Politics Notebook | A long day of debate at the Iowa Capitol

A long night of debate in the Iowa Senate resulted in the passage of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ state government realignment bill, a bill prohibiting transgender youth from using restrooms that align with their gender identity, and a bill prohibiting gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. The bills now move to the house for consideration.


Jerod Ringwald

The Iowa State Capitol is seen during the first day of the 90th Iowa legislative session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.

Liam Halawith, Politics Editor

Republicans passed several key agenda items Tuesday night including multiple anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and Gov. Kim Reynolds’ state government realignment bill after a heated debate on the Iowa Senate floor.

Among the multiple anti-LGBTQ+ bills, two of them are heading to the Iowa House for consideration. 

The Iowa Senate passed Senate File 482 which bans students, staff, and visitors at elementary and secondary schools from using single or multiple-occupancy restrooms that do not align with their biological sex. It passed along party lines, 33-16, with all Democrats opposed to the measure. 

The Senate also passed Senate File 538, which would ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth in Iowa. It would prohibit gender reassignment surgery on minors, the use of drugs that block the processes of puberty or puberty-blockers, and hormone replacement therapy for transgender youth. The bill passed 33-16 with Democrats opposed. 

Reynolds’ plan to reorganize Iowa’s executive branch advances

Senate File 514, which condenses Iowa’s executive branch agencies from 37 to 16, passed legislation passed a floor vote in the Senate, 34-15, with all but one Democrat voting against the bill. 

The bill is part of Reynolds’ bold plan to reorganize and streamline Iowa’s executive branch that she presented during her Condition of the State in January. The 1,600-page bill would save the state money on unnecessary administrative overhead, according to the governor’s office. 

“Government alignment proposes the type of commonsense, fiscally responsible change that will improve how the executive branch works together, elevate services for Iowans, and save taxpayers a projected $215 million over the next four years,” Reynolds said in a news release on Tuesday.

Democrats introduced 10 different amendments to the 1,600-page bill. The amendments focused on maintaining the independence from politics of agencies, such as the Iowa Department for the Blind and the State Fire Marshal. 

All 10 amendments failed on party lines except for an amendment by Sen. Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, that sought to preserve the independence of the Iowa Department for the Blind by keeping the appointment of the director in the power of the Commission for the Blind, which is appointed by the Governor. 

Partially sighted and blind Iowans came to the capitol in troves to advocate against the political appointment of the director of the blind. Many said that bringing politics into the department could reduce the quality of services offered by the Department. 

“There’s more to being blind than learning how to walk around or function within your own limitations in your home or a public building,” Bisignano said on the Senate Floor Tuesday night. “There are social aspects, there are difficulties at different ages and the way it’s situated now, there is some empathy by the director who understands because they’re blind.” 

This amendment gained the support of two Republicans including Senate Pro Tempore Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale. But the amendment still failed. 

Sen. Zach Wahls, the leader of the Senate Democrats from Coralville, said the bill was rushed after it was introduced on Feb. 2. 

“Over and over and over tonight, Senate Democrats introduced amendments reflecting what we heard from Iowans across our state whose lives are going to be in many cases transformed by this legislation,” Wahls said on the floor of the Iowa Senate on Tuesday night.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird joins 46 states to investigate TikTok 

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, a Republican from Guthrie Center, joined a coalition of 46 states in filing an amicus brief requesting that TikTok, a popular social media platform, comply with a multistate investigation into the app. 

The investigation seeks to review internal company communication to determine whether or not TikTok is engaging in illegal activity that affected youth mental health, according to a press release from Bird’s office on Tuesday afternoon. 

“We need to hold social media companies such as TikTok accountable and address our growing youth mental health crisis,” Bird said. “Millions of minors across America use these social media platforms daily. TikTok has grown China’s global presence and given them direct influence over our children. We must evaluate TikTok’s business practices to determine whether it has broken laws and engaged in conduct that hurts youth mental health.” 

According to a study by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one-third of teenage girls seriously considered death by suicide in 2021, a nearly 60 percent increase from a decade prior.  

In December 2022, Gov. Kim Reynolds banned the app from all state-owned devices along with several other Republican states that instituted a ban on the app in an administrative capacity.