(Des Moines, IA) The Iowa House of Representatives gaveled in for the 87th General Assembly. The Iowa House Republicans expanded their majority by two seats on Election Day. However they currently have a 59 to 40 majority with the resignation of Jim Lykam (D-Davenport) in Iowa House District 89 after winning a special election in Iowa Senate District 45 to fill a seat left vacant after the passing of State Senator Joe Seng (D-Davenport).
Governor Terry Branstad has ordered a special election on January 31st to fill the seat. Democrats currently hold a little more than a 2700 voter registration edge over Republicans in the district according to the Secretary of State’s office so it is unlikely the seat will flip to Republicans.
State Representative Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) was reelected to be the Speaker of the Iowa House, and upon being sworn in gave her opening day remarks.
Below is the transcript of her remarks (as prepared for delivery):
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
It’s such an honor to be here with you today. I love being able to share such an amazing day with you, your families, and people all across our state. Of all the things that come with an opening day, my favorite remains the optimism that fills this room.
None of us do this job alone. Our families and friends help make this possible. I know not all of our family members or friends can be with us today, but please join me in thanking all of those that help support the work we do.
We are here to commence the Eighty-Seventh General Assembly of the Great State of Iowa. What an amazing and enduring institution whose history we are now a part of.
We are gathered here with new and impressive titles. In a majestic building filled with beautiful stone, art, and capped with a brilliant golden dome. Amidst this grandeur, there is a simple but stark contrast that we must keep in mind. Our work here is service, and it should always be grounded in humility.
We have been sent here in service to our communities to represent the hopes of the good people in our districts. They are the reason we have gathered here, and they are what make this building and this state, great.
It is because of this that I am confident we arrive here with common goals. Yes, we will have our differences. Sometimes those differences will be profound, more often they will be minor and easily resolved. Through all of it, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are here in an effort to move our state forward.
With that in mind, as your Speaker I pledge to you that I will keep this chamber moving forward. We will tackle a variety of issues through a process that allows for input from voices both large and small.
This is important because if there is one thing I am confident in; it is that we have not been sent here to mark the passing of time. No, Iowans have sent us here to offer solutions and deliver results.
If we are to accomplish great things during this General Assembly, it means that we must accept the challenge of doing difficult things and having the courage to stay the course because we are acting with Iowans’ best interests at heart.
We have to challenge our assumptions, we have to reject the assertion that the status quo is acceptable, and most importantly, in order to be successful we must work together.
No one legislator is granted the authority to enact change themselves. Instead, we must listen and build consensus. Only then can we find a path forward and hope to deliver on Iowans’ expectations.
As we look to what our work will focus on this session, it is worth noting the energy that has driven our recent elections. Too many feel unheard, unrepresented, or have lost faith in their government’s ability to address their priorities.
They see things like:
- A tax code that grows more complex each year and whose benefits seem designed for a select few.
- Bureaucracies and policies based more on tradition and protectionism rather than common sense.
- Budgets and spending decisions that lack the discipline Iowa’s families and businesses must use.
No wonder so many are disheartened. If we are here today to help address this unrest and this disconnect, then we need to embrace new ideas and be willing to take bold action.
It is the belief that we can do these difficult things that fills this room with optimism today. This is a unique opportunity and I believe with all my heart that this chamber and this building is filled with the right people for the right time.
State Representative Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) was reelected as Speaker Pro Tem, and took the oath of office for the third time today (also had to take the oath of office as temporary Speaker and State Representative). He gave brief opening day remarks:
State Representative Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown), the Iowa House Minority Leader, spoke on behalf of Iowa House Democrats.
The transcript of his remarks are below as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Let me begin my remarks with a humble congratulations to you and your colleagues because the voters of Iowa have entrusted you with the governance of this state.
I like the scripture in Isaiah that says, “He gives power to those who have no might.”
As the minority party in this chamber, the might that we bring to this body in this time and place is our voices, our ideas, and our commitment to a better Iowa. This is because we, too, seek what is best for our state and for our people.
We come to this legislative session after what many consider to be the most divisive presidential election in American history. For the fourth time in our history, the majority of the people choose one candidate and the Electoral College has chosen another.
As we embark on the 2017 legislative session, uncertainty reigns in both DC and Des Moines. But I hope the divisiveness and political bitterness that rules DC can be avoided here in Des Moines.
What we do know is that there is much to be done and we, as the Democratic members of this body, stand ready and willing to work with the majority party to make progress for all Iowans again.
Income inequality and stagnant wages. Higher health care costs and fewer services. Rising tuition and outrageous student debt. Expensive child care costs and a shortage of providers. Retirement insecurity. For far too long, the deck has been stacked against everyday Iowans who are working hard but still not getting ahead.
It’s time to fix these problems and make progress again.
It starts in education. So far, we’ve heard from Republican leaders that state supplemental aid will be set early in session and that’s good news. But let’s not forget this body is already one year late and it hasn’t been done on time for six years. Unfortunately, we’ve also heard of your troubling plans to enact vouchers that will siphon millions in our tax dollars from public schools and direct it to homeschools and private schools instead.
