Many Republicans are frustrated that no new restrictions on abortion rights have passed during this year's session. House Republican efforts to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy got derailed as the Senate opted for a different way to oppose a planned abortion clinic in Council Bluffs. The majority of House Republicans blocked a floor vote on the "personhood" bill that (in theory) all Republicans support. That bill was a top priority for some in the House GOP caucus.
House Republicans don't want to complete the session with no new limits on Iowa women's right to choose, so they are drawing a line in the sand over Medicaid funding. For more than three decades, Iowa legislation has permitted Medicaid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest or fetal deformity. This language was not controversial; it passed no matter which party controlled the legislature. Now Republicans want to allow Medicaid to cover abortions only in cases of miscarriage or when the mother's life is threatened.
The biggest impact of the changes proposed by House Republicans would be on women seeking abortions with deformed fetuses. Iowa Medicaid now covers abortions if the fetus has an extreme deformity, such as anencephaly (a brain stem but no brain). In many abortions of deformed fetuses, the fetus would not live if delivered. Twenty-two abortions of deformed fetuses were performed in 2010, said Roger Munns, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services.
Federal rules require Medicaid programs to cover abortions if they are requested in verified cases of incest or rape, or to save the life of the mother, Munns said. In Iowa last calendar year there were five abortions to save the life of the mother, none for rape or incest.
Since 2005, there have been no abortions resulting from incest and only three (one each in 2005, 2006, and 2007) resulting from rape, Munns said.
State Senator Jack Hatch, the lead negotiator on the health and human services budget, has made clear that the Senate will not accept changes in language that has been standard for 33 years. He also shot down a related GOP proposal to "require women to view an ultrasound before having an abortion in cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities."
"Their requirement that an ultrasound be shown within 24 hours of the termination is a place that we can't go. We've made it clear," said state Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, chairman of the Senate Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. "It's a way in which they would like to harass the woman into making her feel that this is not a decision she wants because now she actually sees the fetus. That does not resolve the issue of being raped, or being raped by a family member."
Activists on the religious right are heavily lobbying Republicans not to give in on this issue. As of June 30, about a dozen House Republicans were reportedly determined not to vote for any human services budget containing the current language on Medicaid abortion funding. For the same reason, this group of Republicans won't vote for the one-month stopgap budget bill.
UPDATE: James Q. Lynch reports:
The health and human services budget is the final $1.5 billion piece of the $5.999 billion general fund spending plan.
The stalemate creates the possibility that GOP leaders could go ahead with a compromise without the full support of the 60-member House caucus. In that case, some Democratic votes would be needed to pass the health and human services budget.
One Democratic lawmaker said that if it comes to that, "I have my shopping list."
I wonder whether Kraig Paulsen could survive as Speaker if House leaders go down that path.
House Republicans and Senate Democrats have been at odds over education funding all year. Major disagreements include allowable growth for K-12 school budgets, continuing the voluntary preschool program for four-year-olds, and higher education funding. House Republicans and Governor Branstad had sought two fiscal years of zero growth for K-12 budgets. Later they offered two percent allowable growth for K-12 schools in fiscal year 2013, but nothing in 2012. Senate Democrats asked for 3 percent allowable growth in 2013 in exchange for agreeing to no growth in 2012. Meanwhile, Republicans were trying to cut preschool funding in half, while Democrats wanted to fully fund the program.
The final deal reached this week includes zero growth for K-12 in the coming year and 2 percent growth in fiscal year 2013. Republicans gave ground on preschool, agreeing to a funding formula that would have the state spend roughly $59 million on preschool, or about $2,900 per four-year-old enrolled. That's down from the $70 million price tag of continuing the status quo (which works out to about $3,600 per student enrolled).
House Democrats were not satisfied with the education bill and voted against it when it passed on June 29. They disagreed with the deal-making process and with the cuts in funding for state universities and community colleges.
Several versions of the infrastructure portion of the budget have bounced around the House and Senate during the past week. Passenger rail funding was one of the last obstacles holding up a deal; House Republicans have tried several times this year to cut that funding. Senate Democrats have insisted on keeping rail money in next year's budget in order to secure a federal grant for a passenger rail link Chicago to Iowa City, via the Quad Cities. Eventually policy-makers and business leaders hope passenger rail would be extended from Iowa City through Des Moines to Omaha/Council Bluffs.
A deal reached this week doesn't include passenger rail funding for fiscal year 2012 but leaves the door open for some funding in 2013.
In explaining the conference committee report to the House, which adopted the infrastructure budget 75-17, [Republican State Representative Royd] Chambers said the door hasn't been closed on participation in the development of the line. Language indicating the state's intent to participate remains.
