New Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver has an unimpressive record of getting bills passed

Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. — video still from Iowa Public Television

On Wednesday, the Republican caucus in the Iowa State Senate elected Senate President Jack Whitver to replace Bill Dix as majority leader. Dix resigned from the Senate on Monday, just hours after Iowa Starting Line published a video of Dix kissing the government affairs manager of the Iowa League of Cities in a Des Moines bar. Majority leader is considered the most powerful position in the Senate.

Every media profile of Whitver mentioned the Ankeny Republican played football for Iowa State University. None of them mentioned important pieces of legislation sponsored by Whitver. There’s a reason for that.

So far, only one of the 62 bills Whitver has sponsored since he joined the Senate in 2011 has passed.

SF 1, signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad in 2017, requires every proposed state regulation to include a statement on whether it “would have a positive or negative impact on private sector jobs and employment opportunities.” Whitver was one of 29 Republicans to sponsor the bill. (Dix was also a sponsor.)

A review of bills sponsored by Whitver during the four legislative sessions in which he’s served shows that most never made it out of subcommittee. But the subjects of some of the bills Whitver has sponsored may suggest what his priorities as senate majority leader will be.

Whitver has sponsored bills that were priorities for opponents of reproductive choice. Whitver has also sponsored bills that would eliminate gun licenses. He has sponsored bills that would create education savings grants — a popular form of school vouchers, which give parents funds that would have gone to public schools to pay for private school tuition.

Neither reproductive rights nor eliminating even minimal licensing requirements for guns is mentioned as a priority on Whitver’s official website. On the site, Whitver lists the budget, taxes, agriculture and education as his priorities.

If Whitver has been unsuccessful in getting his bills signed into law, he has a much better record when it comes to sponsoring nonbinding resolutions that have no practical consequences.

He has sponsored successful resolutions that congratulated Drake University Law School (where he got his law degree) on its 150 anniversary, as well as two resolutions celebrating accomplishments related to his alma mater, ISU. Out of the 14 nonbinding resolutions he’s sponsored since 2011, eight were adopted by the legislature.

Speaking to reporters after being elected majority leader, Whitver didn’t want to talk about his predecessor Dix, and instead stressed he wanted to focus on moving forward.

“I believe it is a new day in the state of Iowa and the Iowa Senate and we look forward to moving forward,” Whitver said. Continuing the theme of forward, he also said, “I look forward to working with the House, the governor and our leadership team and our caucus as we continue to move the state forward.”

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