Iowa leader explains why Thursday will be so ‘stressful’


ANKENY, Iowa — Thursday won’t be just any Thursday. That’s because 2021 isn’t just any year. On Thursday, the Legislative Services Agency will release for the first time proposed maps that redraw the state’s four congressional districts and 150 legislative districts. Comparable districts must be similar in size, based on population rather than geography.

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, a New Hartford Republican, said that lawmakers plan to gather at the Statehouse Thursday to get their initial look at the potential boundaries. Grassley said that he, as House speaker, doesn’t get to peek at the maps before his members get them.

He said the process can be awkward. “It’s a very stressful situation,” Grassley told WHO 13 News.

Legislators must live in the district they represent. So someone could find themselves serving next to a fellow lawmaker one session. But because of population shifts, they could be placed into the same district as a colleague. That means that if both want to run for re-election, one would have to retire or move to another district to avoid that scenario. Or the two co-workers would have to face off against each other in the next election.

Grassley said that legislators usually engage in this process during the legislative process in the spring. But the U.S. Census Bureau didn’t release the necessary demographic information that Legislative Services Agency uses to produce the maps until August, so the process got delayed. Census Bureau officials blamed COVID-19 for delays in collecting the information.

“We’re all going to be coming in later in the week together when those are released as a caucus…typically we get them altogether when we’re together,” Grassley explained, “We want to try to do it as similar as we always have.”

Tuesday, the Iowa Supreme Court granted lawmaker 2 1/2 months additional time to approve proposed district boundaries because of COVID-19 delays.

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