According to [Democratic State Senator Matt] McCoy, that's enough to hold Iowa's place in the funding pipeline.
"We're not sending a signal that we're backing off," he said. "It's not like Wisconsin that said, 'Take it back.'"
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a former Illinois Republican congressman, has assured Iowa it will get its share of those funds turned back by Wisconsin and other states, McCoy said.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, agreed and said the next $6.5 million installment on the matching funds isn't needed until fiscal 2013.
Rail supporters need to be ready to make the case for matching funds during the 2012 legislative session. I think Chamber of Commerce and Greater Des Moines Partnership types are best positioned to win over skeptical House Republicans.
More details to follow as legislators keep trying to complete their work.
UPDATE: Democratic State Representative Tyler Olson tweeted at 2:35 pm, "Deal done to adjourn 2011 legislation session. House to debate one-month budget and HHS budget soon. Closing speeches then sine die."
Awaiting details on the conference committee deal regarding the health and human services budget. Conservative talk radio personality Steve Deace says, "A state legislator just texted me the Republicans have agreed to taxpayer funded abortions in Iowa." Sounds like there may be fallout for some Republican leaders after the session ends.
SECOND UPDATE: And they are done before 4 pm. Not surprisingly, given divided control of the legislature, many bills approved by one chamber stalled in the other. I have a post in progress on the most significant legislation that passed or did not pass during the marathon 2011 session.
Both sides appear to be claiming victory on the compromise abortion language in the health and human services budget. Republican State Representative Walt Rogers tweeted that the bill "included the most pro-life legislation we've done in 30 yrs." Representative Matt Windschitl called the compromise "a great step forward for the pro-life community."
But Senator Jack Hatch, the lead negotiator for Democrats on this issue, told me by telephone that there will be "no change" in current procedures for women on Medicaid seeking an abortion because of rape, incest, a threat to the mother's life, or a fetal deformity. The state will still cover the cost of abortions in all of those instances. Women seeking an abortion will receive an ultrasound, as is the current standard of care, and will be told that they have the option of viewing the ultrasound, but they will not be required to view the ultrasound, Hatch said. In addition, women will be told that they have options: terminate the pregnancy or continue the pregnancy (either to keep the baby or give the baby up for adoption). Hatch said that conforms to current standards of care for any woman seeking an abortion in Iowa.
According to Windschitl, pregnant women seeking abortion coverage through Medicaid would also hear information about the risks of having an abortion. Finally, Lynn Campbell reported that the governor "can petition the federal government to change the Medicaid-funded services that Iowa provides." In a Democratic presidential administration, such a petition would likely be denied, but a future Republican administration might be happy to accommodate the request.
UPDATE: Rod Boshart has more on the abortion compromise:
Under the terms of the agreement, the state will comply with the minimum federal Medicaid guidelines, which include rape and incest.
Fetal deformity is also an option. It will be up to the state Department of Human Services and the governor to determine whether the state will comply with those terms.
The bill does not spell out in what instances Medicaid-funded abortions will be provided. It only refers to complying with federal guidelines, said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, one of the conference committee negotiators.
The practical effect is that the scope of services available to low-income women will not change, she added. The compromise language included a statement that "Iowans support reducing the number of abortions performed in our state."
The bottom line is that both sides saved face, and state government will not shut down. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if a few House Republicans draw primary challengers who claim incumbents did not stand up for the "pro-life" agenda this year.
Before adjourning for the year, Senate leaders did not deliver speeches today. Instead, they submitted prepared remarks for publication in the Senate Journal. Here is the closing statement from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Gronstal:
Thank you, Mr. President.
First, I would like to thank the Senate backroom staff, the Republican and Democratic staffs, the Senate doorkeepers, the Legislative Service Agency, and the pages (those here with us today and those who were lucky enough to have departed months ago).
Your dedication made it possible for us to bring the session to conclusion today. Your work is truly a service to the people of Iowa
This has been a difficult session.
Finding agreement has not been easy, and that is probably a considerable understatement.
Why was it so difficult? It sure wasn't a lack of funds.
Unlike other states, Iowa's economy is growing, and our state budget is in good shape.
Our reserve funds are full at $600 million. Our current budget is ending with another $400 million in the bank. That's one BILLION dollars in the state's savings accounts, and revenue estimates for next year continue to rise.
And contrary to the Governor's posturing, Senate Democrats have ALWAYS insisted that Iowa should spend less than we take in.
