Iowa General Assembly

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Iowa General Assembly

Seal of Iowa.jpg
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 14, 2013
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Pam Jochum (D)
House Speaker:  Kraig Paulsen (R)
Majority Leader:   Michael Gronstal (D) (Senate),
Linda Upmeyer (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Bill Dix (R) (Senate),
Kevin McCarthy (D) (House)
Members:  50 (Senate), 100 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Legislative Department, Iowa Constitution, Sec 3
Salary:   $25,000/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 6, 2012
25 seats (Senate)
100 seats (House)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
Redistricting:  Iowa Board of Apportionment
The Iowa General Assembly (or IGA) is the state legislature of Iowa. The General Assembly convenes within the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. It is a bicameral legislature composed of an upper house, the Iowa State Senate, and a lower house, the Iowa House of Representatives.
Iowa State Capitol

Prior to the 2006 election, Iowa had one of the most evenly divided state legislatures in the country, with a 25-25 split in the Senate and the House composed of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. Following the 2010 election, Republicans took control of the House by a margin of 58-42, while Democrats hung onto the Senate 27-23.

As of May 2015, Iowa is one of 19 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.


The Legislative Department of the Iowa Constitution establishes when the General Assembly is to be in session. Section 2 of the article states that the General Assembly is to convene its regular session on the second Monday of January of each year. The General Assembly can also be called into special session by a proclamation of the Governor of Iowa or by a written request of two-thirds of both houses of the General Assembly.

Bills may be pre-filed for the senate between odd year and even year sessions.[1]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature is projected to be in session from January 13 through April 1.


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature will be in session from January 14 through May 23.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2013 legislative session included education reform, providing healthcare for low-income and other uninsured residents, and a tax relief package that sought to lower property taxes.[2]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the General Assembly was in session from January 9 to May 9.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the General Assembly was in session from January 10 through July 1. The legislature was in an extended session due to concerns on how to reduce commercial property taxes. House Republicans favored a 25 per cent reduction in commercial property tax rates, while Senate Democrats proposed a tax credit that would be paid directly to the owners of the commercial properties.[3] During the extended session, legislators did not receive per diem. Iowa legislative rules allow lawmakers to receive per diem for a maximum of 100 days in even numbered years, and 110 days in odd numbered years. The 110th calendar day of the 2011 session was April 30. The rules may be amended at any time to extend the legislative session.

Session highlights


Iowa ended its 2011 fiscal year with $54.5 million in revenue collections above estimated figures, an increase of 6 percent over fiscal 2010. The 6 percent increase was one percent higher than expected.[4]

As a whole, Iowa collected $329.3 million more in revenue than it did last year. Last year's overall total revenue is still not yet known, due to the continuing flow of expenses or revenue collections that can be attributed to fiscal year 2010. To account for this, the books will remain open until September, as is customary for the state.[4]

School funding

A brief tussle over state spending on public schools ended in compromise, with Democrats agreeing to a Republican-proposed 2 percent increase in spending (equivalent to about $60 million) for FY 2012. The Senate approved the plan by a vote of 26-19 and the House by 56-39. Though Democrats had originally asked for a 3 percent overall increase in funding, they secured an extra $24 million for preschool programs in exchange for their support for the Republican plan.[5]

No property tax reform

Lawmakers failed to agree on reforms to the state's property tax system. House Republicans called for across-the-board property tax cuts, while Democrats sought to limit tax concessions to small businesses. Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal said the Republican plan "favored tax breaks for giant corporations."[5] Republicans countered that "all property taxpayers in the state of Iowa deserve relief."

Iowa collects commercial property taxes based on 100 percent of a property's assessed value, a considerably higher level than in neighboring states; in Missouri, for instance, taxes are only calculated based on 33.3% of a property's value.


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the General Assembly was in session from January 11th to March 30th.

Ethics and transparency

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Iowa was given a grade of C in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[6]

Role in State Budget

Main article: Iowa state budget

Sometime in January of every year, the Iowa General Assembly receives an annual budget proposal from the Governor. The annual budget proposal is for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1st. The Legislature then revises this budget over the course of the next couple of months. [7]

In hard economic times, the Iowa Legislature has scrambled to balance the budget. Reduced revenue projections back in April of 2009 led Gov. Culver to revise and cut 7.9% from his FY 2010 budget recommendation to the Legislature during its session.[8]



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Iowa legislature are paid $25,000/year. Additionally, legislators receive $135/day per diem tied to the federal rate. Polk County legislators receive $101.25/day.[9]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Iowa legislators assume office the first day of January after their election.


