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Another legislative power grab aimed at Iowa local government
Republican state lawmakers are pushing legislation that would dictate how county supervisors are elected in three Iowa counties. It’s the latest example of the GOP’s continuing drive to grab power at the expense of local control.
The Senate passed legislation requiring counties with a population of 125,000 or more to elect supervisors by district, meaning supervisors would be selected only by voters in their district. It would prohibit allowing all county voters to vote for each supervisor slot.
The House amended the Senate bill to narrow its focus to counties that are home to state universities, including Johnson, Story and Black Hawk countries.
What the presence of a state university has to do with how a county elects supervisors makes sense only in the minds of the bill’s backers. All three counties lean Democratic and elect their supervisors at-large, not in districts. Democrats control the boards of supervisor in each county.
So the intent seems to be an effort by Republicans to make it more likely GOP candidates can win supervisor seats. It’s a political power grab. One backer of the legislation claimed that the change would make elections in those counties “more democratic.”
But currently, county voters have the power to determine how they elect supervisors. If they don’t like the way they’re being represented, that can petition and vote for a change. That seems far more democratic than an edict from Des Moines dictating a representation plan.
While it's within the Legislature's power to set the size of the boards, how they're elected should remain a local decision.
And the dictates have been piling up in recent years as Republican lawmakers snatch power from cities, counties and school districts where voters have picked elected local leaders who don’t embrace the GOP’s statewide agenda.
It’s also another example of Republicans using heavy-handed legislation to address a problem than doesn’t exist. Again, if residents of those three counties are unhappy with how supervisors are elected, they can press for changes at the ballot box.
The House delayed debate on the bill, likely due to a lack of support needed to pass the bill. We urge the House to abandon the bill and leave the decision on supervisor elections to county residents.
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