In fact, in the 1990s, I was a member of the Senate Democratic majority that limited state spending to no more than 99 percent of projected revenues, and created Iowa's rainy day funds.
What's more, the initial Senate Democratic 2011 budget proposal would have spent only 98 percent of projected revenues. Spending more than we take in was never proposed by anyone.
And just to be perfectly clear, Senate Democrats are very proud of how we guided Iowa through the worst national recession in history.
We cut state spending by a quarter of a billion dollars. We made state government leaner and more effective when it comes to providing services by conducting the first state government reorganization in 25 years. And we did it without raising taxes or gutting the services Iowa families depend on.
Our success then is a big reason why Iowa's state budget is now one of the healthiest in the nation.
I mention all this just to make it as clear as possible that the reason we are still in session on June 29 has nothing to do with spending more than we take in or straightening out the Iowa budget.
When this session started just six short months ago, I used that occasion to speak directly to Iowa's small businesses and their employees. I responded to the questions and concerns they shared with me in the months before the 2011 session.
On January 10th, I told the Senate that Iowa's small business owners and workers especially wanted to know the answer to one question:
"Are legislators serious about helping Iowans recover from the worst recession in more than 50 years?"
Today, almost six months later, I believe the Senate, at least, can answer "Yes, we are."
Iowa's commercial property tax rates are too high, especially for small businesses.
That's why an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the Senate voted to cut commercial property taxes by $200 million. We did it in a way that targets the relief to Iowa's small businesses.
More than four out of five commercial property taxpayers receive a bigger tax cut under our plan than under Governor Branstad's proposal.
Iowa's economic recovery needs to be strengthened.
That's why the Senate unanimously passed Senate File 209, a 148 million dollar tax cut for working Iowans and businesses. It would:
Allow businesses to immediately deduct the entire cost of automobiles, machinery, property and other big ticket items, and increase the state Earned Income Tax Credit for working families, providing an immediate boost for many Iowa small businesses.
Iowa's businesses often struggle to find the skilled employees needed to expand.
That's why the Senate approved Senate File 328. It would take a successful community college pilot program statewide.
Working Iowans would receive help earning industry-recognized certificates in welding, nursing and a host of other fields and Iowa's small businesses could fill critical local skill shortages.
Small businesses pay 18 percent more than large businesses for the same health care coverage, and health insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages in the last 10 years.
That's why the Senate unanimously approved Senate File 506 which would have benefited 60,000 Iowa small businesses with 10 or fewer employees by sending them an annual state tax refund to help pay for employee health insurance.
Small wind and small solar projects at homes and businesses mean jobs for local construction firms, plumbers, and electrical, heating and air conditioning contractors, and lower utility bills for families, farmers, and businesses.
That's why the Senate passed Senate File 516, which provides rebates to help jumpstart Iowa's local renewable energy economy.
Distressed buildings on Main Street make it harder for communities to grow.
That's why the Senate approved new state dollars to make it easier for communities to clean-up and revitalize their business districts and industrial parks.
Those are some of the reasons the Senate can say: "Yes, we were serious about helping Iowans recover from the worst recession in more than 50 years."
Helping small businesses grow. That's what we should have focused on during this session.
Unfortunately, the Republicans in charge of the Iowa House had a different agenda.
The Senate's job creation legislation was, for the most part, ignored.
House Republicans decided instead to demand deep, deep cuts to Iowa education at all levels, starting with an unprecedented two-year freeze in state support for local schools, the elimination of statewide, voluntary preschool, and double digit tuition increases at our community colleges and public universities.
At a time when we should have moved aggressively forward on job creation, the Senate was forced to fight furiously to defend the great teachers, students and schools at the heart of our communities and the educational opportunity that makes Iowa workers among the most productive in the world.
I still don't understand why.
Why have we spent the last two months arguing whether Iowa should close successful, high quality preschools for four-year-olds?
Why were so many of Iowa's superintendents, school board members, and parents forced to travel to the Statehouse to patiently explain that putting schools on a starvation diet for two years was a bad idea?
Why did community college students and university students have to endure legislative hostility in order to point out that making it more difficult, more expensive for Iowans to improve their skills was a very, very bad idea?
It wasn't because we didn't have the money.
As I've said many times, our reserve funds are full at $600 million and the current budget is ending with another $400 million in the bank.
Republicans and Democrats rely on the same non-partisan revenue and budget estimates. And as far as I know, two plus two equals four whether you are a Republican or a Democrat.
I wish that the Iowa House and Governor Branstad would have joined the Senate in continuing to make smart investments in education. Then this session could have focused on encouraging small business and creating jobs.
