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Iowa House Democratic priorities include legalizing recreational pot, preserving abortion access

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst announces the Iowa House Democrats' policy priorities ahead of the 2022 election.
Katarina Sostaric
IPR News
House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst announces the Iowa House Democrats' policy priorities ahead of the 2022 election.

Iowa House Democrats are proposing legalizing recreational marijuana as one of their key priorities ahead of the 2022 election, along with protecting abortion access, spending more on public schools, and lowering costs for things like child care and housing.

Democrats hold 40 of the 100 seats in the Iowa House of Representatives, which means they don’t have the power to decide what bills are debated and passed. But they’re hoping to win back more seats in this fall’s elections and make progress on their priorities.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said these priorities are based on what the majority of Iowans support.

“We have heard from Iowans, these are the things they want,” she said. “These are the things that Democrats fight for, too. And so we want to make sure Iowans know where we stand, that we stand for pushing these.”

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll last year found 54 percent of Iowa adults support legal recreational cannabis. Iowa has a limited medical cannabis program, and last year, the top Republican in the Iowa Senate said he didn’t anticipate legalizing recreational use.

Earlier this year, a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found 60 percent of Iowa adults say abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

Now that abortion rights protections have been undermined at the state and federal level, Republican leaders in Iowa are seeking to reinstate a ban on most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. They have not said publiclywhat kinds of abortion restrictions they might pursue in the next legislative session.

Konfrst said if Democrats win more seats in the legislature, they can block attempts to further restrict abortion in Iowa.

“If we can stop a total ban and allow some exemptions, that’s a nice starting place,” Konfrst said. “But our goal is to protect and defend reproductive freedom in this state, and we will do that through a constitutional amendment and every way we can before then.”

She said there should be a constitutional amendment to spell out protection for abortion rights in the Iowa Constitution. Republican lawmakers have been working on an amendment that would say the Iowa Constitution does not protect abortion rights.

Melissa Deatsch, spokesperson for the Iowa House Republicans, said Democrats voted against their efforts to require in-person schooling during the pandemic, pass major income tax cuts, and put limits on school lessons about racism.

“While they’ve pushed an agenda out of touch with Iowans, their numbers in the Iowa House have dwindled,” Deatsch said. “Meanwhile, the Republicans are the party of lowering your taxes, growing your local economy, and defending your freedoms. House Republicans will continue to work on an agenda that’s built on listening to Iowans and acting on their priorities.”

House Democrats are also proposing expanding access to affordable child care and housing as a way to lower costs for Iowans as inflation has hit household budgets. Republican lawmakers have worked on those issues in recent years, but Konfrst said Iowans are not seeing changes.

Konfrst said House Democrats also want to invest more in public schools, and stop the governor’s plan to provide state-funded scholarships for some students to go to private schools.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter