BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MT. PLEASANT – State Senator Rich Taylor has been elected as part of the senate’s Democratic leadership team for the next legislative session that will begin in January,
Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant) represents Iowa’s 42nd senate district, including Lee County, and was elected by the 18 democratic senators currently in office following Tuesday’s general election.
The senate makeup is 18 democrats and 32 republicans after GOP candidates picked up a spot on the senate when Rita Hart retired from the state’s 49th district. Democrats picked up three spots in the House but are still in the minority at 47-53, with several issues being under recount.
Taylor, who will be beginning his 7th year in office, said the election as an assistant leader will give southeast Iowa a bigger voice in the senate.
“It give me a little bit more voice, I guess, in the Senate,” Taylor said Monday. “I can be on some of the better committees, and one of them I’m hoping to get on is the Rules Committee. It just makes my voice a little more than I had before and speak out more for the people in southeast Iowa.”
He said nationally Democrats did pretty well, but the state didn’t move as much as Democrats had hoped.
“I was a little disappointed with how we did in Iowa. We actually lost one spot where Rita Hart was just the right democratic fit in a republican district. The girl that tried to replace her didn’t quite make it.”
Taylor joins senators Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, Bill Dotzler of Waterloo, Pam Jochum of Dubuque, Liz Mathis of Hiawatha, and Herman Quirmbach of Ames under the leadership of Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines) as the minority leader and Amanda Regan (D-Mason City) as the Whip.
He said committee assignments will probably be set in the next couple weeks after several of the races in the recount are resolved.
Taylor said four races were decided by less than 400 votes combined.
“Once you get a recount, you never know what can happen. If it’s within 100 votes or so you might consider it, but if it’s more than that people don’t figure you can change the results,” Taylor said.
Despite still being in the minority in both chambers, Taylor said he hopes the election results will show that people want lawmakers to reach across the aisle and get things done.
“In the House last year they had a few members that didn’t go along with the Republican agenda, so I’m hoping they work in a more bipartisan basis on legislation. If you’re within a few votes, you just have to have everybody on board and it’s pretty hard to do that,” he said.
One of those House members was Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant) who, among other bills, voted against the Chapter 20 overhaul because it wasn’t in the best interests of his constituency, which has two state correctional centers in Mt. Pleasant and Fort Madison.
Rep. Joe Mitchell, who defeated Jason Moats for Heaton’s seat, said he too, would not have voted for the Chapter 20 changes because it went too far, but did agree with many of the changes proposed.
Taylor said he’s hoping that dynamic will encourage republicans to work with democrats during the session.
“They’ll have to work a little more across the aisle. and that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “I don’t think Iowa can stand two more years of one party domination, specifically in regards to health care. Smaller hospitals can’t afford to lose $1 million because insurance companies are not paying, and that’s what Henry County lost last year. Who knows that better than Keokuk, when that hospital just about closed. That would be devastating to that community and we have small hospitals like that all over the state.”
Taylor said he fears the first thing on the agenda will be IPERs, Medicaid, and then employee wages.
“The very first thing they’ll be working on is the IPERS. Everybody says we’re not going to touch IPERS and then Gov. Reynolds said maybe it needs tweaked a little. I think they’re going to tweak it right out of existence,’ he said.
“Then I think they’ll double down on the Medicaid disaster. And I think they’re going to go back after Iowa employees. They may try to lower pay about 10%. That contract is up on July 1, and they’ll say under a new contract and you’re going to make this. That would be absolutely devastating to our prison system. It’s tough enough to get anyone to work there. it’s so darn dangerous and the prison system is one of our biggest employers in this area. Nothing is going to surprise me. Hopefully in the next two years people pay attention to what’s really going on in Iowa government.”
The next session starts on the second Monday of January.