Instead, the state of Iowa was forced into a lengthy, bitter fight to save preschool, to provide a modest increase in state support to local schools THE YEAR AFTER NEXT, and to soften cuts to colleges.
These fights, fights all of which could have been easily avoided, nearly brought Iowa its first ever government shutdown.
That's the question I'll spend the next six months trying to answer.
Because next January, the Senate will be back. Helping small businesses and their employees will again be at the top of our agenda.
Next year, the state's bank accounts will still be overflowing.
Next year, the argument that we are too broke to provide a good future for our kids will be even more baseless than it was this year.
Next year, I hope we will quickly agree that Iowa should continue to be a national leader when it comes to education. I hope we can then complete the work the Senate started this year: growing Iowa's small business and creating more jobs for Iowans.
Here's the closing statement of Republican Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (as prepared):
Thank you Mr. President.
Colleagues, friends and all Iowans:
What a session!
This was truly one for the history books: 6 different months, 25 weeks, 172 calendar days and 91 total days of session.
As we finally close the books on this session, I think history will ultimately view this session as the real beginning of a transformation progression for Iowa.
When the voters spoke last fall, they said they wanted a smaller, more efficient government that taxes less, spends less, promotes an environment where private sector job creation flourishes and encourages freedom, liberty and opportunity.
Republicans have listened to the wishes of the voters and after years of overspending, ever higher taxes and rampant job losses - the tide is beginning to change and a new course is being charted.
Yet, make no mistake - our work does not end today. It is only just beginning and we have a lot of work ahead of us.
When we started this session on that cold January day, Senate Republicans said we wanted to give the citizens back their government and make it more responsive, open and transparent. We said we wanted to spend our time this session focusing on the message the Iowa voters delivered last fall: to concentrate on private sector job creation, remove onerous barriers to economic growth, reduce spending and cut our taxes.
From day one, our mission has been to begin to restore the public trust in government and to move forward on a new and more hopeful agenda.
While there is still much yet to be accomplished when it comes to opening Iowa up for more good paying jobs, we took a major step forward this session by beginning to address the onerous rules and regulations that are holding back job creators and sending jobs across our borders.
Our eleven city "Re-Open Iowa for Business" Rules and Regulations tour generated hundreds of comments, was attended by over 1000 people and truly began to push the conversation toward removing - instead of building up the barriers that are hindering the success of our people.
In the coming weeks, Senate Republicans will be releasing our report on the tour, which will include specific policy and procedure changes that must be implemented to ensure Iowa is friendlier to those who wish to invest in our communities and our workforce.
When it comes to encouraging private sector job creation and the over 100,000 Iowans that are still unacceptably out of work, Senate Republicans look forward to continuing to be a leader on all issues related to job creation.
On jobs, we made progress but there is more that needs to be done.
Though it took the full six months to accomplish, we finally have a budget that funds our core essential services without employing the kinds of reckless budgeting gimmicks that have put our state in financial peril in recent years.
While nobody likes everything about this new budget, it is more sustainable, predictable and spends less than we take in.
As we look to the future, we will continue to work hard to find savings, eliminate waste and offer systemic reforms that will result in a leaner and more efficient delivery of services for the people that elected us to serve as their voice and their vote.
On the budget, we made substantive progress but there is plenty more that can be done.
A leaner budget also goes hand in hand with a more reasonable and responsible tax system.
In order to make our state more competitive for jobs, we must have lower property taxes. Unfortunately, the property taxpayers of Iowa will not get the comprehensive tax reform that they deserve this session.
However, Senate Republicans remain emboldened to do what is right for all classes of property taxpayers.
Whether it is property or income taxes, there is still plenty of work yet to be done to make Iowa more competitive for all of those who wish to call our great state home.
When it comes to our tax code in the future, we have no choice but to make serious reforms.
In addition to the budget, job creation and taxes, there are still challenges that must be addressed in other areas in the coming year.
We must get past the partisan obstructionism and finally address legislation that bans late-term abortions so communities like Council Bluffs can avoid becoming the "Late-Term Abortion Mecca of the Midwest." In addition, it is wrong for Senate Democrats to continue to obstruct a vote of the people on the basic definition of marriage, defying the unmistakable message delivered by the voters last election.
Our work on other important endeavors and reforms in education, health care, energy, agriculture policy and with our natural resources will be part of the conversation in the near future and we can and must always do more to make our government more open and transparent.
We must also challenge ourselves to guarantee sufficient public safety and ensure that we have roads and infrastructure that are safe, reliable and capable of supporting the Iowa economy of the future.
