What you should know about the 2017 Iowa legislature

The dust has finally settled (kind of) after historical elections across the country surprised the masses. The most surprising result for many was the win of President-elect Donald Trump. Many in Iowa, however, were surprised that same evening over Republicans gaining control over the Senate, and the defeat of former Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat who served in the Senate since 1985.

The Iowa legislative landscape has shifted, and it is critical for the startup community to understand the implications and effects these changes will have.

Prior to the 2016 elections, Iowa had a split legislature (meaning the Democrats controlled the Senate and the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives) since the 2010 election. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Iowa was one of eight states in 2016 to have a split legislature.

For the past six years, the split legislature structured how business was conducted under the golden dome. It required unlikely coalitions and alliances on issues in order to get any legislation through both chambers and on to the governor. Now, the Senate, House of Representatives and the Office of the Governor are controlled by the same party.

Once the landscape changes, so do the way things work in the General Assembly. Things will likely move faster than they have in recent years, as there are many priorities that were stifled for Republicans while the Senate was controlled by the Democrats. Ultimately, Senate leadership refused to consider legislation passed from the House until the legislation missed deadlines for consideration or died upon adjournment. Don’t be surprised if this same strategy is used in the 2017 session, and don’t forget that it is used by both parties.

Senate leadership also announced that they will be eliminating the Economic Growth Committee, as they believe every committee is charged with economic growth in Iowa. Historically, many of the legislative priorities in the technology and startup community fell under the jurisdiction of the Economic Growth Committee. The House of Representatives is keeping their Economic Growth Committee, which means if legislation originates in the House, it will now likely go through the Commerce Committee in the Senate.

Key Players to Know

Here are the elected officials who lead each chamber and the committees that will likely have jurisdiction over legislation relating to technology and startups:

House Leadership:

Rep. Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake (Speaker of the House)
Rep. Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights (Majority Leader)
Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown (Minority Leader)

House Economic Growth Committee:

Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, R-Council Bluffs (Chair)
Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta (Vice-Chair)
Rep. Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa (Ranking Member)

Senate Leadership:

Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Windsor Heights (President of the Senate)
Sen. Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock (Majority Leader)
Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids (Minority Leader)

Senate Commerce:

Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson (Chair)
Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point (Vice-Chair)
Sen. Janet Peterson, D-Des Moines (Ranking Member)

This list includes members that hold the most power over moving legislation in these certain jurisdictions, however, it doesn’t mean that other House and Senate members don’t have interest in these issues. Senators and representatives give more weight to constituent concerns over lobbyists any day. Let this be an encouragement to use the experience and insights gained from working in the startup community to impact change in Iowa.

To find your legislator:


Committee Assignments:


Susan Gentz is the deputy executive director for the Center for Digital Education and a contributing writer for Clay & Milk.