Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) and Senate President Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) provided opening remarks after the Iowa Senate gaveled in on Monday.
Below is the transcript of Whitver’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you Mr. President.
Mr. President, Senators, staff, families, and friends —- Good morning and welcome to the 88th General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature.
It is great to be back today in this historic chamber, and great to see so many friends and colleagues. We are a citizen legislature, here from all walks of life. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, small business owners, and farmers, to name a few. We bring a variety of experiences to the table, and represent even more back in our home districts. We are here to represent the interests of everyone who has the privilege of calling our great state home.
To our nine new members in this chamber, I want to welcome you to the Iowa Senate. I wish you the best as you are sworn in and represent your respective districts. My hope for you as you begin your time serving in the Iowa Senate is that you never forget WHY you ran. No matter if you serve one term, or 5 terms, it is extremely important to always remember why you first put your name on the ballot.
And, that is a question I would ask all of you here in this room…why is it that you first ran for office. What is your WHY?
As I begin my first session as Majority Leader and have been thinking a lot about our agenda for the upcoming session, it is a question I have found myself thinking a lot about lately.
I am blessed to have my wife and children here today. For years, when my kids asked me what we do in the Iowa Senate, I always said “We make laws.” Last week, my oldest daughter Ella asked me what we do in the Senate and I had a different answer. I told her, “We work to make your life better.” Shortly after saying that, it struck me…..We are not here to change laws; we are here to change lives.
Our mission is simple: Improve the lives of Iowans through challenging the status quo and reforming Iowa for the next generation.
Looking toward the next generation is extremely important to me. Not just because I have three young children of my own, but because too often politicians are too worried about the next election to think about the next generation.
This should never be the case. As we begin our 2019 session, our focus should not be on the next election; instead we must look toward lifting up our next generation.
When I think about the last two years, I often think about a quote I first heard while in business school at Iowa State – from a best-selling business author – he said, “Greatness is not a matter of circumstance, greatness is a choice.”
Over the past two years, this body has CHOSEN greatness. We have made a conscious decision to make our state the Number One state in the nation. We have made tough decisions, taken political risks – we have chosen greatness for the state of Iowa.
Those choices are not always easy. Often in politics, the greatest challenge is not finding the solution. We often know what the solution is. The greatest challenge is finding the political will to make it happen.
I am proud this body has shown the political will to make those tough decisions.
Two years ago, we set out to implement a better job climate in the state of Iowa. Today, we have the lowest unemployment rate in the entire nation. We went from a state asking “where are the jobs” to a state asking “where are the workers?”
Two years ago, we set out to improve our educational system in the state of Iowa. Today, schools have more local control over their school districts; have more flexibility with the financial resources we give them and more funding for transportation in our rural districts.
Two years ago, we inherited a budget with a $113 million deficit. Today we have a balanced budget, our cash reserves are full, and we have an expected surplus of over $196 million in the current budget year.
Two years ago, we had one of the highest tax burdens in America. Last year we passed historic tax reform resulting in the largest tax cut in Iowa history for hard-working Iowans.
Additionally over the past two years we have passed mental health reform, water quality legislation, tort reform, strengthened Iowans 2nd Amendment rights, and protected the sanctity of life.
The past two years have been the most productive and historic two years this state has ever seen. It is hard to argue with the results — we were named the Number One state in the nation by US News and World Report.
As I traveled the state this last election cycle meeting with Iowans, we talked about the progress we have made. At every stop, I said that this last election would be a defining moment in the history of our state – where the people would decide which direction we want to go and what kind of state we want to be.
I am grateful the people of Iowa have given us the responsibility and honor of continuing to lead in the Iowa Senate. They expect us to step up to make tough decisions and continue down the path that has made us Number One. We are grateful the voters have joined us in choosing greatness for the state of Iowa!
Now, as we look toward the upcoming session, we will continue to deliver bold action to build our workforce, continue to reduce taxes, and reduce government dependence in our state.
We will continue to be dedicated to our pro-growth agenda for Iowa – growth for our businesses, growth for our schools, and growth for our rural and urban areas.
We are devoted to the Iowans who elected us to this chamber and we are committed to keeping the promises we made on the campaign trail.