We must work to help those along our western border as they battle the flooding created by the Mighty Missouri. They, like other flooding victims, are a wonderful example of the resiliency and profound sense of community that exists amongst the people of Iowa.
Clearly, Mr. President, can there be any doubt that we have plenty of work ahead of us?
Before I conclude, I want to thank my fellow members of the Senate Republican Caucus for their hard work. I want to thank all of our caucus staff members, the staff of the LSA and Secretary of the Senate's office and our pages and door keepers for their excellent work.
It takes a lot of dedicated people to keep us all on track.
Yet, it also takes real leadership to really put Iowa back on a track of growth and prosperity. I believe we have started down the right path but we can, should and will do more.
Iowans did not elect us to continue the status quo. They elected us to make difficult decisions and to take real steps forward. The future generations of Iowa cannot afford for us to sit idly by while our neighbors and competitors only continue to make the progress we are missing.
We, as elected officials, have been granted an incredible ability to set policy and represent the people of this state. As individuals, we are here to serve the constituents in our districts, but together we must work for the betterment of all.
Every Iowan is unique and special but we all are looking for similar things: a better life and good paying jobs, world class schools and safe communities for their children and a government that lives within its means, promotes liberty and fosters opportunity.
Iowans are blessed with common sense, are hardworking, compassionate, frugal and optimistic about the future. They care about their communities, their schools and their neighbors around them. Our people are smart, they love this state and they want what is best for their families. This exceptional sense of independence, community and self-sufficiency is our bedrock and our lifeblood.
As we look toward the future, let us again unleash the unbridled entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity of the private sector. This state is dotted with manufacturers and small businesses who have served as the foundation of our communities. We must embrace the understanding that the new Iowa economy will be about the things that we can touch, feel, need and use. Never should we allow our valuable agricultural commodities to leave this state to have value added elsewhere.
We could be on the verge of a new economic explosion if we lead with the right vision, take the right approach and move away from the notion that government picking winners and losers is the answer to growing our economy.
We must stay focused on job creation and send a clear message that Iowa is the destination for all those who wish to find success and pursue their dreams.
As legislators, we must never stop trying to renew the boundless potential embodied in all 99 counties.
May God bless you all, our constituents back home and may you always be proud to be an Iowan.
Thank you very much.
Closing statement of Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (as prepared):
I want to begin by saying thank you to all the members of the Iowa House of Representatives. Thank you for the time you've sacrificed away from your families, home and careers; and thank you for your commitment to the people of our great state, this session has certainly been unique.
And, special recognition and thank you to the House Majority Leader, the lady from Hancock, Representative Linda Upmeyer. Madam Leader, your leadership, hard work and resolve during the past six months has been tremendous. House Republicans and Iowans appreciate your tireless efforts.
I'd also like to recognize Representative McCarthy for his leadership and efforts to work in a civil and responsible manner. Having previously served as the Minority Leader, I understand and appreciate the challenges you face.
I also want to thank the leadership staff: Josie, Noreen, Terri, Tony and Matt. Thank you for everything you have done this year.
And, thank you to the House Republican Caucus staff for your thorough and timely policy work. Jeff, Lew, Lon, Brad, Jason, Kristi, Jill, Amanda, Louis and Dustin; you continue to impress me with your knowledge and work ethic and you have served the caucus well.
And, thank you to the Chief Clerk, Charlie Smithson, and the hard work of your staff. Having served in the United States Air Force, I am well aware that in every operation there are individuals essential to its success that are rarely recognized and I thank each of you for your service and ensuring the House runs smoothly.
A special thank you to LSA for all of your hard work as well.
Lastly, thanks to Governor Branstad. I appreciate your leadership and your commitment to accomplishing the goals Iowans elected us to tackle.
As I said, this session has been unique. Unique because the first session of the 84th General Assembly will be recorded as one of the longest lasting sessions in the history of the State of Iowa. It is important to understand why this session has lasted as long as it has.
The short explanation is there are philosophical disagreements among passionate Majority Caucuses. The people of Iowa chose to elect a Republican Governor, Republican House and Democrat Senate. Typically, with a divided government things take a little longer to progress. I do not believe this is necessarily a bad thing because it forces individuals with differing perspectives to engage and work together to find agreement. It is healthy for the process and it is what Iowans expect out of their elected officials.
That said, at the beginning of the year, House Republicans committed to an important set of principles:
• Put Iowans back to work
• make it easier to be an employer in the State of Iowa
• refuse to spend more than the state takes in
• shrink the size, scope and cost of state government
• and give the taxpayers a seat at the table.
