When election night ended Republicans held an even larger majority in the Iowa House, likely 59-41, and held their already large Senate majority, 32-18. With GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds still in office, Republicans once again hold all the cards at the Statehouse.
They can use that power to shove through a partisan agenda or they can and should use their power to serve the common good and find common ground.
For starters, there’s the ongoing, worsening coronavirus pandemic. Whatever strategy or lack thereof the state is following obviously isn’t working. Hospitalizations are breaking records daily as case numbers skyrocket and dozens of Iowans die weekly. It’s an emergency that calls for an all-hands-on-deck, bipartisan effort to address the virus and its economic toll.
We’ve seen inaccurate state virus statistics, misspent recovery dollars and no plan for the cold weather months ahead when experts warn the pandemic could worsen. The Legislature could address those issues and provide some much-needed oversight.
Republican majorities also could work with a broad array of stakeholders to improve on Reynolds’ plans for a sales tax increase paying for environmental protection, outdoor recreation and mental health needs.
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Lawmakers could come together to improve Iowa’s weak and ineffective medical marijuana program. Republicans who have made impassioned arguments during the pandemic about the importance of in-person learning in public schools can join with Democrats to boost funding and craft educational improvements.
After the dramatic passage of bipartisan policing and justice reforms in June, the new Legislature can address numerous other reform measures.
After failing to meaningfully review the state’s growing pile of business tax credits last session, Republicans can return to the issue in January. As fiscal conservatives, it makes sense that Republicans would want to make sure tax expenditures are not being wasted for little economic benefit.
The list of potential issues primed for a cooperative approach is long. Lawmakers represent their districts but the Legislature serves all Iowans. And in January, it can also start serving as a reminder that after a long, divisive and acrimonious campaign, our leaders are still capable of working together.
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