N'West Iowa lawmakers for 2021

Left to right: Sen. Zach Whiting (R-Spirit Lake); Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull); Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake); Rep. Dan Huseman (R-Aurelia); Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R-Orange City).

REGIONAL—Lawmakers will convene at the State Capitol in Des Moines Monday, Jan. 11, for the first session of the 89th General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature.

N’West Iowa’s five lawmakers are all Republicans, with two new faces in the delegation following November’s general election: Jeff Taylor of Sioux Center and Dennis Bush of Cleghorn.

Taylor succeeds former Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, while Bush fills the position vacated by Dan Huseman (R-Aurelia). Huseman chose not to seek re-election after 26 years in the House.

They will rejoin their party colleagues in the majority for each chamber. The Republican Party expanded its control of the House to 59-41 and held onto its 32-18 majority in the Senate.

As of Friday, Jan. 8, there were 49 pre-filed bills awaiting the lawmakers when they return to the Capitol. The topics of the bills ranged from the process of filing complaints to the Iowa Public Information Board, special permits for vehicles transporting relief supplies during national emergencies, penalties for campaign yard sign violations and Class C liquor control licenses.

Gov. Kim Reynolds will deliver the Condition of the State address at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, in the House chamber.

The session is scheduled to run through April 30. The Legislature adjourned March 16-June 3 in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

SEN. ZACH WHITING

Zach Whiting

Age: 33

Residence: Spirit Lake

Party: Republican

Area: District 1 — Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Clay and Palo Alto counties

Experience: Third year in the Senate and first as assistant majority leader.

Committees: Commerce, judiciary, rules and administration, state government, ways and means, transportation, infrastructure, chairman of labor and business relations, vice chair of administrative rules review and vice chair of capitals appropriations subcommittee.

E-mail: zach.whiting@legis.iowa.gov

Phone: 512-281-3371

WHAT POLICY AREAS ARE AREAS YOU MOST LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING ON?

Economic recovery and growth are the most important issues we face in 2021. Coupled with that, additional tax and regulatory reform are critical to making Iowa competitive and attractive. I look forward to playing a big role in those discussions as a member of the commerce, state government, and ways and means committees.

As chairman of the labor and business relations committee, I will push for creative solutions to address our workforce needs in Iowa. On a personal level, I will continue to push for protections for crime victims, a constitutional amendment to protect the right to keep and bear arms and limiting the use of emergency powers.

WHAT ADDITIONAL STEPS SHOULD THE STATE TAKE TO HELP IOWANS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC?

The government has taken extraordinary steps to respond to this crisis by shutting down the economy, putting in place stringent mitigation measures, expediting the production of PPE (personal protective equipment) and development of a vaccine and spent trillions of dollars in aid and public assistance.

These have all been done in the name of public health. As a policymaker I have to focus on all the factors at play — including the public health, economic health and social and mental well-being. I have grave concerns about the scope and duration of emergency powers which seem to have no limits or end date in sight.

The Legislature needs to take a strong look at Chapter 29C and consider how we can place appropriate limits, checks and balances, and provide remedies for individuals, businesses, churches and other entities affected by executive overreach.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS OTHER KEY ISSUES IN THE 2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION?

Iowa is the best-positioned state in the nation to weather the economic downtown. So we have a unique opportunity to focus not just on economic recovery — but to achieve strong economic growth, especially for rural Iowa. This will take a multifaceted approach that looks at issues such as broadband, housing, workforce and child care.

Additionally, tax and regulatory reforms are key to our economic recovery and growth — to ensure our tax rates and regulatory environment are competitive and attractive to businesses and individuals.

IS THERE A PLAN IF IN-PERSON WORK AT THE CAPITOL MUST AGAIN BE SUSPENDED?

Legislative leaders have been working to develop plans and protocols for members, staff and the public. Those plans are still being finalized and I anticipate learning more about them in the coming days.

SEN. JEFF TAYLOR

Jeff Taylor

Age: 59

Residence: Sioux Center

Party: Republican

Area: District 2 — O’Brien, Sioux and Cherokee counties and the eastern most townships of Plymouth County

Experience: First year in the Senate

Committees: Judiciary, labor, natural resources and vice chair of education.

E-mail: jeff.taylor@legis.iowa.gov

Phone: 512-281-3371

WHAT POLICY AREAS ARE AREAS YOU MOST LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING ON?

Two of the policy areas I’m looking forward to working on:

  1. Promote the protection of unborn human life — and all life. Government exists to safeguard our God-given rights. The right to life is the most foundational of all.
  2. Promote quality education of Iowa children, including respect for diverse means to achieve this goal. More specifically, I want to ensure that public education prioritizes citizen accountability, student fairness and curricular integrity.

WHAT ADDITIONAL STEPS SHOULD THE STATE TAKE TO HELP IOWANS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC?

I don’t think there are any additional steps the government of Iowa needs to take in response to COVID, beyond offering Iowans access to the new vaccines on a voluntary basis.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS OTHER KEY ISSUES IN THE 2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION?

As a new legislator, I’m not yet in a position to know what other key issues the General Assembly is likely to take up this coming session.

IS THERE A PLAN IF IN-PERSON WORK AT THE CAPITOL MUST AGAIN BE SUSPENDED?

I have not yet been told by Senate leadership about contingency plans for remote work.

REP. JOHN WILLS

John Wills

Age: 54

Residence: Spirit Lake

Party: Republican

Area: District 1 — Lyon and Osceola counties and the northern two-thirds of Dickinson County

Experience: Seventh year in the House, and speaker pro tempore

Committees: Agriculture, appropriations, education, economic growth, Veterans Affairs, agriculture and natural resources budget subcommittee, legislative counsel.

