When the Iowa legislature convenes next Monday, there’ll be an unusual situation in the state Senate. An equal number of democrats and republicans were elected in November, so neither party can control the debate agenda. There will be “co-leaders” and one of the two is Senator Mike Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs. “I think this is a whole work-in-progress, but so far we have worked together to work out agreements that power will be equally shared between the two parties,” Gronstal says. A democrat and a republican will be co-chairs of each committee and there’ll be two floor leaders — one will be Gronstal, the other Senator Stewart Iverson, a republican from Dows. “I think we’re making every effort to make this session be about finding common ground between the two parties rather than identifying areas where we disagree,” Gronstal says. “I think it is an opportunity, a real opportunity to lower the partisan tensions in the institution and get us down to maybe just a gentle simmer in the political caldron rather than a rapid boil.” But some joke that due to the sharp partisan divide, legislators won’t be able to agree on much besides meaningless bills, like naming a state bug. “Hopefully we’ll be able to find more constructive things to do than state bug debates,” Gronstal says. “If that’s the only measure of our ability to find common ground, I think we’re in trouble.” While Gronstal will lead the 25 democrats in the state Senate, the 25 republicans will again be led by Senator Stewart Iverson of Dows.
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