Legislative History

The last time the Democrats controlled the governor’s office and both chambers of the General Assembly was 1965. It proved to be a monumental session.


The last time the Democrats controlled the governor’s office and both chambers of the General Assembly, they approved a lot of what have since been called “monumental tasks.” Forty-two years ago—in the Johnson era—the legislature met only once every two years. So in one active year—1965—the voted to open up their committee meetings to the public, lower the voting age from 21 to 18, caused Judges to be appointed, not elected, create the area community college system and enact the Iowa Civil Right Act of 1965. They also restructured the state’s school districts—cutting the number of districts nearly in half—something that is often considered political suicide.

Those were interesting times and the attitude of the legislature was not ‘are we going to get reelected again?

It was an attitude that proved detrimental to the Democratic class of 1965, as many did not get reelected and they lost control of the house in 1966. Senator Jack Kibbie kept his seat, but lost in 1968. He was reelected in 1988 and is now Senate President of the 2007 legislation session. Looking back, Kibbie says he credits most of the Democrats successes in 1965 not just to having the overwhelming majority in the legislature, but the leadership and cooperative effort of then governor Democrat Harold Hughes.


Harold Hughes was a very strong governor, and when he made recommendations, he followed through on them. And invited legislative leaders at that time and the committee chairs to his office and asked why not.


Today there is a lot of speculation about whether the newly elected 2007 majority will be as cooperative and productive as in 1965.


I thought a good practice for you to have quick is also how you vote. So why don’t you all go ahead and vote aye…

As newly elected members get acquainted with procedures and meet with party leaders, many already feel welcome and are optimistic that cooperation has already begun.

…I am really excited because there is rumors that we may even, some of us may get vice chairmanships as freshmen.

I was concerned that maybe it was going to be something where the leadership told you to do it and that is just the way it was. I got into the Caucus and behind closed doors there are people arguing with Pat and point and counterpoint—its democracy at work, so I’m excited…

There may be excitement where it is possible to accomplish with one party in control of the General Assembly and the Governor’s office, but the excitement is tempered by the memories of the 1965 one-term power play. The hope for the Democrats is that history will not repeat itself.

©Iowa PBS


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