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Iowa legislative speeches – opening day 2014

This news story was published on January 13, 2014.
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2014 Opening Day Addresses by

Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs


Below is the complete text of the opening day addresses by Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs.


Legislative video of the addresses can be found at: .

President Jochum speaks from 5:05 to 12:05.

Majority Leader Gronstal speaks from 13:00 to 20:05.

On the web:




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 (2013 photo)

Jochum full text:

Good morning.

Welcome to the 2014 session of the 85th GA of the Iowa Legislature.

Let’s give a special welcome to our newest member, Julien Garrett.

In 1963, President John Kennedy defended his economic policies by saying that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

By helping people at the bottom, Kennedy and Johnson created a rising tide that lifted everyone up, making every American more secure.

Take Medicare, government guaranteed health insurance for seniors, passed in 1965.

Before Medicare, it was common for seniors to fall into abject poverty–and an early grave–due to medical bills and lack of care.

Medicare helps everyone.  After all, you, like me, hope to be become a senior.  Perhaps you, like me, have helped care for an aging parent or a person with a disability.

Medicare was a rising tide that lifted all boats.  It helped seniors, their families, and the economy, which benefited from the creation of millions of American jobs.

Iowa got off to a great start by creating our own rising tide to lift all boats.

Before Iowa legislators built this amazing building, they laid the foundations of Iowa’s local public and private schools, the junior colleges that became our community colleges, and our public and private universities and colleges.

Unlike leaders in some other states, the leaders who built our state were determined to provide every Iowan with access to educational opportunity, regardless of WHERE they lived or HOW MUCH their parents earned.

The result was a highly educated state with productive, innovative people.  A prosperous state.  Other states took notice, followed our example and some are now ahead of us.

Now a bipartisan generation of Iowa legislators are doing our part to support a rising tide of Iowa education achievement that will lift all boats.

That’s why Democrats and Republicans froze university tuition last year.

That’s why Democratic and Republican lawmakers expanded workforce training opportunities across the state last year.

AND THAT’S WHY THIS YEAR we should eliminate the waiting lists preventing every Iowa family from having access to universal, high quality preschool.

When Democrats and Republicans increased the Earned Income Tax Credit last year, we helped thousands of low wage workers make ends meet.

When Democrats and Republicans created and passed the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan we provided health security and peace of mind to 150,000 working Iowans, reduced the $1 billion in uncompensated care at our hospitals, protected families from bankruptcy if a parent, or spouse, or child becomes ill, and put Iowa on a path to become the healthiest state in the nation.

There are still too many Iowans, especially children, who have been left behind.

Over the last 30 years, American workers have led the world in productivity gains.  Despite working harder and producing more with less and with lower costs, the vast majority of Iowans have not seen much real wage growth.  That’s happened even as Iowa workers have become better educated and more skilled.

As a result, 44 percent of Iowa children under the age of 5 live in homes that cannot meet their basic needs of food, shelter, child care.

That is shameful.  It is shameful.  As state leaders, we should be embarrassed and deeply concerned about those children.

The effects of so many Iowa children growing up in poverty will have a profoundly negative impact on the social and economic well-being of our state.

That’s why I share Governor Branstad’s goal of reducing the number of Iowans who currently have to rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs.

It should be our number one goal.  We must expand Iowa’s middle class.  We must help more Iowans earn enough to provide for themselves and their family.

It is time to raise the Iowa minimum wage again.

Iowa Republicans and Iowa Democrats are already asking why national corporations tell their own employees to seek out food banks, free medical clinics, and other public services INSTEAD of paying them a living wage.

Iowa Republicans and Iowa Democrats are already asking why taxpayers should have to subsidize the low wages paid by profitable corporations.

I think we can find bipartisan agreement that every employer should pay a wage that supports their employees’ most basic needs of food, shelter, health care, and child care.

Governor Branstad signed legislation to increase the minimum wage in the past. It’s time for him to do so again.

A rising tide of wages will lift all boats.  Higher wages will keep more money in the Iowa economy, money that would otherwise pile up in overflowing corporate bank accounts located out of state or out of the country.

As with the creation of health care for seniors in the 1960s, and the creation of Iowa’s schools before that, raising the minimum wage will help everyone by helping Iowa’s lowest paid workers.

A rising tide lifts all boats.  In America and in Iowa, we count on the middle class to be our engine of prosperity.

Let this session be known as a time that reflected all that is good about Iowa—our strong sense of community and duty to each other.  A session that is worthy of our rich history for civil rights and opportunity for all Iowans.

Let’s get to work.

Thank you.

Gronstal full text

Before I talk about what I hope we can accomplish THIS session, I want all of us to reflect for a moment on some of the good things we did for our constituents LAST session.

Often, we don’t appreciate the positive impact that our decisions as legislators have on Iowans across this great state.

So, let me start this session by talking about three Iowans who got a ticket to a better life because of our bipartisan efforts during the 2013 session.

Donald Katterhenry is from Mason City.  Thanks to the GAP Tuition Program we funded last year, he has earned his Commercial Driver’s License at North Iowa Community College and is now employed by TMC Transportation.

A couple of years ago, Constancia Hansen was a dietary aide at the Stratford nursing home, struggling to earn enough to support her two-year-old son.

Thanks to our investment in workforce training, she earned her GED and completed non-credit classes to become a Certified Nurses Aid at Iowa Central Community College.

Constancia is now a CNA at the Stratford nursing home, can now support herself and her son, has her own place and car, and is thinking about earning a nursing degree.

Jade Johnson lives in Council Bluffs.   After years working late nights as a bartender, Jade recently completed the Certified Medical Coding Class at Iowa Western Community College–thanks in part to the GAP tuition assistance program.

Today, Jade is earning more to support her family, and she is there with her kids at night when they go to bed, and on the weekends.

We should be proud of Donald, Constancia, Jade and many, many other Iowans like them.

With a little bit of help, they improved their skills and qualified for career opportunities in high demand in our state.  They are building a better life for themselves and their families AND ALSO helping the Iowa economy grow.

They are just three examples of our on-going effort to expand and strengthen Iowa’s middle class.

I’m proud that even though Iowa has divided government, the Legislature and Governor Branstad delivered for the people we represent and the state we love.

We find common ground, because, if we don’t, nothing gets done.

And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that each and every Democratic and Republican member of the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate, and Republican Governor Branstad WANTS to do something to help our state move forward.

Strengthening and expanding Iowa’s middle class is what each of us should be thinking about from the moment we walk into this building in the morning, to the time the doors close behind us at night.

Last year, we did the right thing by investing in community colleges, freezing tuition at our public universities, and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.

But when it comes to our local schools, our record of bipartisan accomplishment is decidedly more mixed.

Last year, we finally approved reforms designed to improve Iowa schools by increasing our support and training for teachers.

But there are still many parents, teachers, school board members, business leaders and community volunteers who are skeptical that the Legislature and Governor will make good on our promises on education.

I DON’T blame them.

Iowa’s Democratic Senate, Republican-controlled House, and Republican Governor Branstad are sending mixed messages when it comes to supporting our local schools.

On the one hand, Iowa law has long required the Legislature to give local school funding high priority treatment, ahead of most other issues.

In 1995, the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate passed and Republican Governor Terry Branstad signed legislation to REQUIRE that within 30 days of the governor’s budget being unveiled, the Legislature MUST let local schools know how much they will have to work with for the school year that starts the following year.

Since Democrats and Republicans started sharing control of Iowa’s state government in 2011, the Senate has followed the law on school funding and the House has ignored the law.

This is bad news for Iowa schools.

Even worse, the Republican-controlled House insisted during the 2011 session on no increase in state funding.  That was the LOWEST increase since the allowable growth school funding system was created in 1973!

The next year, Republicans insisted on only a 2 percent increase.

Last year, again after months of contentious debate, the House Republicans missed the deadline again, creating havoc with local school budgets.  In the end, Democrats and Republicans agreed to something that could be called a 4% increase, if you squint hard enough.

The bottom line is that divided government in the Iowa Statehouse is failing to adequately fund our schools.

The Democratic leadership of the Iowa Senate will, as we have the last three years, follow state law by approving a modest increase in funding for local schools within the one month deadline.

The Republican leadership of the Iowa House and Iowa’s Republican Governor Branstad should, unlike previous years, also follow state law.

After several lean years, it is time to start investing in our schools again.

Our budget is balanced and we have record-high amounts in our reserve funds.

Tomorrow, Governor Branstad should step up and lead by proposing a modest increase in basic state funding for Iowa schools.

Let’s again show Iowans we can work together to put their top priorities ahead of party politics.

Let’s show Iowans that Republicans and Democrats agree that there is nothing more important to Iowa’s economy and our bipartisan goal of expanding the middle class than our children’s education.

Thank you.

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