E-mail: john.wills@legis.iowa.gov

Cellphone: 712-330-9492

WHAT POLICY AREAS ARE AREAS YOU MOST LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING ON IN 2021?

It would be great to work on Education Reform and Tax Reform this year. In addition Rep Wheeler and myself are working on bills that will create food certainty and allow farmers to sell produce and meat locally with less rules and restrictions.

WHAT ADDITIONAL STEPS SHOULD THE STATE TAKE TO HELP IOWANS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC?

I believe the efforts we will do will help the businesses that are hurting in Iowa. Right now Iowa is tied at 3.5 percent unemployment with two other states as the lowest unemployment in the nation.

We must make sure that our businesses that were hurt due to no fault of their own are able to stay open and keep folks employed. If we do that, the next step is to start bringing legal immigrants to the state to fill our jobs that have been open for awhile and continue to grow our economy.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS OTHER KEY ISSUES IN THE 2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION?

I look forward to working on Second Amendment issues, religious freedom and freedom of speech issues. These issues came up as caucus priorities this year: Revenue Estimating Conference/Budget Update; State Supplemental Aid; education policy reform; Freedom Amendment/Second Amendment virtues; campaign reform; tax reform; life; mental health; emergency executive powers.

IS THERE A PLAN IF IN-PERSON WORK AT THE CAPITOL MUST AGAIN BE SUSPENDED?

We will maintain physical spacing and just be smart about how we conduct business in the Capitol. There will be more options for online committee and subcommittee meetings. Otherwise, we must keep the process of transparency of government available for people. The moment we try to close off transparency, then we have defeated ourselves and our constituents.

REP. DENNIS BUSH

Age: 69

Residence: Cleghorn

Party: Republican

Area: District 3 — O’Brien and Cherokee counties, eastern Plymouth County and eastern Sioux County

Experience: First year in the House

Committees: Human resources, transportation, labor, vice chair of the agriculture and natural resources appropriation subcommittee.

E-mail: dennis.bush@legis.iowa.gov

Phone: 515-281-3221

Home phone: 712-225-2403

Cellphone: 712-221-1784

WHAT POLICY AREAS ARE AREAS YOU MOST LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING ON?

I most look forward to working in the areas of agriculture, mental health and local government. I have been involved in agriculture for over 50 years as a farmer and livestock producer so I have firsthand knowledge in that area.

Most of my committee assignments during the two terms I served as supervisor were in the mental-health field. I served on a mental-health region governance board since the inception of the mental-health regions in 2014. I have been on the Cherokee Mental Health Institute Advisory Committee and a county liaison to the Plains Area Mental Health Board since taking office in 2013.

I was also appointed by the governor to serve on the Iowa Mental Health and Disabilities Services Commission. This has given me a good understanding of where changes in Iowa Code could be made to help delivery of mental-health services.

WHAT ADDITIONAL STEPS SHOULD THE STATE TAKE TO HELP IOWANS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC?

Maybe it is already in the works, but I would like to see a vigorous campaign to encourage everyone to get vaccinated once the vaccine is readily available. The vaccine will be the quickest and least painful method of achieving and maintaining herd immunity in terms of both human suffering and financial security. As a former livestock producer, I have seen firsthand the tremendous value of vaccines.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS OTHER KEY ISSUES IN THE 2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION?

School finance is always an issue. The House will probably be revisiting the issue of school choice. Mental health will be discussed again also. I am almost certain that a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution regarding constitutional carry and another that would clarify that abortion is not a fundamental right will be debated also.

IS THERE A PLAN IF IN-PERSON WORK AT THE CAPITOL MUST AGAIN BE SUSPENDED?

If there are contingency plans in case the session is suspended in part, they are not being announced at this time. Plans are being implemented to allow more distancing between legislators this session. Clerks are being allowed to work remotely as much as is possible. Larger areas will be used to hold committee meetings. Public input during committee meetings might possibly be done virtually. Our caucus meetings will be held in larger rooms so that legislators can spread out more.

REP. SKYLER WHEELER

Skyler Wheeler

Age: 27

Residence: Orange City

Party: Republican

Area: District 4 — Sioux County, with the exception of Floyd, Lynn, Grant and Sheridan townships

Experience: Fifth year in the House

Committees: Local government, judiciary, ways and means; justice systems appropriations subcommittee, vice chair of education.

E-mail: skyler.wheeler@legis.iowa.gov

Cellphone: 712-441-7444

WHAT POLICY AREAS ARE AREAS YOU MOST LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING ON?

Looking forward to working on education reform pieces, restoring our freedoms and liberties, standing for our First and Second Amendment rights, cutting taxes, balancing the budget and looking for ways to reduce the size and scope of government.

WHAT ADDITIONAL STEPS SHOULD THE STATE TAKE TO HELP IOWANS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC?

The state will continue to monitor what things look like with the pandemic. There is no question that the topic of small-business relief will come up as well as how the emergency powers section should look for future potential pandemics. The state should also immediately return personal responsibility to Iowans to make their own decisions on how to handle this virus.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS OTHER KEY ISSUES IN THE 2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION?

I somewhat covered it above, but we certainly will have the annual conversations about mental health, broadband access and health care. Still somewhat early to know what else could come up.

IS THERE A PLAN IF IN-PERSON WORK AT THE CAPITOL MUST AGAIN BE SUSPENDED?

There will be changes to how the Legislature works this year due to the virus. I will push to ensure we do not go into a hiatus again. Everyone that ran for office knew exactly what they were signing up for this year and should be prepared to do their jobs at the Capitol during the first four to five months of the year in person.