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Iowa City’s Joe Bolkcom won’t seek seventh term in Legislature
Democrat first elected to state Senate in 1998
IOWA CITY — Saying it’s time for Iowa voters to once again “rotate the crops,” six-term Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City will not seek re-election in 2022.
In 1998, when Bolkcom first ran for the Senate and Democrat Tom Vilsack was running for governor, Vilsack told Iowa voters it was “time to rotate the crops.”
They did, electing Democrats who set Iowa on a new, more progressive course, said Bolkcom, 65.
“I’m proud to have been part of the progressive legislative Democratic majority from 2007 to 2010 and the one-vote Iowa Senate Democratic majority from 2011 to 2016,” Bolkcom said Thursday.
“For six years, we blocked today’s ferocious, ongoing Republican attacks on Iowa workers, reproductive rights, health care, environment, and public education.”
Voters have rotated the crops again, giving Republicans control the Iowa Senate, House and governor’s office.
Announcing his decision now, Bolkcom said, will give others time to “step forward to again bring new ideas and new energy to solving problems facing working people and our communities.”
Before he began his Senate career, Bolkcom served six years on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors and worked for Johnson County Public Health before that.
Calling Bolkcom “a close friend, a dear colleague, and a relentless champion for a better Iowa,” Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, thanked Bolkcom for nearly 30 years of public service.
“I know that choosing to bring his decadeslong career in public service to an end was not easy, but I appreciate his decision and am grateful that he is encouraging a new generation of Iowans to get involved in state government,” Wahls said.
“His experience, his hard work, and his commitment to the people of Iowa will be missed.”
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn, a state representative from Ames, called Bolkcom a “tireless advocate for Iowa working families.”
He thanked Bolkcom “and his decision to ‘rotate the crops,’ as he said, and let a new generation take the reins.”
Bolkcom represents Senate 43, which includes Iowa City, University Heights, East Lucas Township and Hills. Under the new redistricting plan, he would be in Senate 45, which encompasses much of Iowa City.
Among the highlights of his legislative efforts, Bolkcom said, was working on the largest expansion of Iowa’s Earned Income Tax Credit to help lift families out of poverty; extending civil rights protections to LGBTQ Iowans; saving Iowans’ lives by raising the price of a pack of cigarettes by $1 and ending smoking in workplaces such as restaurants and bar; expanding Medicaid; creating the Iowa Health and Wellness Program; and establishing a regional mental health system.
Bolkcom authored legislation establishing the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council.
He also authored the state’s solar tax credit incentives that have generated more than $400 million in private investment, 1,000 permanent jobs and built thousands of new solar power systems on Iowa homes, farms and businesses.
Bolkcom worked with legislators and University of Iowa officials to create the Iowa Flood Center after the floods of 2008. And he was a leader in the effort to establish the Iowa medical cannabis program to ease the suffering of Iowans with debilitating medical conditions.
A Minnesota native and graduate of St. Ambrose University, Bolkcom works as the outreach and community education director for the UI center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and the Iowa Flood Center.
Currently, Bolkcom is the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee and serves on the Commerce, Human Resources, Rules & Administration and Ways & Means committees, as well as the Health & Human Services Budget Committee.
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