This 2017 Legislative Session has been very memorable for me. I am proud to serve as the Senate President and preside over a chamber with fifty Senators who care deeply about this state. We all have the same goal – to make Iowa a better place. Admittedly, we sometimes have different solutions. We have had robust debates this year on the best way forward for Iowa.
When people look back at the 2017 Legislative Session, I believe they will say this is the year that changed Iowa forever. They will say that 2017 was the year that created an economic revival in our state. This was the year that created growth and opportunity for generations to come.
At the beginning of this Session, I challenged the Senate to act boldly. With leading and acting boldly comes criticism and doubt. I would urge my colleagues and fellow Iowans to judge the success of this Legislature on the results of these policies, not on the talking points from either party. I truly believe our bold agenda was crafted with a realistic vision, which will positively affect our state.
This Session we improved Iowa’s job climate by reducing burdensome regulations on small businesses, worked toward reducing frivolous lawsuits and created uniform employment law. We revitalized rural Iowa by working to increase rural access to healthcare, lifted up our rural schools by giving them home rule, created additional legal protections for Iowa farmers, and ensured cities and counties could get more bang for their buck on infrastructure projects.
Education remains our priority as we increased funding to K-12 education despite severe budget challenges. We empowered local schools by providing administrators and boards by giving them more flexibility with spending decisions and working to solve equity issues with school funding.
The Legislature approved legislation to keep our communities and Iowans safe. We placed a ban on texting while driving, protected students from sex offenders while at school and passed legislation to provide substance abuse treatment for OWI offenders. Protecting the personal freedoms of Iowans is imperative. We enhanced Second Amendment protections, improved the integrity of our election system and legalized fireworks. I am also extremely proud to know we passed several bills protecting the sanctity of life in this session.
We stand proudly for a smaller, smarter government. These measures will go a long way in helping us navigate out of our financial dilemma. We passed a balanced budget and made a commitment to refill our cash reserves promptly. We passed legislation to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars as well as reformed the public sector bargaining system.
As I said in my opening day comments, more than three million Iowans look to us to lead and make the hard decisions necessary to create a better future for this state. I asked this chamber to look beyond the next election and look to the next generation. I challenged the body to make decisions that will change our state forever. We have done that.
I started this Session with an abundance of optimism for our future. As we close the 2017 Session of the 87th General Assembly, I am even more optimistic about the future of Iowa.