(Des Moines, IA) The Iowa House of Representatives adjourned Sine Die on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 5:54 am after a marathon session during the night.
Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) gave closing remarks (as prepared for delivery):
I’d like to start by quickly thanking you, the members of the eighty-fifth general assembly for your hard work and for closing the books on another session. It is truly an honor to serve as your speaker. Specifically, I’d like to thank the House Republicans – you have proved once again that we can govern while maintaining our principles.
To my wife, Cathy, and our children, thank you for your constant support and understanding.
I want to thank our great leadership team that I am honored to work with – Reps. Windschitl, Hagenow, Rogers, Smith and Fry – I appreciate your leadership and dedication to the Republican caucus. To Speaker Pro Tem Steve Olson, I have greatly appreciated your insights and our conversations. You will be missed next year.
To the Majority Leader, Linda Upmeyer, thank you for your unwavering leadership. Rarely is there a wall put up that you cannot find a way around or, as sometimes is required, to break through. I value your friendship and appreciate your tireless work.
To Leader Smith and the minority party, thank you for your efforts this year.
To our leadership staff: Louis, Terri, Josie, Angie, and Tony. And, in my opinion, the best caucus staff in the building – the House Republican Caucus staff: Jeff, Lew, Brad, Jason, Kristi, Carrie, Colin, Amanda, Dane and Brittany – you are not thanked enough for the work that you do and the service you provide. We are very appreciative.
Chief Clerk Boal, thank you to you and your staff, the work you all do to make this chamber operate efficiently. And LSA for all of your hard work, much of what you do is not seen but it does not go unnoticed.
And finally, a special thank you to Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and their team for their resolve and steadfast leadership.
When Iowans look back on the entire eighty-fifth general assembly, and specifically the House of Representatives, I think they will remember it for the work focused on those Iowans who play by the rules and simply want less government in their lives and in their pockets. This Legislature has opportunities to make family life more affordable, upward mobility more likely and employment easier to find.
We did this through targeted investments in education and job training. Iowa’s community colleges saw an increase in funding, nearly a 25 percent increase over the past four years. Families will find it a bit easier to afford the cost of college tuition as we have provided the funding necessary to freeze tuition at our regents institutions.
We focused on family-friendly tax changes, including the implementation of the taxpayer trust fund, a mechanism to return the overpayment of taxes back to the taxpayers. And after more than a decade of kicking the can down the road, we came together to pass historic property tax relief and reform that absolutely makes a difference for every Iowan.
We also fulfilled our commitment to provide strong budget leadership. It wasn’t that long ago when Iowa faced a $900 million budget shortfall, behaving much like they do in Washington, D.C. Iowans demanded change. In response, House Republicans outlined budgeting principles that have guided our decisions for the last four sessions. This included a serious commitment to a very basic and common sense practice – paying off the state’s debt. We should all be very proud that unlike Washington, D.C. we have stopped borrowing money and instead we are paying off our debts. A new course has been charted for future legislatures, one that puts hardworking Iowa taxpayers first, not the government.
In my opening day speech, I asked you to consider a few questions and let them guide you through this session. Are we offering Iowa families relief from the squeeze of federal, state and local taxes? Are we looking for ways to make it easier for them to send their kids to college? Are we removing barricades that stop them from improving their own financial health?
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe the answer to those questions is yes.
Again, thank you for your efforts.
House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) also gave closing remarks (as prepared for delivery):
Thank you Mr. Speaker.
At the beginning of this, the 85th General Assembly, I spoke on the floor about my concern that Iowans were losing faith in government. This arises from the gridlock that has consumed Washington D.C. Each night you can turn on the television and watch pundits and politicians arguing about blame when we really need to be coming together to talk about solutions.
It’s that kind of culture in the federal government that has Iowans doubting that elected officials can come together and tackle issues head on. Our challenge was to show Iowans that we could do better.
So how did we do that?
We did it by taking on an issue like property tax growth that has been unresolved for years. We have long known that the growth in property taxes was unsustainable for homeowners and that it was discouraging job growth. It was the members of this General Assembly who finally stepped up… and in the process passed the largest tax cut in state history!
We have shown Iowans that they can have faith in state government when we have done more than talk about improving our children’s education system. Instead of lip service when it comes to education, we stepped up and truly innovated. The teacher-leadership model broke the mold of how we look to improve the achievement of our students. This is the kind of landmark legislation that will help us compete with an increasingly global challenge.
After a couple of years of strong fiscal discipline, you could not blame Iowans for thinking we would slip back into the bad budgeting practices of the past. Rather than doing that, we have shown Iowans that we can keep our commitment to common sense budgeting principles. As a result, we are spending less than we take in and we are sending money back to the taxpayers!
A few short years ago the state racked up unprecedented debt. Having seen so much government borrowing around the country, Iowans may have resigned themselves to continuing down that path going forward.
While the federal government and states like Illinois burden future generations with their borrowing, we have wisely chosen to go a different direction. Over the last two sessions we have paid off over $200 million in debt early and ensured a stronger financial future for our Iowa.
Doing the easy thing and the right thing are rarely the same thing. There is no better example of that than what Iowans sent us here to do. They sent us here to come together, in a bipartisan manner, and get work done. While I am proud that we have done this, we have also been reminded this session of how fragile a thing it can be. At times this year there have been efforts to campaign through our committees. When that happens, it becomes hard to distinguish our process from the one in Washington, D.C.
Thankfully, in recent days I believe we have risen above the fray and renewed our focus. I am so honored to stand before you today as we close the 85th General Assembly because I believe that over the course of the past two years we have demonstrated the best in public service. You have displayed the leadership our nation’s capitol lacks and needs to follow.
Ladies and gentlemen of the House, thank you for rising to the occasion. It is an honor to serve with you.
Thank you Minority Leader Smith, the House Democrat caucus and your staff for working with us and your dedication.
Thank you Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and your team for your tireless efforts.
Thank you to everyone who keeps this building beautiful and running smoothly.
I want to thank the Chief Clerk’s office and everyone in LSA. We would never shut this place down if you were not ready and willing to help at a moments notice.
Thank you to our staff. Jeff, Brad, Jason, Amanda, Carrie, Colin, Kristi, Lew, Brittany, Dane, Terri, Louis, Josie, Tony and Angie, you guys rock!
To the leadership team: Steve, Chris, Matt, Jeff, Joel, Walt, Lee and Jarad, thank you for your support and counsel.
To my caucus, I am honored to serve with you and humbled at the opportunity you have given me. I am excited about what the future holds for this caucus, thank you.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for your friendship and your leadership.
Before adjourning the Legislature approved final details regarding the $7 Billion such as the agriculture and natural resources appropriations bills, $140 million in one-time spending for various projects, and $25 million for REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection). They also passed some policy bills like approving the limited use of medical cannibus oil for epileptic patients. The law that criminalized the intentional transmission of the HIV virus was expanded to also include other contagious and infections diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and meningitis. In order for criminal charges to be filled the transmission must be known.
The Iowa Senate adjourned at 7:48a and will gavel back in at 8:00a on Friday, May 2nd. Senate Democrats plan to conduct a formal investigation into Governor Terry Branstad’s administration. The Des Moines Register reports:
Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, proposed a resolution early today to grant the Senate Government Oversight Committee authority to subpoena witnesses regarding secret settlements involving former state employees and allegations of improprieties at Iowa Workforce Development.
Senate Republicans responded by calling a closed-door caucus meeting that lasted until shortly after 7 a.m. A Senate committee then voted 7-3 along party lines to adopt the resolution, sending it to the Senate floor. But under Senate rules, the resolution can’t be debated until Friday.
Governor Branstad released his remarks this morning on the close of the legislative session:
In January, Lt. Governor Reynolds and I brought forth a simple message: ‘Iowa is Working.’ In fact, Iowa Workforce Development recently reported that more Iowans are working than ever before in our state’s history and our unemployment rate of 4.5 percent is 7th lowest in the nation.
We are proud to see a number of our policy proposals approved by the Iowa Legislature. We are pleased the Legislature joined us in support of a robust Renewable Fuel Standard early in the session. In early April, the House and Senate passed our plan to repurpose public buildings to serve as centers of economic development and commerce.
The centerpiece of our legislative plan, Home Base Iowa, won broad bipartisan support. In March, Greene County became the first Home Base Iowa Community. Iowa businesses have already set a goal of filling over 2,900 jobs in our state with veterans. The Home Base Iowa jobs plan passed by the Legislature shares our vision of offering veterans a superior quality of life as they transition from the military to civilian life.
As we travel the state, business and community leaders told us of the high-quality jobs available, but the inability to fill them because applicants lacked the specific skills. The apprenticeship bill will triple funding for apprenticeship programs and ensure more Iowans are prepared to fill the high-quality jobs available across our state.
For the second year in a row, our budget proposal called for a tuition freeze at our Regent universities. The Legislature’s passage of our proposal to freeze tuition represents the first tuition freeze at Regent universities in consecutive years since 1980.
After two years of advocating for legislation to strengthen Iowa’s laws against bullying, we are disappointed the Senate again failed to take action to protect Iowa’s students from bullying in our schools. Unfortunately, in the closing hours of the session, Iowa Senate Democrats blocked the measure to provide a safe and secure classroom. We will continue to fight for our children because every student deserves a learning environment that is conducive to educational growth and free of harassment and bullying.
We launched the ‘Connect Every Iowan’ initiative to increase access, adoption and use of broadband technology in Iowa. Technology is the great equalizer and we know for Iowa to continue to grow and prosper, we must have quality broadband technology all across Iowa. We are disappointed that Iowa Democrats chose to put election-year politics ahead of good public policy. We plan to continue working to bring high-speed Internet access to all corners of the state, not just to population and industrial centers.
The budget we proposed in January spent 91 percent of authorized capacity, 8 percent below the requirement by law. Our budget balanced in a five-year budget projection. It balanced when we accounted for our commitment to fully fund the historic tax reduction passed last year and our unprecedented investment in Iowa schools.
Over the coming weeks, we will carefully review the budget passed by the Legislature. After years of budget mismanagement, Iowans expect us to maintain responsible budgeting. Our careful planning has taken us from a projected billion dollar spending gap when we took office to a $700 million budget surplus today. Our priority – and our responsibility – is to ensure we adhere to sound budgeting principles that adequately address our state’s needs without following the Washington, D.C., playbook of spending ourselves into a budget cliff. Simply put, we are committed to a budget that is in balance now and in the future.
Despite the partisan tone of the session, we are pleased there was agreement on the majority of our legislative plan. Our plan continues growing Iowa’s economy, attracts and matches military members with quality careers in our communities, offers more job-training opportunities for Iowans and holds tuition steady at our Regent universities. Politics should never get in the way of passing meaningful legislation for the taxpayers we serve.