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The Scarlet & Black

Legislative coffee allows Grinnell to question legislators

Saturday morning, Feb. 4, the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church of Grinnell was filled with approximately 200 Grinnell community and college members attending a Legislative Coffee with Iowa legislators, state Sen. Tim Kapucian and state Rep. Dave Maxwell. This event was the first of three opportunities sponsored by the League of Women Voters (LWV) in which Grinnellians can pose questions directly to the legislators representing Poweshiek County.

President Trump’s election has ignited political passions across party lines, which, as LWV co-President Terese Grant expected, caused increased community attendance at the event.

“I think I’m just pleased that people are taking an interest in politics today,” Grant said. “You hear about grassroots movements and I think we’re seeing that in Grinnell. All across Iowa there is a renewed interest in what’s happening in government and people are saying, ‘We want a voice too.’”

Main issues addressed by attendees included the Iowa state budget, which is being proposed by the senate currently, with a possible defunding to arts programs and an only one percent increase in the education budget, the privatization of Medicaid and the slashing of Iowa’s 2.9 million dollar funding of Planned Parenthood, a bill which Sen. Kapucian helped propose.

Gracee Wallach ’20 attended the coffee after reading about it in the Doing Organizing at Grinnell (DOG) magazine and at the community organizing meeting at Saints Rest on Thursday, Feb. 2. Before attending, Wallach took time to research Sen. Kapucian and Rep. Maxwell’s positions on issues that might be addressed, so as to develop questions that could hopefully lead to effective dialogue. While Wallach did not get an opportunity to ask her questions, those posed by other community members did provider her with insight.

“A woman stood up, and she was a teacher and a farmer, and she was asking questions about how the education budget is not getting as much money as it needs to because some of that money is funding tax cuts on big corporations on Monsanto. So, those interactions, those big corporations and them getting money affects her farming, and also how that affects her job and ability to do good work as a teacher,” Wallach said. “Bringing people’s personal experiences in was super interesting.”

There were many issues not covered in the hour legislative, such as Rep. Maxwell’s voting for a bill allowing people under the age of 14 to own rifles and pistols, and reproductive health beyond Planned Parenthood, which Wallach believes need to be discussed further. She also believed in terms of getting through to the representatives, the coffee setup was a bit difficult because attendees are only allowed to have questions, which eliminates any chance for discussion.

“There was one person who stood up and just thanked them, and there are people who are standing up and they’re angry because this, that and the other thing are being taken away from them and they want someone to do something about it,” Wallach said. “It is this weirdness of wanting these people to represent you but also feeling like you need to argue with them to represent you, which just created that odd tension that was there.”

The LWV aims to continue the legacy of its founders, who began the league to educate women newly granted suffrage on their political options and capabilities. Since then, the league has expanded their mission to include the education of all voters. With Iowa’s senate, congress and Governor’s Mansion controlled by the Republican Party, Grant believes the conversations between the legislators and constituents is an essential form of communication between constituents and legislators.

Wallach believes some voters came with “misguided” questions or ideas regarding the state representatives accountability to Trump, since they have limited interaction and leeway, but most questions addressed the way these legislators are affecting the people of Iowa right now, such as with the education budget or Planned Parenthood. The coffees foster a degree of familiarity that Wallach believes can be important in communicating with legislators, a point Grant makes as well.

“I think [the coffees] are good for both sides,” Grant said. “Our reps need to know what are the issues the people care about, and the public needs to know where our legislators stand on these issues. … We don’t look at them as the enemy, but as people, who we may differ from, but we respect each other. … We don’t always agree, but we work together.”

While non-partisan and endorsing no candidates, the LWV does often face assumptions of being “left-leaning” due to the issues they prioritize, such as voter rights and justice reform.

“As individuals, we have perhaps joined one party or another, but I know in the Grinnell LWV, we have republicans and we have democrats,” Grant said. “We maintain our non-partisan status and we believe in that.

The league will be hosting a lobby day on Feb. 22, wherein participants can experience a day in the life of a lobbyist. There will be two more legislative coffees with Sen. Kapucian and Rep. Maxwell on March 4 and April 1. For more information, visit or the LWV facebook page under the name “Grinnell League of Women Voters.”

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