See also: Redistricting in Iowa

The Iowa Legislative Service Agency is responsible for the redistricting process in Iowa. This entity is not a special commission or committee of legislators, but a non-partisan entity established before the 1981 redistricting process that divides the state into districts based on key geographic principles, including population, contiguity, respect for political subdivisions, and compactness.[10] The plan must be passed by the legislature and the governor before it becomes law.

2010 Census

Iowa's population grew 4.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Iowa's population was 2.93 million in 2000, and rose to 3.05 million in 2010. This rate was less than half of the national growth rate of roughly 10 percent between 2000 and 2010.[11] Due to this slow growth, the U.S. Census Bureau determined that Iowa would only be represented by four members of the U.S. House of Representatives, rather than the five seats Iowa had during the 2000-2010 decade.[12] Most of Iowa's growth occurred in the urban and suburban areas of the state, while most of the rural counties grew slowly or lost population.[13]

On March 31, 2011, the Iowa Legislative Service Agency released its first map. This map paired two incumbent Republicans together in one U.S. House district and two incumbent Democrats together in another U.S. House district. The map also created 7 potential incumbent versus incumbent matchups in the State Senate elections as well as seven districts without incumbents. The State House map created 14 vacant districts and 14 more potential incumbent versus incumbent races.[14]

The Iowa State Senate passed the plan 48 to 1. The House of Representatives approved the plan 90 to 7. Legislators remarked that, although not everyone was happy with the plan, it was fairly drawn.[15]


The Iowa Senate is the upper house of the Iowa General Assembly. There are 50 members of the Senate, representing fifty single-member districts across the state. Each member represents an average of 60,927 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[16] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 58,586.[17] The Senate meets at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

Unlike the lower house, the Iowa House of Representatives, Senators serve four-year terms and half of the chamber is up for re-election every two years. There are no term limits.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 26
     Republican Party 24
Total 50

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Iowa State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Iowa State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Iowa House of Representatives is the lower house of the Iowa General Assembly. There are 100 members of the House of Representatives. Each member represents an average of 30,464 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[18] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 29,293.[19]

Unlike the upper house, the Iowa Senate, state representatives serve two-year terms with the whole chamber up for re-election in even-numbered years. There are no term limits.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 43
     Republican Party 57
Total 100

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Iowa State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Iowa State House.PNG


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Iowa
Partisan breakdown of the Iowa legislature from 1992-2013

Iowa State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Iowa State Senate for 12 years while the Republicans were the majority for 8 years. During the final seven years, the senate was controlled by the Democrats.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Iowa State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Iowa State House of Representatives for five years while the Republicans were the majority for 17 years.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states have divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Iowa, the Iowa State Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Iowa state government(1992-2013).PNG

Joint committees

External links


  1. Senate Rule 27 and House Rule 29
  2., "Breaking News: Iowa Legislature could adjourn 2013 session Wednesday; progress made on key issues," May 21, 2013
  3. RadioIowa, Property tax reduction still holding up close of legislature, June 15, 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1, Iowa ends fiscal year with better-than-expected revenues, July 14, 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1, "Iowa lawmakers agree on local school funding," June 29, 2011.
  6. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  7. Sometime in the following weeks and months, the Legislature votes on a budget. National Association of State Budget Offices, 2008 Budget Processes in the States
  8. Gov. Culver Press Release , “Governor Culver: During Tough Times, We Must Be Fiscally Responsible,” April 3, 2009
  9., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  10. The Legislative Lawyer, "A Nonpartisan Approach to Redistricting," 2002
  11. U.S> Census Bureau, "2010 Census: Iowa Profile," 2011
  12. Des Moines Register, "Iowa loses U.S. House seat in shift from Midwest, Northeast to South," December 21, 2010
  13. Radio Iowa, "Detailed 2010 Census data for Iowa released," February 10, 2011
  14. The Iowa Independent, "Proposed redistricting plan brings minor legislative shifts," March 31, 2011
  15. Reuters, "Iowa legislature approves redistricting plan," April 14, 2011
  16. Population in 2010 of the American states
  17. Population in 2000 of the American states
  18. Population in 2010 of the American states
  19. Population in 2000 of the American states