Staff Columnist

Murphy: More key state lawmakers stepping down

House will need new leaders on tax policy and health spending

Clara Oleson of West Branch gives a note Feb. 2 about the history of organized labor in Iowa to John Delaney, a Democratic congressman from Maryland, after he talked with members of the Cedar County Democrats at D’Alicias Cupcakery and Cafe in Tipton. Delaney, the only announced candidate for president from a major party, talked with a group of about 20 people about his hopes for bipartisan solutions to challenges facing the country. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Clara Oleson of West Branch gives a note Feb. 2 about the history of organized labor in Iowa to John Delaney, a Democratic congressman from Maryland, after he talked with members of the Cedar County Democrats at D’Alicias Cupcakery and Cafe in Tipton. Delaney, the only announced candidate for president from a major party, talked with a group of about 20 people about his hopes for bipartisan solutions to challenges facing the country. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — A remake of the Iowa Legislature continued last week with a couple more significant retirements.

Reps. Guy Vander Linden and David Heaton, Republicans who lead the Iowa House’s committees on tax policy and the health care budget, announced they will not seek re-election.

Those retirements mean two of the House’s most important committees will have new leaders in 2019.

Heaton, who is from Mount Pleasant, has served in the Iowa House since 1995 and Vander Linden, who is from Oskaloosa, since 2011.

Their announcements come a week after Democratic Sen. Matt McCoy of Des Moines announced he will not seek re-election and instead run for Polk County supervisor. That means the three longest-tenured Senate Democrats are leaving the Senate after this year; Wally Horn of Cedar Rapids and Bob Dvorsky of Iowa City previously announced they would not seek re-election.

The political atmosphere, both nationally and in Iowa, leads some to believe this fall’s midterm election could be wildly successful for Democrats.

Historically, the first election after a new political party comes into power heavily favors the party newly out of power. And Republican President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been in the low 40s, even high 30s earlier this year. That, too, could be a drag on Republican candidates this fall.

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But regardless of whether there is a Democratic wave, the Iowa Legislature is going to look different in many ways as the retirements keep rolling in.

If Republicans maintain their advantage in the Iowa House this fall, they would need to replace Heaton and Vander Linden as leaders of those two crucial committees.

“I’m going to leave a lot of things undone,” Heaton told The Gazette last week. “We still have to continue to improve mental health (and) work at getting the bumps out of our managed care for Medicaid.”

The multimedia candidate

U.S. Rep. John Delaney, the first officially declared major party candidate for president in 2020 who has made multiple visits to Iowa, has crossed another item of his presidential candidate checklist: He has published a book.

“The Right Answer: How We Can Unify Our Divided Nation” is the title of the book from the Maryland Democrat.

The book will be “a rousing call for bipartisan action, entrepreneurial innovation, and a renewed commitment to the American idea,” according to the Delaney campaign.

Delaney’s first TV ad in Iowa started airing during the Super Bowl and more have been running since as part of a monthlong, $1 million ad buy.

Rural exodus

Iowa’s nonpartisan legal and data services agency, the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, or LSA, publishes a “map of the week” that covers various aspects of Iowa and its economy.

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Last week’s showed the great struggle facing Iowa’s rural areas: migration to the state’s urban centers.

The map showed population changes by county from 2010 to 2016.

The counties with the highest population increases were clustered in Central Iowa around Des Moines, and in Johnson County with Iowa City.

The counties with the highest population decreases were in rural western Iowa, especially southwestern Iowa, which had six of the nine counties with highest rate of population decreases.

All told, only 18 Iowa counties — most of them around urban areas — saw population growth higher than 1 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to the map.

Meantime, 59 counties lost population at a rate of higher than 1 percent.

That migration is at the root of most, if not all, of the issues currently facing rural Iowa.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net; follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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