with the Iowa Law Enforcement Agency.

The special election is scheduled for Oct. 12. The candidate filing deadline for the election is Sept. 28. According to the Jasper County Elections website, absentee voting will begin sometime after Sept. 29 and run through Oct. 11. The start of absentee voting will depend on when the auditor’s office receives ballots. Polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT. 

To date, 64 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 21 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Redistricting Roundup: Ohio Redistricting Commission approves state legislative redistricting maps by party-line vote

Here’s a summary of the week’s noteworthy redistricting news from Iowa and Ohio, and authorities in seven states released draft congressional or legislative maps:

Ohio: The Ohio Redistricting Commission approved new state legislative district maps by a 5-2 party-line vote on Sept. 9. If the Commission files those maps with the secretary of state, they would be effective for four years since they passed without support from two commissioners from each party. 

This is the first state legislative redistricting conducted under Ohio’s Bipartisan Redistricting Commission Amendment that voters approved in 2015. The Commission consists of the governor, state auditor, secretary of state, and four members of the state legislature —two from each party. Maps drawn by the commission are valid for 10 years if at least two commissioners from each major political party vote for them. Should the maps be passed along strictly partisan lines, the maps are valid for two general elections of the state House of Representatives.

The deadline for the Commission to adopt final state legislative maps was Sept. 15. The Ohio Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all cases involving state legislative redistricting.

Iowa: The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 14 that they were extending the deadline for state legislative redistricting to Dec. 1 due to delays in receiving data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Court said because the process would not be complete by the state’s Sept. 15 constitutional deadline, it was exercising its responsibility and authority over redistricting. The Iowa Legislative Services Agency has said that the Iowa Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission would release the first draft of proposed state legislative district maps on Sept. 16.

Nationwide: Redistricting commissions or state legislative committees in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, and Nebraska all released draft congressional or legislative maps.

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Kirsten Engel, Wesley Breckenridge resign from state legislatures

Two Democrats, Kirsten Engel and Wesley Breckenridge, resigned from their state legislatures on Sept. 8 and 10, respectively. Senator Engel represented Arizona Senate District 10 from Jan. 11, 2021, to Sept. 8, 2021, while Rep. Breckenridge represented Iowa House District 29 from 2017 to 2021.

Engel resigned to focus on her 2022 campaign for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. As of Sept. 10, Engel was one of three Democrats Ballotpedia identified as running in the primary. Before joining the state Senate, Engel represented Arizona House District 10 from 2017 to 2021.

Breckenridge resigned to take a job with the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. He most recently won re-election in 2020, winning with 51.5% of the vote to Jon Dunwell’s (R) 48.4%.

Arizona is one of seven states to fill state legislative vacancies through appointments via Board of City Commissioners. Iowa is one of 25 states to fill such vacancies through special elections. 

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