Iowa lawmakers vote to repeal gender balance requirement for boards and commissions

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Iowa boards and commissions would no longer have to have a balance of men and women serving on them under a bill headed to Gov. Kim Reynolds' desk.

The Iowa House voted 62-33 to pass the bill Monday, sending it to Reynolds for her signature. The Iowa Senate passed the measure last week.

Senate File 2096 would end the gender balance requirement for state boards and commissions as well as local bodies. Republicans argued the requirement, which was put in place in the 1980s, is outdated and makes it difficult to find applicants for some boards.

More: Senate passes bill eliminating gender balance requirement on Iowa boards and commissions

The bill's floor manager, Rep. Jane Bloomingdale, R-Northwood, called the gender balance requirement "antiquated" and "unnecessary."

"Gender balance often causes us to eliminate some of the most qualified candidates, and that’s the last thing we want to do," she said. "We want the most qualified candidates to fill positions on our boards, commissions and councils."

Democrats, who uniformly voted against the bill, argued that eliminating the requirement would take the state backwards.

"To attain equality, those who have the power must share it," said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames. "However, those who have the power struggle to give it up. Without mandating gender balanced boards we do not make progress in creating them."

Reynolds is expected to sign the bill. The governor proposed ending the gender balance requirement in January as part of a bill that would eliminate more than 100 state boards and commissions. Lawmakers have yet to pass that measure.

More: Kim Reynolds wants to cut Iowa boards and commissions. Lawmakers disagree about how much

According to the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, about 50% of Iowa county boards and commissions had achieved gender balance between 2013 and 2014. Between 2021 and 2022, it was about 62%.

Iowa's current law allows the gender balance requirement to be waived if the state cannot find a qualified person to serve within 90 days.

Bloomingdale also cited a judge's ruling striking down the gender balance requirement for Iowa's statewide judicial nominating commission. The judge found that the law may have been appropriate when it was created, but no longer passes constitutional muster. The ruling did not apply to other boards or commissions.

Rep. Adam Zabner, D-Iowa City, said removing the requirement will make Iowa's boards and committees less representative of the state. He pointed to Iowa's other requirements for boards and commissions, like partisan balance and geographic diversity.

"There are plenty of smart, qualified people in the city of Des Moines," Zabner said. "I’m sure that we could fill every board and commission in the state of Iowa just with people who live in the city of Des Moines, but we have geographical constraints because we believe that boards and commissions should be representative of the state of Iowa."

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa House votes to end gender balance requirement for boards, commissions