We will continue to challenge the status quo and continue to push reforms that will keep us as the Number One state in the nation.
I am honored to serve as the majority leader of Iowa Senate, and look forward to working with each and every one of you to make Iowa the best we can.
Let’s get to work!
Below is the transcript of Schneider’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Welcome to the First Session of the 88th General Assembly.
I would like to offer a special welcome to the new members of the Iowa Senate – Senator Whiting, Senator J. Smith, Senator Nunn, Senator Celsi, Senator Koelker, Senator T. Taylor, Senator Wahls, Senator Miller-Meeks Senator Cournoyer.
It strikes me the new members hold almost 1 in 5 seats of this body. This is a positive sign that Iowans are willing to give their time and talents at the state Capitol in the service of their neighbors. While this is a sacrifice for some, especially those who come from the far corners of our state, I can speak for those who have served in this chamber before when I say it is also extremely humbling and a unique honor to serve the people of this state in the Iowa Senate. I wish you all the best during this General Assembly.
I am proud to say Iowa is thriving. Our state boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Thanks in part to the reforms passed during the last General Assembly, Iowans’ incomes are rising, their taxes are shrinking, and our economy is growing.
Most of you have probably heard that US News & World Report ranked Iowa the #1 state in the country. This recognition is something we should all be proud of. After all, it didn’t come about because of one General Assembly. It is something that we have worked on collectively over many and through split control of .
Being #1 doesn’t give us the freedom to rest on our laurels. Iowa may be the #1 state in America today, but the other 49 states are looking for opportunities to make their states more desirable. Becoming the best hard, but it’s more difficult to stay there.
Being #1 does not mean that we have achieved perfection. We still face many challenges: brain drain; workforce training; improving our business climate; improving student achievement in education; enhancing our quality of life. Most of us would agree that these are all areas that need our attention. I believe we are up to the challenge.
Addressing some of these challenges means getting government out of the way. Taxes that hinder growth will result in fewer jobs, lower incomes, and less economic development.
We need to find ways to continue to reduce the tax burden on hardworking Iowans – particularly when it comes to property taxes, which have an unfair, disparate impact on Iowans who live on fixed incomes, like many seniors.
Regulations and job licensing requirements can go too far. Some regulations and requirements are necessary for public health or safety reasons. But if they go too far, they can trap the unwary in debt and discourage people with ambition from taking a chance to start a business or a new career, crushing the American dream.
Addressing some of these challenges requires government involvement. We must continue to invest in education and workforce development if we want to ensure that all Iowans are able to share in the state’s success. We must ensure we have a safety net for those who are most in need.
As we make these and other investments, we need to remember that taxpayers expect us to use their tax dollars wisely. Doing so requires setting priorities.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate, and with the House and Governor Reynolds, to address these challenges. It won’t be easy, but I have faith in our ability to overcome adversity.
Part of my faith lies in our proud tradition of being a true citizen legislature. In this chamber today, virtually none of us is a career politician. Many of us leave our regular occupations as farmers, teachers, lawyers, or business owners to serve in the state capitol. We know that we need to get our work done so we can return to our normal lives.
I hope this means the Iowa Senate can operate without the harsh partisanship that is infecting our current political discourse. For too many politicians, politics has become a sport. Some politicians focus on supporting their own or furthering their own ambitions, rather than shaping good public policy. When that happens, discourse suffers.
As we all know, it is a violation of a long-time Senate rule to question the motives of another senator on the floor. The rule justifiably recognizes what we sometimes forget – every senator deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his or her motives on an issue. I believe that every person here decided to run because they have the best interests of their constituents in mind. I believe that is what drives the passion each of us has for the work we do here. I hope we can all aspire to keep this in mind as we go through this legislative session.
As elected officials and leaders of our state, we have a responsibility to bring people together. The time for drawing contrasts is over. The time to govern has arrived. We are all Iowans. We are all here to make our state a better place for our families, neighbors communities. Now is the time to come together and focus on Iowa’s future.
I wish everyone in this chamber, including the staff, clerks and pages, a happy, healthy and productive legislative session. I look forward to working with all of you to continue the success of our state.