Des Moines, IA – Iowa Governor Terry Branstad unveiled a bipartisan agenda in his annual Condition of the State address that included help for veterans.
He charged the Iowa Legislature to pass the Home Base Act. The act if passed, according to the Governor’s office, would fully exempt military pensions from state income tax, putting Iowa on more equal footing with states such as Florida and Texas, and our Midwestern neighbors such as Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Governor Branstad then promised he would call on the State Board of Education to create a uniform policy granting automatic in-state tuition to veterans, their spouses, and their dependents at Iowa’s community colleges. The Regents universities already have such a policy in place.
The Home Base Act will also direct each of Iowa’s occupational licensing boards to adopt rules allowing credit for military training and experience in the licensing process.
Branstad, in his address, said, “Our veterans have risked their lives defending our freedom. To show our gratitude, let’s make Iowa the leader in respect, support and opportunity for veterans.”
This received praise from several Republican lawmakers.
State Representative Tom Shaw (R-Laurens) praised his veterans initiative. “As we’ve seen lately out in Washington they have looked to cut pay for military retirees and the health care benefits they have earned have been cut and are slowly declining so it is good to see the state of Iowa stand up to the task of taking care of the veterans,” Shaw said.
State Senator Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa) was pleased with the initiative because of his family’s history with the military. “I thought it was a great address; I thought the Governor hit on some of the things I think we really need to focus on. I am especially happy with the focus on veterans. My father, brother and son all are veterans, and we do need to take care of our veterans.”
State Senator Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak) also supports Governor Branstad’s veterans initiative. Ernst is a battalion commander in the Iowa Army National Guard. While supporting a number of priorities within his address Ernst said, “I am especially intrigued and excited about the veterans opportunities and Home Base Iowa. It’s a great, great initiative and I am glad to support it.”
State Representative Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) agreed with the theme of the speech, “Iowa is working again” noting Iowa’s unemployment rate. He also told Caffeinated Thoughts that he liked the Home Base Initiative and wants to see the details of it, but thought it was a good idea.
State Representative Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls) agrees that Iowa is working again. He believes that Iowa is a good place fiscally, and he also liked what Branstad had to say about veterans. “I liked the veterans initiative that he talked about. I am looking forward to seeing the specifics of that and making sure we get something like that passed.”
State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) said, “I am really excited what we are going to do with our veterans. I think that is a really good deal in terms of their pensions. I think he wants to create opportunities for Iowans and create more jobs.”
Branstad also called for a tuition freeze for Regents universities which received bipartisan praise.
“I liked that he came out in support of the tuition freeze at the Regents universities,” said State Senator Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames) who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “33,000 of my constituents are Iowa State students so that is a top priority for them. I have been working and supporting that ever since the Regents made their proposal back in September. With the Governor’s support and now if we can get support with the House Leadership I think we will get that deal done.”
Democrat Attorney General Tom Miller told Caffeinated Thoughts that it was important that Governor Branstad gave a bipartisan speech. “I especially like what he is doing for the tuition freezes at the universities. I think that is real important,” Miller said.
Governor Branstad also pressed for passage of the Connect Every Iowan Act. This contains a targeted, time-limited, and geographically-limited tax incentive to encourage build-out of ultra-high speed internet capabilities. Broadband equipment and infrastructure installed or constructed in unserved or underserved areas between the act’s effective date and December 31, 2018 would be exempt from property tax under the bill.
Also under the bill it would repurpose the Iowa Communications Network to allow private providers to purchase.
Governor Branstad also pressed passage of the Bully-Free Iowa Act of 2014. In his address he said, “Sadly, for some children in Iowa, the bully they face makes every day feel more like a nightmare. As they consider whether they can continue to take abuse from the bully, they don’t know where to turn. Even if they turn to school officials, our laws have tied their hands. “
The Bully-Free Iowa Act of 2014 would require schools to notify parents if their child has been involved in a bullying incident. The controversial aspect of the bill would be it giving schools discretion in dealing with bullying off school grounds. The bill when introduced will outline two conditions that would have to be met first.
Branstad also pressed for the passage of the Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act. The Governor’s bill proposes to triple funding for apprenticeships under the existing 260F worker training program. Which Branstad said would help students earn while they learn.
Branstad also called for the Iowa Legislature as their first order of buisness to pass a bipartisan resolution in support of maintaining a “robust” Renewable Fuels Standard. The EPA has proposed reducing the level of biofuels outlined in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Branstad said if this rule is adopted “it would be a devastating setback to the agriculture sector of the Iowa economy.
The RFS has led to a cleaner environment, opened the markets for Iowa corn and soybeans and reduced our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. Thousands of Americans are coming together to support the RFS,” he added. He said there would be a hearing co-hosted by his administration, Iowa’s entire Congressional delegation and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey later this month. The event will be held on January 23, 2014 at the Hall of Laureates in Des Moines.
Branstad has, in years past, brought a more ambitious agenda to the Legislature. Zaun said it’s mainly because it is election year. “Unfortunately we don’t do as much during an election year as what we probably should.”
State Senator Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) was optimistic about the new session. “I think it will be a good, productive session. Everybody is talking about how we will get out quick and go campaign, but we are here to work and I hope that we can get a lot done for the people of Iowa and I think we will. I think it will be an efficient session,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock) told Caffeinated Thoughts that Senate Republicans will work with the Governor to help pass these initiatives. “The Governor has laid out a very thoughtful agenda that is focused on providing opportunities for Iowans. It’s very exciting and we are going to do everything we can to advance those ideas,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) told Caffeinated Thoughts that he saw very little in the Governor’s speech to disagree with. “It was a solid set of proposals that could be dealt with in a broadly and deeply bipartisan way,” he said.
“The governor struck a hopeful and optimistic tone. His agenda is focused on jobs for veterans and rural Iowans along with helping those who need the training and experience to increase their personal incomes,” said Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha).
“Governor Branstad wants to continue the momentum of the last three years, moving the state forward after years of mismanagement. We look forward to continuing to work with the governor to find even more ways to restore predictability and certainty for Iowans,” said House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake).
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker also offered his strong support for the reforms announced and promoted by Governor Branstad during his Condition of the State address. “These are reforms that our Republican Party is proud to get behind and I believe many Independents and Democrats will support them as well,” said Spiker. “The Governor’s proposed budget spend only 91% of revenue, which is a true example of fiscal conservatism.”
You can watch the Governor’s Condition of the State address below: