DES MOINES, Iowa – On Saturday afternoon, the Iowa House of Representatives and the Iowa Senate adjourned Sine Die for the 2019 session of the 88th General Assembly.

Below are the transcripts of closing remarks given by Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Urbandale, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, and Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, as prepared for delivery.

Speaker Linda Upmeyer

When we first arrived in January, I shared with you all how excited I was to see the fresh faces in this chamber.

That included 22 freshman legislators and 19 new committee chairs.

Today, I am excited to see how much you all have grown over the course of the session.

A lot of times, your first legislative session can be a baptism by fire.

That makes me think of Representative Hite.

Early on in the session, maybe the fifth or sixth week, the Majority Leader came back to my office to relay a conversation he had just had with Representative Hite.

Apparently Representative Hite felt like he needed more work to do… so we took him up on that offer.

I think he’s learned to be careful what you ask for.

At the beginning of session, I laid out a number of priorities that Iowans had shared with us over the course of last year:

  • Make rural Iowa a priority
  • Improve health care for Iowans
  • Take a look at property taxes
  • And pass a responsible, conservative state budget

I am proud to say that we took action on each of this issues.

We needed to be intentional in our efforts to grow rural Iowa. And this session has been a success.

With greater access to reliable, high speed internet, Main Street businesses will be able to operate efficiently and grow.

With incentives to spur housing developments, our small communities will be able to compete and grow.

Rural schools will have permanent funding to reduce unequal transportation costs so that more resources make their way into the classroom.

Every bill that we took up this session … whether it dealt with workforce, health care, or education… we looked for opportunities to put our finger on the scale and benefit our rural communities.

We also continued our bipartisan efforts to build out mental health services and increase access in our communities.

The children’s mental health bill will ensure that parents have a dedicated local resource to turn to when their child is facing a mental health issue.

This is the foundation for something that we will build on in future sessions.

Governor Reynolds really brought this issue to the forefront and I want to thank her for her leadership on this issue.

We have ensured that when property valuations go up, cities and counties must inform and notify the hard-working taxpayers how their tax bills will change.

We extended the SAVE penny.

Not only does this provide schools with much-needed resources for new buildings and improvements, it also delivers nearly 6 billion dollars in property tax relief to Iowans.

As Representative Bossman told us, it’s a win-win.

The budget plan that we have passed this year is responsible and funds our priorities.

Things Iowans value, like community colleges, career training programs, rural hospitals, and public safety, will all see funding increases next year.

The budget also fully fills our reserve accounts and leaves a healthy ending balance.

It’s disappointing that today we have heard the same breathless defense of the status quo that we have heard for the last three years.

Unlike those voting no today, we remain open to thoughtful consideration to progress and new ideas.

Doing things the same way only because it has been that way for a long time is a disappointing disposition for Iowans to see.

We reject adherence to the status quo.

The people of Iowa sent us here to continue moving forward with a common sense agenda… smaller government that respects the hard-working taxpayers.

Promises made. Promises kept.

This body should be proud of the work that was accomplished this session and know that Iowans stand with you.

In closing, I want to thank everyone for all of their hard work this session.

Thank you to the members, our caucus and leadership staffs, the clerk’s office, LSA, doormen, pages, and the press.

I know how tough it is to be away from your families and communities during the months of session. That work does not go unnoticed and Iowans appreciate your service and sacrifice.

Now, go home… listen to your constituents… and I look forward to coming back with you next year refreshed and ready to continue moving Iowa forward.

Thank you.

House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow

Thank you Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House.

Speaker Upmeyer, the House of Representatives continues to be blessed by your leadership and it is an honor to serve alongside you.

My fellow House Republicans, thank you again for giving me the privilege to be your Leader. I am proud to serve this caucus and especially proud of what we were able to accomplish together this year.

Thank you to everyone in this building who helps make it run and a special thank you to the clerk’s office and our research and leadership staff.

Also, I’d like to thank my wife Amanda and our children Owen, Noah, and Sophia for their love and encouragement.

House Republicans have continued to remain unwavering in our principles.  

We have passed a budget that is fiscally conservative and funds the priority needs of Iowans.

We protected taxpayers when we passed a property tax bill that will shine more light and accountability on the budget process of our local governments.

We made monumental strides to protect the freedoms and liberties of the people of Iowa.  Iowans are a step closer to enshrining in our state constitution the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  Students on our college campuses, of all opinions, have additional protections from opponents looking to limit their free speech.

Much of the fabric of our state is woven with values found in rural Iowa.  With House Republicans representing 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties, our caucus has made rural Iowa a priority through much of our work. 

During the 2018 campaign, Republicans made the promise to Iowans that we would not touch IPERS, and we have kept that promise. 

The 2019 legislative session has been a productive first year of the 88th General Assembly.  We have been fiscally responsible, protected the taxpayers and our freedoms.  Iowans should be proud of the work we’ve accomplished.  As we return home to our families and our districts, enjoy your time away but know there is more work to do.  The General Assembly is not done and I look forward to next year as we continue to move Iowa forward.

May God bless us, our citizens and the great State of Iowa.  Thank you Madam Speaker.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver

Mister President, Senator Petersen and colleagues in the Senate

I will start by expressing my gratitude to the staff and senators in this building for all the work they have done this session. It is a privilege to lead such a dynamic and unified caucus. Every day I have the distinct honor of being a part of a caucus full of leaders with bold, fresh ideas for our state. Even with all our differences, our caucus remains committed to each other as a team.

It is hard to believe the 2019 session is drawing to a close. Just 103 short days ago, I asked you all to keep in mind the reason you ran for office. I ran for office to make our state and country a better place for my kids and our family – a place where they can grow up, go to school, succeed in a career they enjoy and spend a lifetime in a place we all love and are proud to call home…Iowa. 

