IOWA LEGISLATURE

20 years as Iowa lawmaker has 'made all the difference' for Vicki Lensing

Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, who has served 20 years in the Iowa House, delivered her farewell speech Thursday, at t
Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, who has served 20 years in the Iowa House, delivered her farewell speech Thursday, at the Capitol in Des Moines. (Iowa Legislature video screenshot)
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DES MOINES — After 20 years as a member of the Iowa House, Rep. Vicki Lensing addressed her colleagues one last time.

“Not to persuade or dissuade you on a piece of legislation, but to bid you farewell,” the Iowa City Democrat said in an emotional farewell speech Thursday.

Lensing joined two other Corridor legislators in delivering farewell speeches.

Republican Reps. Ashley Hinson of Marion and Louie Zumbach are not seeking re-election because they are running for other offices — Hinson for the U.S. House and Zumbach for the Linn County Board of Supervisors.

The resumption of the legislative session that was scheduled to be adjourned in April provided Lensing with the rare opportunity for a lawmaker who was defeated in a primary election to give a “retirement” speech. Lensing briefly referenced that loss when she spoke of the “honor and privilege” of serving 20 years.

“That’s a long time,” she said. “Not that serving another term would not have been welcome. It’s just not meant to be.”

Just as when she entered the House, Lensing, 62, leaves after serving 16 years in the minority.

“But there were four years that I served in the majority, and those were golden years,” she said. “To be able to propose legislation and see it pass on the House floor, to serve as a chairperson of a committee, to see bills through your committee and know that there may be tough votes you have to take for a good result in the end, to meet with constituents and be able to take action upon their concerns — those are sweet memories for me.”

Among the highlights of her tenure, Lensing said, was her work on public meetings and public records legislation, changes in subpoena powers, oversight of government agencies and numerous alcohol-related bills.

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The “doggy bag bill” allowing diners to take unfinished bottles of wine with them when they leave restaurants is one that her husband, Rich Templeton, “likes to brag about when we go out to dinner.”

She’s most proud of her work on pay equity issues, wind energy tax credits, voters’ rights — “keep voting easy and accessible;” human rights and civil rights, including same-sex marriage — “we need to be fair, open and inclusive;” and education — “keep our students interested and engaged.”

As a legislator, Lensing said she worked to be “fair, honest and open-minded ... true to myself and steadfast to my constituents.”

She closed by quoting poet Robert Frost — “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

“I’m not sure what road lies ahead for me,” Lensing said, “but ladies and gentlemen, the road through this chamber has made all the difference for me.”

Lensing likely will be succeeded by University of Iowa law professor Christina Bohannan, who won the Democratic primary. There is no Republican candidate in House District 85.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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