Governor Terry Branstad will deliver his annual Condition of the State address to members of the Iowa House and Senate this morning at 10 am. You can watch the speech live on Iowa Public Television's website or on IPTV World (channel 119 on Mediacom in central Iowa). The full text as prepared will be available on the governor's official website.
Judging by yesterday's opening remarks from state legislative leaders, Iowa House Republicans most want to see new tax reform proposals from the governor. Iowa Senate Democrats are most closely watching to see whether Branstad will propose adequate funding for education at all levels, from pre-school to K-12 to community colleges and state universities. I'll update this post later with highlights from the day. Any comments about the governor's speech (content or delivery) or the upcoming legislative session are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Added highlights and some reaction to the "Together We Can" speech below. James Q. Lynch created a graphic showing the words Branstad used most.
Chutzpah alert: Branstad is urging lawmakers to "bring together state agencies that have a shared interest in quality of life initiatives and invest in our parks, trails, lakes and museums." Maybe he's forgotten that the state legislature did that last year, before he vetoed millions of dollars that would have gone toward parks, trails, water quality programs and other amenities.
It's also disappointing that the governor can't quit lying about how many jobs have been created since he returned to public office.
It's encouraging to hear the governor call for stronger efforts to protect victims of domestic violence and end bullying in schools. The devil will be in the details of those proposals. Speaking to Radio Iowa, Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum said "the anti-bullying proposal as well as the anti-domestic violence proposal will get a very good response from the Iowa Senate." But she said the governor's proposed education funding is "less than what we know we need in order to bring Iowa's per pupil spending investment up to at least close the national average." Meanwhile, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen told Radio Iowa that his caucus will continue to look for tax cuts ("a way to for Iowans to leave more of their own money in their pockets").
SECOND UPDATE: As he did last year, the governor called for expanding access to broadband statewide. But strangely, Branstad does not plan to attend President Barack Obama's scheduled January 14 event in Cedar Falls, where the president will "propose plans to increase affordable access to high-speed broadband internet."
LATE UPDATE: Nate Monson, executive director for Iowa Safe Schools, characterized the governor's anti-bullying bill as a "giant leap forward for gay youth" in Iowa. I've enclosed excerpts from his Des Moines Register guest editorial at the end of this post.
Excerpts from Governor Terry Branstad's 2015 Condition of the State address:
Our strength comes from working together and our joint commitment to prudent choices for a better Iowa. [...]
As we return for another legislative session, we return without a military veteran and dedicated public servant. Representative Dwayne Alons will be dearly missed in this great chamber.
I know now, more than ever, the work we do here together matters.
It matters in the lives of hardworking Iowa families and our Main Street businesses. It matters to farmers and farmland. It matters to public safety and our parks.
It matters to Iowa children counting on us to give them a world-class education, who are now benefiting from the phase-in of the most extensive teacher leadership system in the nation.
It matters to the veteran completing their tour of duty. Instead of worrying where they're going to find a career after leaving the service, they're comforted to know that Iowa has thousands of careers available for them right now through Home Base Iowa.
It matters to the hard-working machinist on the line. Rather than thinking the industry had given up on them, they're eager for the opportunity to sharpen their craft and demonstrate their skills through a National Career Readiness Certificate.
It matters that we work together.
These successes should serve as guideposts for a familiar journey of coming together to help Iowans create more jobs, live better lives and grow prosperity throughout our state.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our work together has Iowa on the rise.
In the past four years:
168, 700 jobs have been created (note from desmoinesdem: that's a fake number)
Iowa's unemployment rate has been slashed by nearly 30%
Over $9 billion in private capital investment has located in Iowa
We passed the largest tax cut in our state's history, which through a close collaboration between the Iowa Department of Revenue and county government, is being implemented throughout the state, and
We invested historically in our children's future through transformational education reform.
And we did it by working together.
Together, during the 2014 legislative session, we worked across partisan lines to pass a historic Home Base Iowa package that attracts veterans leaving the military service to Iowa to fill the high-quality careers available here.
Our actions are working.
Today, over 600 veterans have been matched with jobs in Iowa through our Home Base Iowa initiative. Eight cities and counties have become Home Base Iowa Communities, standing ready to embrace veterans and their families as they transition to civilian life and eight college campuses have earned the Home Base Iowa CHAMPS designation for their commitment to welcoming service members to campus.