Democrats believe public education is and should be the top priority of this body. We can’t afford to shortchange public schools any longer or shift more money away from public schools.
Nowhere is this education debate more important than rural Iowa. Anyone who has lived in Iowa knows that when a school closes in a community, that community dries up and blows away. It’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Last month, our state’s non-partisan budget experts found policies enacted by the Republican majority have slowed the state’s economy and led to a big downturn in revenue growth. After hundreds of millions in new corporate tax breaks, the state’s budget surplus has evaporated and the budget is now in the red. The transfer of sales and income taxes from everyday Iowans to ease taxes on out-of-state corporations has not produced good jobs, skilled workers, rising incomes for hard-working Iowans, or a stronger economy as was promised. As you consider new tax giveaways, I hope you’ll heed the warning from our own budget experts and consider the failed tax experiments in other states like Kansas before taking action this year.
In recent weeks, I’ve read reports of your agenda to take away women’s rights, voting rights, and worker’s rights. If you decide to take those divisive issues up this year, be prepared for a fight. Our goal is to make the economy work again for all Iowans and our job is to hold this chamber accountable when it isn’t doing what is best for them.
Democrats will work to make public schools first again, not shift resources away from them. Democrats will fight to raise wages for Iowans, not lower them. Democrats will work to expand job training opportunities and keeping higher education affordable, not make it more expensive. Democrats will work to put women on an equal playing field with men, not limit personal health care decisions. Democrats will help working families get ahead, not take away their rights.
My hope is we can commit today to work together and make progress again for all Iowans this session. That’s what Iowans expect and that’s what they deserve.
Thank you Madam Speaker and let’s get to work.
State Representative Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights), the Iowa House Majority Leader, spoke on behalf of the Iowa House Republican Caucus.
The transcript of his remarks is included below (as prepared for delivery):
Thank you Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House. It is my great honor to welcome you, your families, and friends back to the Statehouse to begin the 87th General Assembly.
Thank you to the people of Clive, West Des Moines, and Windsor Heights for placing your trust in me to represent you in the state legislature. It is a great honor I never take for granted.
Speaker Upmeyer, it is an honor to begin another session with you in the chair. Thank you for the courage and determination you’ve shown in leading our caucus.
To House Republicans, thank you for again electing me majority leader. I look forward to serving each one of you in our new, expanded majority.
To the newly elected members, congratulations and welcome. I am excited about the fresh perspectives, knowledge, and ability that each of you brings to this body. I know all of you are eager to get to work and will do a tremendous job for the people of Iowa.
Representative Smith and House Democrats, I have enjoyed working with you in the past to better serve the needs of Iowans. While we will have our disagreements, Iowans expect us to work together, and I look forward to working with you and your caucus to craft better policy wherever possible.
Most importantly, words in a speech will never come close to expressing my gratitude to my family. My wife Amanda is a blessing and a treasure, and without her – none of what I do here would be possible.
In a few days, I will see a third different presidential portrait hanging in the well since I first took the oath of office. Time moves fast, leaders change, and history marches on. Whether you have been here twenty years, or this is your first day, we all need to make the most of the time we have been given.
Through six years of divided government, House Republicans have held to the foundational principle that government should live within its means. Despite opposition from those whose solutions have been to spend more and tax more, we have changed the conversation about how budgets in this building should be crafted.
Each and every dollar that we touch in this place belongs to the people. Not only will we continue to be zealous stewards of Iowans’ hard-earned money, we will look for ways to leave more of it in their pockets.
Every year, the budget presents new challenges but House Republicans are committed to funding the priority needs of Iowans and leaving here in April with a balanced budget.
We are here to fight for hard-working Iowans who want an opportunity for greater prosperity rather than creating greater government dependence.
We will work to unleash the power of Iowa’s business and industry and free our economy from the grip of government. One of the greatest hindrances to entrepreneurship and economic growth is over-regulation and over-taxation.
Instead of empowering government by extending its reach, we should empower Iowans by stepping aside. Our work should not be an exercise to find the limits of what government can do, but to let the people of this great state be the engine for our future prosperity.
One of the great challenges we face is the ongoing work to improve the quality of our water. Last year, this chamber passed a plan that would have devoted significant new resources to water quality efforts. Our work on this important issue should continue this session.
House Republicans are committed to setting Supplemental State Aid to schools in the first 30 days of session. We will also look for ways to give our local school districts more flexibility and provide them with additional freedom to set policies that fit their own unique districts.
Going further, we will focus on students and families, and work to do more to remove barriers that parents may face in choosing their children’s education.
House Republicans will remain committed to protecting unborn life and securing Iowans’ constitutional freedoms.
All of our work this year is to build a stronger future for this state. Our vision is not just to resolve the issues of today, tomorrow, or even the next election. Let us set forth to make Iowa even greater for the next generation and beyond.
With this in mind, House Republicans will be bold and ambitious. With hard work and diligence, we are determined to make our time here of great consequence to the future of the state of Iowa. Our time is now.
To close, my prayer today is that Almighty God’s hand of providence continues to rest on the people of the state of Iowa and the work that they have sent all of us here to do.
Thank you Madam Speaker.