2018 in Iowa politics

A synopsis of what happened in 2018 in the political sphere: budget mayhem, fetal-heartbeat bill, Kavanaugh, and women elected.


Katie Goodale

Gov. Kim Reynolds addresses her supporters at the Hilton in Des Moines on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.

Emily Wangen, Politics Reporter

MARCH: State budget cuts hit regent universities

Following cuts to the state Board of Regents in the fiscal 2017 budget, Gov. Kim Reynolds approved $10.9 million in additional budget cuts to be equally divided between the University of Iowa and Iowa State University in March for fiscal 2018.

By the session’s end, Reynolds approved a bill that provided for a $8.3 million funding increase in fiscal 2019, leaving $2.6 million unrestored.

In response, the UI announced a construction moratorium (which ended in September) to defer $5.5 million from the general-education fund budget. The UI also closed seven centers in July, including the UI Labor Center, and reduced funding to three more. The closing of the centers will save the UI $3.5 million which will stay within the respective colleges and units, UI officials said.

“I think we’ve got a point of view that the institutions of higher education are an expense to be cut, they’re not an asset to be invested in,” UI President Bruce Harreld told The Daily Iowan on Dec. 7. “I’ve been pretty vocal over three years saying I think that’s wrong-headed. I think we can do better for the economy, I think we’re a major driver of the economy, and as we cut it, it has a negative impact.”

MAY: Governor signs fetal-heartbeat bill; litigation ensues

The Iowa Legislature  passed the fetal-heartbeat bill, which has been called the “most restrictive abortion bill in the country,” on a 29-17 vote in the Senate and a 51-46 vote in the House, mostly along party lines. From there, the legislation went to Reynolds’ desk, and she signed it into law.

RELATED: Reynolds signs ‘heartbeat bill’ into law

Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register
Alice Clapman, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood argues for Judge Michael Huppert to declare Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law unconstitutional during hearing in state court Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.

“I understand that not everyone will agree with this decision. But if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn’t a beating heart indicate life?” Reynolds said in a press release following the signing of the bill. “For me, it is immoral to stop an innocent beating heart.”

Shortly thereafter, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of the law.

In December, the DI reported that the case was heard in a District 5C courtroom in Des Moines, where Judge Michael Huppert did not rule on a motion for summary judgment that had been filed months prior. He said he would rule within 60 days.

OCT.: Iowa senator presides over controversial Brett Kavanaugh confirmation

What was supposed to be a smooth Supreme Court confirmation process turned into a highly publicized hearing when former D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh faced three accusations of sexual misconduct when he was a teenager or in college.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, held hearings in which the senators heard from university Professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school.

RELATED: Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford testimonies highlight Chuck Grassley’s role in ‘Me Too’ moment

“We got to take these examples of sexual assault very seriously, and she’s charged him, and we also have a request from Kavanaugh that he wants to give his side of the story,” Grassley told reporters during a conference call in September.

Kavanaugh went on to be confirmed to the high court by the Senate Oct. 6 on a 50-48 vote.

NOV.: Women, Dems make waves in midterms

On Nov. 6, voters across the nation went to the polls for the 2018 midterm elections. Iowa elected the state’s first female governor, Reynolds, to a full four-year term. She had taken over the office from Terry Branstad in 2017, when he became U.S. ambassador to China.

RELATED: Midterm elections solidify Iowa as purple state

Iowans in the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts voted out two Republican incumbents, Rod Blum and David Young, and replaced them with state Rep. Abby Finkenauer and public servant Cindy Axne — the first women to represent Iowa in the House of Representatives.

RELATED: Women, politics, and change

With the election of two Democrats, Iowa’s congressional delegation will be split evenly along party lines: Republicans Sen. Joni Ernst, Grassley, and Rep. Steve King, and Democrats Axne, Finkenauer, and Rep. Dave Loebsack of the 2nd District.

On the national level, Democrats regained control of the U.S. House. Republicans will continue to control the Senate.

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