Already, our work together has resulted in over 24,000 jobs being posted on the Home Base Iowa jobs bank.
Our work to pass Home Base Iowa is bringing new business to the state, as well. Earlier this month I met one of the owners of Capital Armament Company.
A former United States Marine, he informed me that the company will be relocating from Minnesota to Sibley, Iowa, in part because of our Home Base Iowa program and friendly business environment.
Simply put, by working together, we've ensured that veterans leaving the service have boundless opportunities to live, work and prosper in Iowa. Our work demonstrates that no veteran should have to worry about finding a job after sacrificing so much for our state and our nation.
Our work, through the Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training program, the Skilled Iowa Initiative and the National Career Readiness Certificate, among other initiatives, helped hard-working Iowans move forward.
Unlike past years when tuition was raised by over 17 percent, we worked together to pass a tuition freeze for Iowa students at our Regents universities.
Our work has put us on a bright, sustainable path. Our budget is balanced, our state maintains a budget surplus, our economic emergency accounts are fully funded and our unemployment rate is the 10th lowest in the nation.
And we've done it together.
With our continued progress, we must continue to be mindful of the prudent budgeting that brought us the opportunity to reinvest in our children and return taxpayers' hard-earned money. Through careful management, we can continue to grow, even if we encounter choppy waters.
We must continue following the lead of our fellow Iowans. Like the nearly 40 farmers who came together in Northwest Iowa in October with eight combines, six dump carts and a dozen trucks to help harvest the beans for their fallen friend.
The message that rings out today, and always in Iowa is, "Together, we can."
Together we can we can make our schools safer. We can continue implementing transformational education reform while passing new measures to protect our students from bullying and harassment in schools.
Together we can strengthen our rural infrastructure by connecting every acre in Iowa to high-speed Internet. Better access to broadband means ensuring modern farming methods can flourish in all Iowa fields as part of a modern infrastructure.
Strengthening our infrastructure also means we must come together and strengthen the roads and bridges that connect our farmers, schools and Main Street businesses to the world.
We can make college more affordable and accessible for Iowans. We can renew our commitment to providing affordable world-class education at our Regents universities by offering select degrees for $10,000 and again freezing tuition for Iowa students.
We can provide more assistance to Iowa students with financial needs attending our outstanding independent colleges and universities.
Let's continue to invest in our community colleges, including skilled training for Iowa workers. A better-trained workforce means better opportunities for Iowa families. Simply put, no position in our state should be left unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers.
Together we can make Iowa the most transparent government in the land. We can offer Iowa taxpayers a new transparency portal, making state government more open, accessible and easier to navigate.
Together, we can accomplish this forward-thinking plan of action. We have these opportunities to improve the quality of life in our state because together we made it possible.
In the fall of 2014, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, my wife Chris and I had the opportunity to visit Sioux City, North Linn and Marshalltown school districts to discuss the important topic of preventing bullying in Iowa schools.
We were pleased to be joined at each stop by students, teachers, parents, school administrators, legislators and community leaders. What we heard at each school was clear - students are ready to stand up and say: "Let's end bullying in Iowa."
Now, it's our turn.
Students in these districts, and from around the state, have told their stories of learning being disrupted and feeling unsafe. What's worse, we know some students are even being physically and emotionally harmed.
Community leaders and parents shared that it was time for the state to act.
Every day, children in Iowa schools are tormented by bullies. The bullies attack at school and on the Internet. They lurk not just in corners of the schoolhouse but also on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak and through text messaging.
Iowa common sense tells us that every child in Iowa deserves to go to school each and every day in a safe and respectful learning environment. They deserve a classroom and community that allows them to grow and flourish, not live in fear of when and where the bully will strike again.
This is the year that we stand up to the bully. We can't wait any longer. Please join Lt. Governor Reynolds, my wife Chris and me in standing up against bullying!
Together we can end bullying in Iowa, together we can protect our students and our schools from bullies.
The Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015 that I propose today gives parents more information by requiring parental notification. However, I am proposing an extra layer of protection for students.
