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Democratic leaders comment on end of Iowa legislative session

iowa capitol golden dome2013 End of Session Address Senate President Pam Jochum May 22, 2013


We did it.

We showed that Republicans and Democrats CAN work together to solve important problems.

The health care compromise reached by this Legislature is a perfect example. We put aside partisan divisions. Instead, we focused on solving problems, and on listening to Iowans.

Most importantly, we remembered our conversations with Iowans who are living without health insurance.

And conversations with Iowans WHO HAVE insurance, but are worried sick about someone they love who DOES NOT have insurance.

The biggest challenge of this session was how to help Iowans who, despite working every day, still cannot afford health insurance.

We met that challenge. And by doing that, we showed the nation how to put lasting progress ahead of short-term partisanship.

Thanks to the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, 150,000 working Iowans will finally be able to go to a doctor when needed.

The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan will make Iowa’s entire health care system more financially secure.

The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan will slow rising health care costs for every Iowa family and Iowa business.

The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan will bring health insurance to 80,000 currently uninsured working Iowans, and preserve health care for 70,000 Iowans currently on IowaCare.

Iowans look at the mess divided government in Washington D.C. has created, and they shake their heads.

Iowans expect better from their state legislature, and we delivered. We delivered on health care, our most difficult issue, and on a host of other issues. Here’s an example of how we did it.

The key to Iowa’s health care compromise was the work of Democrat Amanda Ragan, the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and Republican Linda Upmeyer, the House Majority Leader.

These two North Iowa residents are longtime friends, guests at the weddings of each other’s children. They came to the Legislature at about the same time. One is a strong Democrat. The other is a passionate Republican. In the final days of the session, these two put partisanship to the side and hammered out the health care compromise.

The work they did brought health care security to tens of thousands of Iowa families.

The bipartisanship of Senator Ragan and Majority Leader Upmeyer was repeated time and time again on the other issues by other legislators.

I want to thank every Senator and every Representative who likewise rose above short-term, narrow- minded concerns and reached across the aisle to solve problems.

It was an honor to be part of this process. We will have to work hard next year to top this year’s accomplishments.

I want to thank the Senate staff for their work this year. I also want to thank the thousands of Iowans who contacted members of the Legislature this year. Your comments and suggestions made a difference.


Democratic Leaders, from left to right: House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarty of Des Moines, Senator Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, and Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque.
Democratic Leaders, from left to right: House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarty of Des Moines, Senator Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, and Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque.

End of Session Remarks by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal

Last November, Iowans elected a Democratic Senate and a Republican House and Governor.

Iowans voted for divided state government, and when this session started, many people predicted gridlock.

But gridlock is not what Iowans want, and gridlock is NOT what they got.

Iowans voted for divided government, not dysfunctional government.

No Iowan wants our state government to imitate what’s happening in Washington, DC.

That doesn’t mean this session has been easy. Each caucus has its own priorities.

Senate Democrats, for example, are focused on strengthening and expanding Iowa’s middle class.

We believe that the more Iowans with good jobs, stable homes, great neighborhood schools, and affordable health insurance, the better Iowa’s future will be.

Because we all have our own priorities, governing is about finding common ground—especially finding common ground with people you do not agree with.

Find common ground, and you will be successful. Find common ground, and you move your state forward. It is that simple.

I want to thank President Jochum, Speaker Paulsen, House Majority Leader Upmeyer, Senate Republican Leader Dix, House Democratic Leader McCarthy and every member of the Iowa House and Senate.

I want to thank you, because this year, as the results of this session make absolutely clear, we did find common ground, we were successful, and we are moving Iowa forward.
The 2013 session of the Iowa Legislature will be remembered as one of the most productive in recent history. Here’s why:

Education reform:

Last year, we passed education reforms to help children learn to read by the end of third grade, but it wasn’t funded. This year, we not only funded those reforms, we also increased basic state support for local schools for the next TWO years while raising standards, improving teaching, and encouraging innovation. The funding we provided to the Regents will allow Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa will freeze tuition for the first time in 30 years

Health Reform:

Thanks to the health care compromise which created the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, 150,000 working Iowans will finally be able to go to a doctor in their community when they need to. We also approved 42 million dollars to continue the reform of Iowa’s mental health delivery system.

Tax Reform:

For 35 years, Iowa legislators tried and failed to address property tax inequities.

This year, we did. We approved the largest property tax cut in state history. It includes a Main Street commercial property tax cut which is especially helpful to small businesses and a tax cut for the working families that are home to almost 40% of the Iowa’s children. We also fully funded all property tax credits.
Water quality:

No Iowa legislative session has ever done more to clean up Iowa’s water. $22 million will fund new initiatives, including a Iowa Nutrient Research Center to keep high levels of nutrients from impairing our waterways. In addition, REAP will receive $16 million, the most ever.

Lastly, we finally got serious about the workforce skills shortage holding back Iowa’s economy.

This is the largest investment ever in our community colleges. They will help Iowans improve their skills and match them with local businesses recruiting skilled workers. Pilot projects have shown this approach works, and we are investing more than 34 million dollars to take it statewide.

Despite divided government, despite our differences, the result of this session will be a stronger Iowa economy, better Iowa schools, and a better quality of life for all Iowans.

In closing, I want to thank the Senate backroom staff, the Republican and Democratic Senate staffs, the Senate doorkeepers, the Legislative Service Agency, and the pages. Your work and professionalism help make this successful session possible.

Thank you all.

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