(Des Moines, IA) On Monday morning 86th Iowa General Assembly gavels in for the 2016 session. The Republican leadership expressed session goals in their opening remarks.
After the Iowa House of Representatives gaveled in Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) was officially elected Speaker. She was elected Speaker-elect in August by the House Republican Caucus after State Representative Kraig Paulsen resigned the post and announced he would not run for reelection in 2016.
Upmeyer gave her opening remarks:
To my colleagues, our friends and families, and to all Iowans here or watching at home, welcome back to the Iowa House of Representatives.
To my husband Doug, our children, and grandchildren; you sacrifice the most. Thank you for understanding when I am away, thank you for supporting me when things get bumpy.
This is such a special personal moment for our family. I think it will really take some time for me to fully appreciate following my father’s footsteps into this chair. I am so thankful for the way my mother, who is here today, partnered with my father to instill us kids with good values.
Many have remarked to me over the years how good my father was at working with anyone in this building. That has always stuck with me and I know that while times have changed, the value of working together has not.
It is humbling to be the first woman to preside over this prestigious chamber. It is exciting that we are making history, in a room that has experienced so much of it.
I want to thank my caucus for selecting me to lead this chamber and thank you all for your support today.
I hope my election as Speaker shows all young women, and Iowans who come from diverse backgrounds, that opportunities abound. For a long time, we have told children they can be whatever they want when they grow up. Today, better than ever, we are showing them that is a reality.
Like many of you, I left here last session with certain expectations for how this session would start. Expectations however, rarely predict future realities.
Settling for what is expected would be a very disappointing habit for this body to get into. If we settled for expectations, how many of our greatest achievements would have been left on the shelf, unrealized?
The press and pundits have low expectations for this session. These are not the expectations we should concern ourselves with. Instead, we should focus on the expectations of the Iowans we have been elected to represent.
Our constituents expect us to listen to them. To bring their ideas and concerns into this building, share them, and use them to do what is right for the future of this state.
Those who arrived here today intending to use disagreements between us to drive us further apart are doing so to the detriment of the people we serve. The perpetual campaign and gridlock are the failures of Washington, D.C. It is a miscalculation to think using that disastrous approach will be an advantage inside this building.
We have chosen a different approach in the past and I am optimistic we will do so again.
In each of the last five years, we have found agreement on budgets that fund priorities without spending more than we take in. Iowans have come to expect this kind of common sense budgeting. This has served us well and with available revenue anticipated to grow by $153 million this year, we should welcome the opportunity to once again pass a sustainable budget.
In each of the last five years, we have found a way to increase funding for schools. We will increase funding for schools again this year. However, we should recognize that the needs of our schools and students extend beyond the amount we increase their funding each year.
If we are to improve the opportunities provided by an education in Iowa’s public schools, the expectation should be that we can broaden the conversation to ways to provide for flexibility and innovation while retaining a focus on the students.
In three weeks, Iowa will host the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. You might have noticed that those hoping to be our next president are currently spending even more of their time in Iowa. A common message Iowans are sharing with candidates is that they are unhappy with the status quo and they do not believe there is the will to change it. I share their concern.
With confidence at an all-time low, we need leadership. I am not only talking about our next president. I am talking about us. Iowans should expect the state to showcase how government, for the people, by the people, is supposed to work.
The founders of this nation feared an overreaching and stifling federal government. They trusted the states to be the laboratories of innovation who could prevent the realities we now face.
It is not our job to protect the status quo. In a fast-moving and ever-changing world, the status quo means being left behind. We should strive for better. We should welcome disruptive ideas. We should pursue policies that increase opportunities, use technology to remove barriers, help us make this the best state in the nation to grow a business and raise a family.
My expectations are high because I believe in the good will and the talent of the people in this room and of Iowans. I look forward to what lies ahead for the Iowa House of Representatives and the great State of Iowa.
May God bless our work.
House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights) was elected in August to take Upmeyer’s place when she was made Speaker-elect by the House Republican Caucus. He gave his opening remarks:
Thank you Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House. It is my honor to welcome you, your families and your guests back to the Iowa House of Representatives for the 2016 legislative session.
I am greatly humbled by the responsibility my caucus has entrusted to me in electing me to the office of House Majority Leader. Thank you for the faith you have placed in me to serve you in this role.
My greatest appreciation is to my wife Amanda for her steadfast support, and also to Owen, Noah and Sophia for the sacrifices they have made to allow me to serve. All of us know exactly what our families give to send us here and to do our work.
I am asked from time to time how I balance my responsibilities as husband and father with the work of being a legislative leader. While it certainly has its challenges, this job would be impossible without their love and support.
To Speaker Paulsen, thank you for your hard work and dedication to this great state. The people of Iowa have been well-served by your leadership, and the House Republican Caucus owes you a debt of gratitude.
To Speaker Upmeyer, congratulations. It is an honor to serve with you. I am excited about what we will accomplish together and I am proud to call you my friend. It is already very clear to me that we have made a wise decision in selecting you as our Speaker and I have no doubt that you will serve this body and the state of Iowa very well. Your work ethic and commitment to our state is unparalleled. Once again, Republicans in this state have proven that capable women are able to rise to the highest levels of political office.