This year's anti-bullying legislation allows for an exception from notification if a bullied student and a school official believe that parental notification could lead to abuse, neglect or rejection.
The legislation also launches a bullying prevention program, by empowering student mentors to take ownership of anti-bullying efforts in their schools.
The bill allows a student, who changes schools due to bullying, to immediately participate in athletics. The legislation will also provide investigator training for schools.
Together we can make 2015 the year Iowa acted to protect our children and grandchildren by ending bullying in schools.
Moving Iowa forward also means ensuring our schools and communities stay safe and our families feel protected. It means we must do more to protect victims of domestic abuse. Now, domestic abusers can serve a fraction of their sentence and return to demonizing their victims.
This is wrong. It is wrong for the victims and it is the wrong policy for the safety and wellbeing of Iowans.
Let's work together to pass additional measures ensuring victims do not live in fear of their abuser returning from prison long before the sentence is completed.
Today, I propose legislation classifying anyone convicted of domestic abuse three times as a habitual offender. This classification would triple the mandatory minimum sentence.
This legislation holds criminals accountable for their abuse, allows them ample time to rehabilitate and protects our communities.
While victims and communities will be protected from habitual offenders, together we can protect vulnerable Iowans from individuals making criminal threats.
Often times, Iowa courts order a threatening individual to stay away from a potential victim, but should the order be violated, the victim and authorities are not notified until after the fact. Sometimes, when it's too late.
Together we can give authorities and victims the power of knowing when an abuser is in close proximity. Together we can enact legislation that expands the use of GPS monitoring on dangerous domestic abusers.
Together we can protect victims of domestic violence. Together we can work to end bullying in Iowa.
The fabric of our state is woven together by the gravel roads and the interstate system, but in this day and age it also must be connected through access to broadband as well.
This legislative session, let's come together and pass legislation allowing rural Iowa to experience continued growth and connection to the rest of Iowa and the rest of the world.
Together, let's put partisan politics aside and give rural Iowa the broadband legislation that connects every acre and connects communities to the careers of the 21st century.
Our Connect Every Acre plan focuses on providing more broadband to rural Iowa and encourages service providers to build out networks not just to the ending point, but to the rural communities in between. Between Davenport and Des Moines, between Mason City and Sioux City and all across Iowa, we are enriched by many rural communities.
Let's weave them together with the fiber of high-speed Internet, connecting every acre and covering our state with broadband Internet.
We can accomplish this together by focusing on:
Increasing access through reasonable regulations encouraging growth, and
Fostering expansion by creating the Iowa Farms, Schools and Communities Broadband Grant Program.
Adopting these measures demonstrates an ongoing commitment to our state's continued growth. With some of the most fertile land in the world, citizens with exceptional work ethic and a strong sense of community pride, rural Iowa has boundless opportunities.
Together, we can adopt measures to connect every acre and give them yet another reason to believe their best days are ahead.
Building a better Iowa means building Iowa for the future. It means investing in our state's infrastructure. So let's invest in broadband Internet.
And, let's also invest in Iowa's roads and bridges.
Over the past few years, rhetoric has trumped results when it has come to action for infrastructure funding for Iowa.
A recently completed Battelle study demonstrates the need for us to take a hard look at adequate road funding. The study shows that without action, funding available for road and bridge maintenance will fall short of what is needed to remain competitive and, more importantly, safe.
Without action, Iowa's roads and bridges face an uncertain future. Our farmers will find it more difficult in delivering commodities to market.
Business and industry will look elsewhere when considering where to invest and grow. As the study found, sound infrastructure remains a prerequisite for economic development.
This is our opportunity to pave the road toward Iowa's strong future. Together, we can find common ground and pass a bipartisan plan to fund the systems critical to our state's vitality: Iowa's roads and bridges, and our broadband infrastructure.
Building an infrastructure as strong as the future that we all want for Iowa must be a bipartisan priority this legislative session!
Together, we can establish the Center for Human Capital Enrichment, a public-private partnership, dedicated to aligning education and training of Iowa workers. With a stronger workforce in place, we'll bring more manufacturing and highly-skilled jobs to our state.
Let's lift up the Iowa worker. We can help companies like Omaha Standard Palfinger, who are ready to expand and fill more jobs in Iowa.