Through One Hundred and Seventy Two days we have not wavered from those principals. They have not changed and they will not change.
Make no mistake, there will be long days and hard work ahead in subsequent sessions, hopefully, however, they won't last as long as this one. But if they do, it is because this body will do whatever it takes to conduct the people's work while honoring its principals and commitments.
Staying true to those principals, this chamber has passed legislation to accomplish many positive things for the people of Iowa.
First and foremost, this chamber has provided Iowa employers with the certainty of a pro-growth environment needed to put Iowans back to work.
We stopped the relentless assault on Iowa employers by successfully defending Iowa's Right to Work Law. We also protected Iowans from other previously proposed job killing measures. We sent a powerful message that Iowa is open for business.
We signaled there will be certainty in the tax code and that taxes will not rise under our watch. And, this chamber has been successful in creating a Tax Relief Fund. It is designed to capture surplus one-time dollars and deliver it back to the taxpayer, where they belong. The new fund ensures taxpayers will have a seat at the table for years to come.
We conducted a thorough and thoughtful review of state rules and regulations. We identified red tape that is a burden to doing business and proposed and passed legislation addressing these issues. This is an area where we will focus even more next session.
This chamber has been successful in reining in government spending. State Government no longer spends more than it takes in. As it stands today, the Fiscal Year 2012 budget will spend approximately 95% of total available revenue. While still too much, this is a responsible and sustainable level of spending. Instead of spending $1.18 for each on-going dollar, we now will spend less than .97 cents for each on going dollar.
Controlling spending is not only important for the health of Iowa's economy, but it is also an important piece in providing certainty to Iowa employers. When state government has its fiscal house in order, employers have the confidence to make long-term planning decisions to invest in Iowa and expand their workforce. Because of our actions, employers no longer need to worry about tax increases and other budget gimmicks that threaten job creation.
We have reduced the size of the state bureaucracy. Iowans are better served and get the most out of their hard earned tax dollars when government is lean and efficient. We will continue to find opportunities to ensure essential services like public safety, education and disaster recovery are delivered efficiently without additional layers of bureaucracy.
This body also acted in a bipartisan manner on a host of other issues important to Iowans. The House approved measures to give Iowans the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage, expand renewable and alternative energy sources like nuclear power, cut income taxes, and provide homeowners and business owners with real and meaningful property tax relief.
Clearly, I am disappointed we were unsuccessful in enacting property tax reform measures.
While this body was successful in enacting the largest property tax cut in the history of Iowa - by once again fully funding the K-12 foundation formula and committing to 100% funding on all property tax credits in FY13 - it is not enough. We continue to have some of the highest commercial property taxes in the nation. We will be back here to address this again next year. Iowans have earned meaningful and sustainable property tax relief.
The House passed legislation to provide schools with flexibility to better educate our children and grandchildren, to give Iowans a voice in making their healthcare decisions and to protect life. Regrettably, these issues and many others did not receive a fair hearing in the Iowa Senate. Regardless, we will reconvene next year to work on these issues and others important to Iowans.
None of us expected to be here on June 30th. But sometimes being patient and doing things differently is what it takes to keep your promises. General George Patton once said, "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." Back in January I asked the 60 members of the House Republican caucus to get the state budget back in order and to get government out of the of way of our employers.
We have not only succeeded in that plan but you have impressed Iowans with your drive, determination and ingenuity. Thank you.
Closing remarks of Republican House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (as prepared):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House....
I want to take a moment to thank you all for the selflessness in which you serve Iowans. I know that this session it may have been especially difficult to be away from your families and lives, but you are doing the people's work, and Iowans appreciate your commitment.
To all of the people who keep this chamber running - in particular
LSA and the chief clerk's office your knowledge and hard work is invaluable.
To all of the people who keep the building beautiful and welcoming to Iowans - thank you.
And a special thank you to our staff: Jeff, Lon, Jason, Amanda, Kristi, Lew, Louis, Brad, Dustin, Jill, Matt, Josie, Terri, Noreen and Tony.
To Minority Leader McCarthy and your staff, thank you for working with us when you were able.
When we started this session, were many new faces in the chamber. I think it's safe to say on day 172 that you're all veterans now. Your patience and perseverance has paid off. You know what they say; good things come to those who wait.
At the beginning of the year, House Republicans laid out an aggressive plan to create jobs, craft fiscally responsible budgets, reduce government burdens and regulations and give the taxpayers a seat at the table.
We wasted little time getting started. Our first bill was the Taxpayers First Act. This plan took input from Iowans and put their ideas into action, reducing state spending by over half a billion dollars over three years and would have set aside $383 million in a Tax Relief Fund.
