Republicans Have Brought Authoritarian Rule To Iowa Statehouse

Guest post from former Senator Dennis Black

I served 12 years in the Iowa House and 20 in the Iowa Senate, basically parts of Jasper and Polk Counties.  I retired in 2015, with Senator Chaz Allen seeking and winning the seat. I thought I’d observed and experienced just about everything until watching the deliberations and actions of legislators on Senate File 213 and House File 291, bills that gutted Iowa’s collective bargaining law.

Make no mistake about it! Iowans elected an authoritarian Republican Majority in the House and Senate.  They are, and shall continue to be the empitomy of the old cliche of “our way or the highway.”

During my 32 years, I never once was exposed to a “Time-Certain” procedural action, although its use is provided in the Joint Rules of both chambers. Under “Time-Certain,” leadership can unilaterally dictate that debate on an issue shall cease at a given time and date. The closest we ever came was in 2008, also on a collective bargaining bill, when Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck eventually agreed on a specific time, three days out, when debate would cease and a vote be taken.  Thus, members of both parties had to schedule their actions so the “voices of the people” could be heard, and their amendments would be timely filed and deliberated. The key: leaders working out the details.

Conversely, this session the Republican leadership in the House and Senate, as per approval of their membership, gave but a few hours notice to the media, public, staff and House and Senate Democratic Minority. As a result, over 40 Senate amendments to the collective bargaining bill were not even deliberated.

Disgusting! Shameful! Arrogant! Inexcusable!

A slap to the face of all Iowans who espouse good government, regardless of party affiliation. The voices and concerns of many Iowans were ignored during the decimation of Iowa Code Chapter 20, initiated 40 years ago by conscientious Republicans and Democrats with the agreement of Governor Robert Ray.  Recent Senate President Jack Kibbie and current Senator Wally Horn were integral in the passage of that bill.

Folks, get used to it. There is NO opportunity for “compromise” under the Gold Dome this year. Was that Iowan’s intent when they went to the ballot box last November? Of course not! The Democrats and single Independent member Senator Johnson are totally ignored and left out of the process. The Republicans create their nefarious legislation behind closed doors with window curtains drawn.

Surely, this couldn’t have been the intent of knowledgeable voters last November. But then, with what we are facing statewide and nationwide, I truly doubt the electorate understood the ramification of what they would be getting.

Historically, Reps. Delwyn Stromer (father of current House Speaker Linda Upmeyer) or Don Avenson would have NEVER led the House in this manner. And neither would Senators Cal Hultman, Lowell Junkins, Wally Horn, Stew Iverson or Mike Gronstal in their roles as Majority Leaders. Simply, we caucus members wouldn’t have allowed it to happen.

It’s pure arrogance that the House and Senate Majority would choose to violate a tradition that has been sacred in your state legislature for decades. Will it be “what goes around, comes around?” After all, actions of this nature are the basis by which the electorate tires of abuse caused by the corruption of power. If this or future majorities utilize “Time-Certain,” you can kiss-off any positive effects or need for a Minority Party.  Katie, bar the door! Authoritarianism rules!

The ramifications of the Republicans’ action on eviscerating Chapter 20 shall be felt for decades. Why? It takes a “trifecta” to change or create major legislation, which is a governor, House and Senate of the same party. Such are few and far between. There is currently no balance, no need for compromise in the eyes of the current Republican power structure. They have the “answers,” and a “mandate” based on the election of 2016.

If you challenge my statement… just ask them! Long gone is the opportunity or necessity of the parties working together for the well-being of Iowans. The split between the D’s and R’s is far too wide, and it widens with each ill-advised action as was exhibited on collective bargaining, and other legislation soon to be “deliberated” and passed and signed by the triumvirate.

Although we hear talk of “working across the aisle,” that is now only delusionary campaign rhetoric. It’s “us vs. them,” and only an informed, caring and involved citizenry can demand a return to days gone-by.  Failure to do so will only result in the march towards the abandonment of the Democratic principles upon which this Republic and state was founded.


by Dennis Black
Posted 2/24/17

2 Comments on "Republicans Have Brought Authoritarian Rule To Iowa Statehouse"

  • I remember when Democrats took over the House with a working majority in the 1970s. The first thing Democrats did was to throw out an entire precincts votes, changing the outcome of an election, and give themselves one more House member. The Republicans committed vote fraud: only one sworn election official enabled residents of a nursing home to vote. Because of the technical error, all the votes of that precinct were thrown out. So even the legal votes caste by residents outside the nursing home were discarded, stealing their votes. And changing the outcome of the election. “Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.” By the way, if I remember correctly: that session passed the original collective bargaining bill, with a handful of Republican votes, and was signed by Gov. Robert Ray.

  • Authoritarian? You mean like when Ground Stall would not allow Republican Bills to get to the floor? Where were you then?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *