DES MOINES, Iowa – On Monday, the Iowa Legislature gaveled in the 2023 session of the 9oth General Assembly.
Leadership in both chambers gave opening remarks.
“Iowans have come to know House Republicans as a common-sense conservative caucus. We aim to grow the economy, keep families safe, and protect your freedoms. This session, Iowans can expect no different,” Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said after pointing out the Republican caucus represents all or part of Iowa’s 99 counties.
He called for greater accountability for how taxpayer money is spent.
“We need more common-sense accountability for Iowans’ tax dollars. We can pass simple reforms to ensure that the dollars we allocate in the state budget are actually making it to where they are intended to go. Our entitlement programs can only be sustainable if we ensure those who receive them are those who actually need it,” Grassley stated.
He also pointed to education reform being a top priority for Republicans.
“With the creation of the Education Reform Committee, House Republicans made clear that reform will be a top priority this session. While ESA’s are an important part of that discussion, we believe it’s just a part of much broader reform. With a variety of policy ideas – some of which will look familiar – we can provide greater choice to Iowa parents AND keep our public school system strong,” Grassley added. “This session, our agenda is bold. We’re crafting creative solutions to the issues that have plagued our state for years like workforce shortages. We’re digging deep into the issues that are often times deemed too complicated to address like property taxes. And we’re acting on the concerns we hear consistently from our constituents and are pushing back against the radical social agenda being forced upon us and our children by the left.
Iowa House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said he hoped the Iowa House could avoid the type of politics seen in Washington, D.C.
“Iowans are sick of it and I’m sick of it, I look at what’s gone on out there for the past five to 10 years and I’m just baffled at how they can’t get their ducks in a row to govern in a way that we’ve been able to do here in Iowa. Have we always agreed? No, but, we’ve also found a way to make probably 90 percent of the legislation that we debate in this body and that gets down to the Governor’s desk bipartisan. Let us always strive to find ways to make that the reality instead of the exception as we work in this body,” he said.
Windschitl highlighted Iowans passing a constitutional amendment that protects the right to keep and bear arms in Iowa’s Constitution.
“It got more votes statewide than any of the statewide elected officials. What that tells me is that Iowans want their freedoms protected and they want those things enshrined in the state constitution so the government can’t come and take their freedoms away,” he said.
Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, called for the members of the Iowa House to remember working families.
“This session, let’s remember working Iowans who just want fair wages without constantly worrying about how to pay their bills and keep their families healthy, and let’s remember families that want to live their lives without our interference no matter what the family looks like, who they love, or how they live,” she said.
Konfrst also called for bipartisanship.
“Iowans are tired and exhausted by politics as usual. We should do things differently and work together to get things done. Things that will impact the lives of everyday Iowans and make their lives better,” she added.
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Grimes, in his opening remarks pointed out that Republicans now hold the first supermajority in that chamber in half a century.
“This historic achievement didn’t just happen. It happened because we delivered common sense solutions to the most important issues facing Iowans,” he said.
Whitver pointed several priorities for Iowa Senate Republicans, including property tax reform.
“Iowans pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, and the system responsible for that problem wasn’t built overnight, and the solution to it won’t be either. But I can tell you, Senate Republicans are up to the challenge on the best long-term strategy for Iowa taxpayers,” he said.
“Not only is reforming property taxes on the minds of many Iowans, but so is reforming education for Iowa students. Senate Republicans are focused on strengthening education in our state for Iowa students, and that begins with empowering parents to make the best decisions for their child,” Whitver stated. “School choice should no longer be an option only for wealthy families. Public and private schools both can prepare Iowa’s next generation for great careers right here in Iowa.”
Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, also pointed to school choice as a priority.
“This session’s work will seek to maximize educational opportunities for all children and ensure that students whose needs are not being met can find the option that serves them best. Income should not impact children’s access to the educational institution that will best fit their needs,” she said during her opening remarks.
Sinclair also addressed property tax reform.
“With rising assessments, Senate Republicans are listening to the concerns of the taxpayer and now look to reduce the property tax burden in a meaningful way. Keeping residential, agricultural, and commercial property taxes at a low rate will make Iowa more competitive in the nation’s economy,” she added.
Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said during his opening remarks that every Republican priority should be viewed through the lens of will it stop the “Iowa Exodus.”
“The answer to slow growth and population decline is not to push Iowans away. To regain the ground we’ve lost, keep the next generation of Iowans here at home and win the competition for newcomers, we must make Iowa a more welcoming state. And our biggest employers are saying the same thing: this crisis will only be solved by welcoming more folks to build a life here in Iowa, and stay here in Iowa,” he said.
“Republicans need to prove they’re serious about helping middle-class Iowans. Iowa can’t afford another tax giveaway to the ultra rich that shortchanges our families and communities. Senate Democrats will work with anyone on common-sense property tax reform, but we are not interested in tax giveaways that overwhelmingly benefit the ultrarich and big corporations,” Wahls added.
“The Iowa Exodus is strangling our state and robbing us of our future,”he stated. “Iowa’s people crisis is not only a Democrat or Republican problem. It’s not only an urban or rural problem. It’s not only a blue-collar or white-collar problem. This crisis is affecting every single Iowan, and we can only fix it by working together. So, let’s fix it.”