I’ve also greatly enjoyed working with many House Democrats in a constructive and positive way to craft public policy with the best interests of Iowans in mind. I look forward to continuing to build those relationships wherever possible.
Over the past five years, House Republicans have committed to passing a balanced budget while not using one-time money for ongoing obligations. Our common sense budgeting principles are what the taxpayers of this state expect from their government. While it is not always easy, it is the responsible thing to do. House Republicans will continue to insist on passing a budget that does not spend more than the state collects in revenue. We will continue to make sure that we fund the priority needs of Iowans within the revenue they have provided.
There is no question that this will require difficult decisions of this body, but the reason that we will be successful and we will be able to meet these challenges is because of our fiscal responsibility. Setting budget priorities is never an easy task, but the responsibility we have shown in the past will make it much less difficult this year to meet these challenges. So let us continue down that path. Let us not just meet the needs of today but leave this state on solid ground for tomorrow.
We will have other challenges as well. House Republicans have heard loud and clear that school funding needs to be set early and that is exactly what we plan to do. Not only do our schools need to plan their budgets, but they need to know that the commitment we make is one upon which they can depend.
House Republicans will continue to work toward policies that lead to greater economic prosperity. Let us continue our work to build a highly-skilled workforce, and to foster a business climate in which high-paying career jobs are plentiful. The economy of tomorrow depends on our work today to streamline government and create an environment that makes it easier to do business and grow jobs in the state.
I’m a sixth-generation Iowan. My great-great-great grandfather Hagenow came here to work the land and make a better life for his family. My own parents, who are sitting behind me today, chose to bring their family back to Iowa because of what this state had to offer. I am now blessed to have that same opportunity for my family. My prayer is that our work here will help to secure those same opportunities and that same great Iowa for my own children and the next generation of Iowans.
Let’s continue to show Iowans that we are able to work together. House Republicans will hold ourselves to the same high standards that Iowans have for us: To work diligently, to work together, and get to the job done.
Thank you Madam Speaker.
Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock) also gave opening remarks when the Iowa Senate gaveled in:
Thank you Madam President.
The memory of the last winter storm remains fresh in our minds as it blanketed much of Iowa with snow and ice two weeks ago. Prior to the storm, many Iowans flocked to the stores to ensure they had milk, bread and other necessities. Iowans understand the importance of being prepared when such a storm strikes.
Iowans expect the same sense of preparedness from their elected officials. Senate Republicans have called for such action and it has fallen upon deaf ears in this chamber. For the past several years, I have stood here – in this spot on the opening day of the legislative session – and stressed the seriousness of getting our state spending under control. Senate Republicans have long warned, if we do nothing to curb the appetite to spend the money of hard-working Iowans there would be consequences. Senate Republicans predicted a financial storm was coming unless we changed these reckless spending habits. Colleagues, this storm is no longer on the horizon. We are in the eye of the storm – seeking shelter is not an option.
This is a problem which requires action, and more important – leadership. Leadership is not pointing fingers, raising our voices or grandstanding with the intentions of questioning someone’s integrity. It is about rolling up our sleeves, working together to get to the crux of the matter and providing a solution. As we have witnessed repeatedly in the last several years, when state cost-cutting measures were proposed they faced great resistance. The burden of leadership is making tough choices that fly in the face of what some may want because it is the right thing to do. One of those solutions is to quench that never-ending thirst to overspend the people’s money. It is time to lead. This is what Iowans expect and demand from their elected officials.
Do not fool yourselves; Iowans are watching and fully understand the challenges we face. Ask the farmer who took a loss on last year’s corn crop. Reach out to a northwest Iowa poultry producer devastated by last spring’s avian flu. Talk to a small business owner who struggles to make ends meet due to increasing health care costs and rising tax burdens.
We must face some undeniable facts. State revenues continue to come in below projections. The Ag economy is not as stable as in recent years due to lagging livestock and commodity prices. We also were dealt a significant blow last spring when the avian flu ravaged that sector of the economy. Colleagues, all of these factors affect Iowa’s state budget.
Senate Republicans will continue to stress the importance of controlled spending and treat our state budget as we do our family budget – which means we must not spend more than we receive. It is vital we do not overpromise only to under deliver.
We will discuss education at great lengths this legislative session – and we should. We must ensure we keep our promises and budget responsibly when it comes to education. There is too much at stake for our children and taxpayers if we fail to honor those commitments. Keeping our word to students and educators is essential.
It would be a disservice to our youth and businesses across the state if we do not offer them the means to compete in a global economy. Remember colleagues, the vehicle that drives the world economy is fueled locally, whether that is in Harlan, Shell Rock or Red Oak. It is essential to give job creators in our rural communities and all across Iowa the tools necessary to have a presence in a world marketplace, and then get out of their way so they can succeed.
Though the last winter storm may be a memory, the financial storm we face remains a present and constant concern. I ask you today to work with Senate Republicans to weather this storm. Together, we can accomplish great things in creating a legacy of opportunity for all Iowans and making our great state even stronger. Let’s Make it Happen!