Despite the Senate's rejection of the Taxpayers First Act, we were successful in getting nearly every part of that initial bill written into other legislation, still accomplishing our goals. We knew it would be tough, but we didn't walk away.
I am proud that we established the Taxpayers Trust Fund, which is a landmark achievement on behalf of the taxpayers of Iowa. When the State's revenue exceeds expectations the priority will no longer be to use those funds to grow government. Instead, we will now make sure the money gets back into the pockets of the people who earned it.
If there was one thing that we knew Iowans wanted us to address this year, it was the economy. Too many Iowans are out of work and their government was only making the problem worse. But if you were expecting the House to pass some stimulus or cash-for-clunkers program, you weren't paying attention. Iowans want government to get out of the way.
We hit the streets and gravel roads and set a goal of identifying and eliminating burdensome regulations. Led by the chair of our Rules Committee (thank you Rep. Pettengill), we went to all corners of Iowa, listening to their problems.
We heard from job creators, small business owners and every day Iowans who said the rules and regulations set by government were choking growth and inhibiting progress. We began to address these issues this session and will aggressively do so going forward.
When we convened in January, we faced a nearly billion dollar shortfall built into the budget. This fiscal problem was caused by past bad habits of spending more than the state takes in, using one-time dollars for ongoing expenses and borrowing away our future with increased debt. Addressing this was not going to be an easy task -changing the way government operates never is.
Our solution was to craft a sustainable budget; one that eliminated gimmicks and took an Iowa-commonsense approach to budgeting. It should come as no surprise that this was met with significant pushback and threats to shut down government just to protect the status quo. Through it all, we have stood by our promise and on our principles.
If we want to get serious about putting Iowans back to work, we need to start putting money back into the hands of Iowans and job creators which is why we passed broad-based tax reform that didn't pick winners and losers.
I am disappointed that once again, the Legislature has failed to provide any REAL property tax reform for Iowans. With over 100,000 Iowans out of work, now was not the time to be timid. Property tax reform should benefit all property taxpayers.
Ask yourself this; If Iowa continues to have the second highest commercial property tax rate in the nation, can it also be the home of job growth? Are we sending a signal that employers should invest here?
We want to give businesses of ALL sizes the impetus to hire. It is unfortunate that we conclude this session with another missed opportunity to enact real property tax reform.
Over the coming weeks and months, pundits will want to conclude what this session was or was not. They will speculate on property taxes, government spending, job creation, divided government, and the length of the session.
Whatever the conjecture, the reality is this session was about courageously standing up for Iowans. Whether it was giving them smaller government, their money, or even just a seat at the table, Republicans spent 172 days focusing on, and putting Iowans, first.
I want to thank Governor Branstad for his tireless leadership this session. He and Lt. Governor Reynolds travelled the state talking to Iowans, sharing the message of smaller government and job creation.
Thank you to the members of this chamber and of my caucus, your support and advice is appreciated. To the leadership team, Jeff, Erik, Renee, Steve, Matt and Dave, thank you. You have each been a resource and inspiration when I needed you most.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for your leadership and your friendship during this successful session.
Remarks by Democratic House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House.
Because of the uncertain nature of the shut down, I literally did not prepare any remarks until a few moments ago when Representative Mascher and I scribbled out a few comments on a piece of paper here, so I'll do my best to give a brief, closing speech.
Also, it is 96 degrees outside, I'm told, with a 110 heat index, so I'll be also brief for those reasons, so folks can get on the road.
Let me start by thanking my caucus for electing me as their leader. It has been a great honor to do that.
I also want to thank caucus staff, both the Republican caucus staff and more importantly for me, the Democratic caucus staff. Now I say that because last year, I made a big faux pas. On closing day, the 78th day at noon, I thanked, as Majority Leader, the Republican caucus staff and I did not thank the Democratic caucus staff. Of course I heard about that afterwards, but I do want to say to the body I did not thank the Republican caucus staff because I really wanted to thank them, it was just a Segway to say the name, Jeff Mitchell.
For those newbies who don't know what I'm talking about, you can ask a more senior colleague. I do want to thank our caucus staff. I want to thank door keepers, the sergeant at arms, pages and clerks, Brian and Andrea on my staff, and also working with Republicans, including leadership, Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, Speaker Pro Temp, and all assistant leaders from both sides.
I'm going to start with a little bit of humor before I play the role of the Minority Leader. I remember once, Christopher Rants was asked, and "what kind of minority leader are you going to be?" And he said something to the effect of "well, I've seen several, so it'll depend on the day," and so right now I'll be maybe Dick Meyers or Pat Murphy; I may play that kind of a role. Before the end of the speech, I may turn on my inner Rants.
