Weekly News Roundup: Ivanka Trump Comes to Iowa, Senate GOP Reshuffles After Dix Affair

Also: Extreme bills meet mixed fates after state Legislature's second funnel deadline, Iowa AG to investigate report naming Iowa City worst in nation for denying home loans to Latinos

Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons

The Informer’s weekly news roundup, presented in partnership with KHOI community radio.

According to the office of Gov. Kim Reynolds, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter who also serves as one of his White House advisers, plans to visit Iowa today to meet with Waukee students, participate in a roundtable discussion on education in Iowa, and tour the suburb school district’s Innovation and Learning Center, a hub partnering students with teachers and the local business community. Reynolds plans to join Ivanka Trump on her tour. Iowa Starting Line reported that the advocacy group Progress Iowa raised funds for a billboard near the Des Moines airport criticizing Trump and Reynolds, but that it was rejected by Lamar Advertising just a day and a half before Trump’s scheduled appearance for being too “controversial” — even though the company has approved other similar billboard messages in the past.

Failor Out, Whitver Takes Over As Majority Leader Amid Post-Dix Senate Shakeup

In the wake of the scandal last week that took down former Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, a Republican who was caught having an affair with a Bernie Sanders-supporting Statehouse lobbyist, a controversial top Dix aide also announced he was stepping down. The aide, Ed Failor Jr., started working for the Senate GOP after a tenure as president of Iowans for Tax Relief. Failor, like Dix, had come under fire for his handling of the rampant sexual harassment in the Senate GOP caucus alleged by former communications director Kirsten Anderson. Anderson named Failor in her lawsuit that last fall resulted in a $1.75 million settlement, saying he was critical of her writing abilities and “routinely” made negative comments about her clothing style. “It is in the best interest of the Senate Republican caucus for me leave my position at this time,” Failor said in a statement. “I truly enjoyed the more than five years I spent in the Iowa Senate. I am proud of the broad and substantive conservative agenda this chamber has passed on behalf of Iowans. It is the right time for me to pursue opportunities in the private sector.”

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans held a vote to determine Dix’s successor as majority leader, settling on Jack Whitver of Ankeny, the body’s president.

Fetal Heartbeat Ban Survives Second Funnel Deadline, Other Extreme Bills Suffer Mixed Fates

Friday marked the state Legislature’s second funnel deadline (PDF), meaning bills passed in one chamber that hadn’t yet passed out of committee in the other chamber were considered dead.

Among the high-profile bills that have survived are a fetal heartbeat abortion proposal that would outlaw nearly all abortions in the state and be the strictest anti-abortion law in the country, although it would likely be challenged in court as unconstitutional. Also alive are two billion-dollar tax cut proposals, a proposal to amend the state’s constitution to call for a convention of states to limit the federal government’s power, an anti-sanctuary city bill opposed by many Iowa law enforcement agencies that would force them to comply with federal immigration officials, and a bill aimed at Dakota Access pipeline protesters that would implement harsh felony charges for alleged “critical infrastructure sabotage.”

Among the bills that died Friday were a ban on highway protests that targeted anti-Trump protesters in Iowa City who temporarily blocked Interstate 80 after the 2016 election, a proposal to require an Iowa Supreme Court supermajority ruling in order to declare a law unconstitutional — which itself would likely violate the state’s constitution — a so-called “religious freedom” bill opposed by the Ames Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations that would allow businesses and schools to refuse services to members of the LGBT community, a work requirement to receive Medicaid services, a bill allowing for the carrying of guns on school grounds, and a sweeping proposal to eliminate a full third of the state government’s regulatory rules.

For the second straight year, Emmalee’s Law also failed to pass. The bill, named for an Iowa State University student who in 2015 was struck and killed by a CyRide driver who didn’t report the accident, would have increased penalties for failing to report a hit-and-run if the driver had a reason to believe the accident may have resulted in an injury or death. Some lawmakers raised questions about whether the law would be unconstitutional, but similar hit-and-run laws have all held up to court challenges in several other states and federally.

Iowa AG Responds to Report on Latino Homeownership in Iowa City

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, expressed his concerns about a recent report on homeownership by The Center for Investigative Reporting that showed Latinos pursuing home loans in the Iowa City area were almost four times likelier to be denied than non-Latino whites — the worst disparity among any city in the nation. Miller announced last week that his office would take a closer look at the report’s findings and “consider our options,” declining to specify what those options might include. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission, meanwhile, has announced it won’t investigate the findings because it has inadequate funding to do so, according to the Associated Press.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.