When we began the 2019 Legislative Session I urged my colleagues in this body to be bold, challenge the status quo and enact meaningful policies that serve as a roadmap for the next generation to flourish for decades to come. I urged us to maintain the reform-minded perspective of the first two years in the majority. Together we set an agenda to strengthen and grow our economy, while allowing Iowans to keep more of their hard-earned money.

To implement that agenda, we did not want to just make small changes to a couple lines in an Iowa Code book; instead, we focused on generational changes to bring more prosperity, growth and opportunity to our state. 

These policies are already yielding an abundance of positive results.  We rank as one of the top states for jobs, high school graduation and concurrent enrollment. Our unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. Last year, Iowa was rated the Number One state in America by US News and World Report. Achieving that top ranking is not easy – but staying there is even more challenging.

This year, we provided an additional $89 million in sustainable funding for our K-12 schools, and extended the sales tax dedicated to help support their infrastructure costs. We passed four welfare reform bills to make those programs run more effectively and efficiently. These bills help ensure assistance is only for those truly in need, encourages people to join the workforce, and could save taxpayers millions of dollars. We passed a bill to protect Iowa businesses and workers, and promote better hiring practices through the use of E-Verify. We created a children’s mental health system in our state. We passed legislation to allow our state’s farmers to grow another crop and another to level the playing field for utility customers. We passed a bill to protect Iowa’s agriculture industry, and a bill to protect the First Amendment rights of students at our public universities.

We proposed a budget that was conservative, responsible and sustainable. It funded the necessities of our state, like education and public safety, and provided the state a cushion to respond to the massive flooding in western Iowa. Responsible budgeting always has been important to this caucus, just as it is important to every hard-working person in our state.

One of the number one concerns we heard when talking with Iowans over the last couple years was property taxes. And, they have reason to be concerned. Property tax collections have more than doubled in the last 18 years. These increases exceed more than $3 billion across Iowa. Meanwhile, during that same time frame, Iowans incomes have risen only 43 percent.

After passing income tax relief for Iowa’s hard-working families during the last Legislative Session, this year we passed property tax reform, to control increases for those who have seen their assessments rise year after year, improve transparency, and hold public officials accountable for any increase in property taxes.

Our work doesn’t stop when we leave this building. There are many issues we can work on next year and continue to forge a path to help grow our economy, retain young graduates and attract new Iowans to call our state home. 

I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for another outstanding session and for all the work we accomplished. Thank you for the thoughtful debate and discussion and the work you do on behalf of your constituents and our great state. We made a lot of progress this year for Iowa and Iowans, and I look forward to working with all of you next January as we continue this journey toward long-term prosperity.

Senate President Charles Schneider

Senators, guests and fellow Iowans:

I would first like to say it was a great honor to serve again as President of the Senate. I appreciate the trust my colleagues placed in me. I returned it by always doing my best to fulfill the responsibilities of the role to which you elected me.

My goal this session, and every session since I was elected to the Senate, was to make Iowa the best state in the country to live, work, and raise a family. I believe we made progress toward this goal during the 2019 legislative session.

I am proud of the work we did to bring transparency and accountability to the process by which property taxes are determined.

Many Iowans felt their property tax burden getting worse, but could not explain why it was happening. Our convoluted property tax system made it difficult for property owners to hold the right people accountable. 

We believe the key to holding down property taxes is to bring more accountability to local budgeting processes. The bill passed by the Legislature will hold down budget expansions in cities and counties that had been on autopilot thanks to rising valuations, while allowing local leaders in growing communities to provide critical services to their constituents.

As a result, Iowans should expect to see the amount they pay in property taxes more closely align to local government budgets than their property valuations. This bill will remove what amounts to a government-imposed penalty on an appreciating asset regardless of the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

The property tax reform bill will shine a spotlight on city and county budget processes, while still allowing local government officials to make choices that make sense for their communities. As a former West Des Moines City Council member and a Senator who represents some of the fastest growing communities in our state, I understand these local leaders need the flexibility to grow their physical infrastructure and staff resources to keep up with their changing jurisdictions. I am proud this bill will allow well-managed, fast-growing cities, like those in my Senate district, to continue to make smart choices for their futures.

While many outside this chamber focus on the issues that divide us, I am proud the Senate was able to come together on a number of key issues facing our state.

For me, the children’s mental health bill we passed this session will be a legacy item. This bill demonstrates that the Legislature understands there is a children’s mental health crisis in our state. Unfortunately, this problem is not specific to our state. But, I believe the provisions in the children’s mental health bill position our state to be a leader on this issue. I hope the solutions that result from this legislation will be a model for other states to follow.

I am also proud of the lower-profile issues the Senate came together this year to address. Every session, Iowans from around the state petition their government to resolve issues in their day-to-day life. Though many of these issues do not make the front page of the newspapers, they are important to people in our state and I am proud of our work on them.

While we made important progress this session on a number of key issues, there is still work for us left to do during this General Assembly.

Businesses throughout the state are still experiencing a serious skilled worker shortage. We hear this shortage is already stifling economic growth in our state. While I am proud we supported the governor’s Future Ready Iowa initiative this session, there is still more work to do.

There also continues to be too many barriers to success in our state. Unnecessary occupational licensing requirements threaten to limit opportunities for Iowans to pursue their dreams. Iowa has one of the most heavily licensed workforces in the country. States like Arizona have made important strides to rebalance protecting the public with reducing barriers to economic opportunity. I believe policymakers in Iowa should have a serious conversation next session about this issue.

I would like to wish everyone a safe, healthy and prosperous summer. Thank you for your hard work on behalf of your constituents and our state. God bless you and your families. And, God bless the great state of Iowa.

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