House sends governor repeal of Iowa’s gender balance rule for boards, commissions

DES MOINES — The Iowa House has given final legislative approval a bill that gets rid of the gender balance requirement for Iowa boards and commissions.

Republican Representative Jane Bloomingdale of Northwood said it’s an “antiquated” law. “Gender balance often causes us to eliminate some of the most qualified candidates and that’s the last thing we want to do,” Bloomingdale said. “We want the most qualified candidates on our boards, commissions and councils.”

The bill passed on a 62-33 vote. The 33 no votes came from Democrats.

“We have not achieved gender parity on our boards and commissions,” Representative Elinor Levin of Iowa City said. “Perhaps when we have this conversation would be worth having.”

The bill passed the Senate this week and is headed to Governor Reynolds, who has said it lets people “with a passion for service” fill slots on boards and commissions at the state and local level.

“I just feel like the best, most qualified and somebody who wants to do it is the person we should put in that position,” Reynolds said during an interview with Radio Iowa in 2023.

Gender balance has been required on all boards and commissions in state government since 1987. In 2009, the legislature passed a law to require the policy in Iowa city and county government boards and commissions. Reynolds, who was a state senator at the time, voted against the bill and spoke against it during debate.

This year’s bill repeals the 1987 and 2009 laws.