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Representative Ro Foege
Report from the Iowa Legislature
April 15, 2001

Redrawing Iowa's Political Map

The two major issues of this session descended upon the Iowa legislature last week. With two weeks left before the scheduled end of the session, we have yet to pass a single budget bill. Wrestling with the $5 billion state budget came to a standstill when the plan redrawing Iowa's five congressional districts, fifty Iowa Senate Districts, and 100 House legislative districts was handed out Thursday morning. The plan is created by the nonpartisan Legislative Service Bureau (LSB). It is required to equalize districts by population every ten years, following the census-taking. The plan pays no attention to incumbents' residences or political party. 

Fifty of Iowa's 100 House members and 20 of the 50 senators were thrown into districts with one another. These 70 legislators tossed into the same district with one or more of their colleagues suffer great concern and angst. That pain is tempered with 26 new House districts where no incumbent currently resides, and 11 new Senate districts without an incumbent. One lobbyist quipped that he should get his realtor's license, since some of the incumbent legislators will certainly consider moving into an empty district.

Whatever plan is eventually put in place, the Iowa Legislature will reflect the changing nature of Iowa. The new map would add legislative seats in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa's fastest growing areas. Districts in Iowa's rural areas would become larger in size, reflecting population shifts away from farming communities. Cedar Rapids will have two new House districts and one new Senate district. 

In our area, the congressional districts split Linn and Johnson County. I am the only incumbent in the newly drawn 71st District, of which Mount Vernon and Lisbon are a part. Solon is part of the new 84th House district, and no incumbent lives in that district. The current plan takes me totally out of Johnson County and completely out of Cedar Rapids. Those precincts are replaced with the eastern part of Linn County, including Bertram, Springville, and Prairieburg, and with the western part of Jones County that includes the communities of Martelle, Anamosa, and Monticello. I have worked in Jones County and Linn County schools for over twenty years, so, this is familiar territory with many friends and acquaintances. Personally, I would look forward to the challenge of representing this newly formed district. 

However, I do not believe the redistricting plan is in the best interests of Southern Linn County and Northern Johnson County. The "Corridor", as our area has become known, is one of the strongest economic engines in our state. The Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor is a prime example of a business, industry, transportation, and education cluster that provides our area and the state of Iowa with a high quality of life. The redistricting plan follows county boundaries and thus, it is not only blind to partisan politics, but also to natural economic and community linkages such as "the Corridor".

I attended the Iowa Business Council dinner last week with a number of Linn and Johnson County leaders. At that meeting, we were reminded that the key to long-term prosperity is the capacity to translate knowledge into high-value products and services. The "Corridor" is such an area--one that is a unique in Iowa. It has the advantage of leveraging economic activity. It is an area that links technology, resources, information and a talented work-force. It is a cluster that should not be broken by political division.

The legislature will vote on this plan April 26. If the plan is rejected, the Legislative Service Bureau (LSB) has until June 9 to submit a second plan. If the second plan is rejected, the LSB has until July 10 to submit a third plan. The third plan can be amended, the first two cannot. If no legislative plan is passed by September 1 and enacted into law by September 15, the Iowa Supreme Court is required to redraw Iowa's legislative district boundaries.

Citizens can provide input into this redistricting process through several public meetings that will be held in various locations around the state. One of these will be on Wednesday, April 18, at 6:30 PM, at the Iowa City Public Schools Administrative offices. 

You can write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319; call 515/281-3221 or e-mail me at rfoege@legis.state.ia.us.
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