To start with - what I've learned this year. A little bit of lighthearted humor. I've learned that Mary Mascher lets me know that I forget a lot of things, a lot of details. But I also know that she's more than willing to let me know that. I've learned from Cecil Dolecheck that there is nothing like a good book or books to pass the time. I've learned from Peter Cownie and Vicki Lensing that there is no limit to the number of times you can say on a bill "this is only a corrective amendment."
I've learned from Chuck Isenhart that there is no limit on the number of amendments that a legislator can read and digest in a given session. I've learned from Jeff Kaufmann and Erik Helland that every time I go to the speaker's well, I make sure that the green microphone light is off.
I've learned that no matter who is in control, timing of debate can still be a problem. Four years ago, in a very controversial move, the House Democrats decided to move and lift the ban on sematic nuclear transfer, otherwise known as STEM research. Very heavily opposed by the Catholic Church, and as we came out to debate that bill, I noticed that everyone had a chalk mark on their head. It was Ash Wednesday. This year we debated nuclear power on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl meltdown.
Lastly, I've learned that farmers need GPS systems, but I'm assured by farmers like Dan Muhlbauer, that's it's not because, while farming, they get lost.
On a more serious note, I've learned that the chamber, I hope most of us would agree, needs a lot more bipartisanship. There is too much partisanship that existed this year at the Capitol. The blame is to be spread.
To contrast though, from the House Democrats perspective, for four years when we were in the majority, just as one point of reference, when we were in the majority, just as one point of reference, there was hardly a week that went by that we didn't have a Republican preside over debate in this chamber. Whether it was Representative Lukan or Cownie, or many, many others that presided over the debate, we tried to allow that to happen. There was hardly a day that went by that we didn't have our committee chairs assign a bill to Republicans to floor manage and dozens and dozens were floor managed by the minority party.
This year, from the minority perspective, it has been far too partisan and we have far too many partisan debates. We heard a lot this year about the message from the recent elections. What were the messages of the recent elections? I think it's far more complex, far more complex than what we have heard about this year from the majority party.
Readily admit, nationwide 680 incumbent Democratic legislators lost, 18 legislative chambers flipped from Democrat to Republican control. There's only five Democrat senators left in South Dakota and only five Democrat senators left in New Hampshire. They have trifectas now in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin.
What was the message from the electorate? What was the message here in Iowa? Were voters standing in line in November to eliminate our public preschool system? Were voters standing in line to end our collective bargaining system by establishing free-agency at the discretion of the employer. I don't think so and I think that a lot of these efforts, by this tsunami that occurred, as a result of the tsunami that occurred in November, that voters are starting to pull people back, as they often times do.
We now have governor's poll ratings from states like Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, that are now at the lowest levels in recorded history. We have a special election in the Wisconsin legislature; a reliable, strong Republican seat that a Democrat just won in a landslide. A reliable seat in Congress for New York, formerly held by Jack Kemp; a Democrat just won in a landslide.
What was the message then, last November? I think it's far more complex. I think Iowans and those voters nationally that vote in elections, have had it up to here with our apparent inability to work together to find common ground. Have we given them any hope with how we have shut down this session?
House Democrats want to challenge the majority party, next year, to do better. We will try do better, as well. We want to challenge you to do better. Let's try to resolve our differences, much, much earlier. And remember that Iowa, or Iowans, expect us to work together. We will do our part to work together, to govern together, just like we did last year on government reorganization, which we passed unanimously. But far too often this year, we've had to play the role of the loyal opposition party. We hope we can do better next year.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker and ladies and gentlemen of the House, and I hope everyone has a great summer.
Press release from McCarthy, June 30:
"House Republicans spent too much time focusing on divisive social issues - which brought Iowa to the brink of a government shutdown -- instead of working to help the middle class.
Republicans voted to end the state's job creation efforts while Democrats fought to help small businesses and create good-paying jobs. Republicans wanted to raise property taxes on homeowners to pay for tax breaks for out of state corporations while Democrats reduced taxes for working families and supported a property tax relief plan that benefits small businesses. Republicans voted to kick 20,000 kids out of preschool and wanted to starve our schools for the next two years while Democrats worked to ensure our kids get a quality education.
"Democrats focused on new jobs and opportunities for Iowa families and I'm proud of our work continuing the state's job creation efforts, ensuring our k-12 schools weren't starved for the next two years, and keeping kids in preschool next year."