Our state budget is tight, that is no secret. Iowans rightly expect predictability and stability in state government. They also rightly expect our state budget to reflect their priorities.
The biennial budget I propose today is balanced, works within our five-year projections and still freezes tuition for Iowa students at our state universities for the third straight year!
Freezing tuition for the third consecutive year is a bold step in providing an affordable higher education in Iowa. But our path doesn't end there.
That's why we challenged Iowa's Board of Regents to develop a plan that offers students a set of degrees that they can earn for $10,000.
In addition, I am offering legislation creating the Iowa Student Debt Reorganization Tax Credit. This tax credit allows individuals to volunteer for worthy causes and in exchange have contributions made toward their student debt.
We've worked together to freeze tuition, now let's continue to take the right steps in making Iowa a leader in reducing student debt.
Iowans rightly expect high-quality for the money they spend on education as well as a government that reflects our shared values.
Together, we worked to increase transparency in government, making it as open and honest as the people of our great state.
We created the Iowa Public Information Board to give the public a resource when seeking information from local and state government. I'm pleased to report the Public Information Board has responded to 643 cases in the last fiscal year.
More and more, the inquiries are not complaints, but rather questions from policy makers about how they can be more transparent. The Iowa Public Information Board is making every layer of government more open.
This year, I'm recommending that Iowa establish a Government Accountability Portal - a one-stop-shop for citizens seeking information.
The portal, housed within the Public Information Board, will field requests and respond within one business day. As state employees, we are here to serve the taxpayers.
Iowa can do more to improve government transparency. For many years, the people of Iowa, who fund state government, have been kept in the dark on personnel decisions because of a loophole in Iowa's open records law.
I was pleased last year when the Iowa House passed bipartisan legislation that would shine light on these personnel files.
A substantiated offense, while a government employee is being paid by the taxpayers, should not be hidden in the shadows.
Together, in the best interest of taxpayers, we can shine light on these records and make our state government even more open, honest and transparent.
As I travel the state, I marvel at the endless beauty of our landscape. When I visit all 99 counties, it never ceases to amaze me what local communities are doing to continually improve their main streets and local quality of life.
From the High Trestle Trail bridge near Madrid, to the revitalization of downtown Cedar Rapids. From the Lewis and Clark State Park along the banks of the Missouri River to the Historic Millwork District in Dubuque near the Mississippi River. Our land between two rivers offers our citizens a high quality of life and our visitors many attractions.
But as Lt. Governor Reynolds and I continue to work to bring more business and industry to the state, we hear that companies are interested not only in our welcoming business climate, but also a high quality of life for their employees.
This year, I am proposing Iowa NEXT, a holistic plan for quality of life initiatives across the state. Let's bring together state agencies that have a shared interest in quality of life initiatives and invest in our parks, trails, lakes and museums.
When a challenge arrives, we Iowans get to work. We know that by working together we can find a solution to any problem.
The 86th General Assembly is upon us. With it, comes an opportunity.
Working together and moving forward is the Iowa Way.
Let's come together again to make our schools stronger and safer, our communities more connected, our families better protected, our workers better trained, our universities more affordable and our government the most transparent in the United States.
Now is the time to get to work. Together, we can build a better Iowa.
Thank you. God Bless You. And God Bless the State of Iowa.
Excerpts from "Giant leap forward for gay youth," an op-ed by Nate Monson in the January 15 Des Moines Register:
However, in a positive development during Gov. Terry Branstad's Condition of the State address, he included sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as exceptions to the parental notification requirement if the student fears rejection, abuse or neglect from their family. Iowa Safe Schools met with the governor's staff last year on this issue, and it is clear that he listened to our concerns.
This inclusion is a giant leap forward in the LGBTQ community and a monumental step toward protecting youth in schools across the state.
I have seen LGBTQ youth thrown out of their homes simply because they have come out to their families. I have personally worked with students in identifying resources, shelters, and making a plan about what to do next. The conservative estimate from most research is that 20 percent of all homeless youth in America identify as LGBTQ and some cities report that number as high as 60 percent.
Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds deserve credit for adding this provision in an effort to ensure LGBTQ youth are protected. During the 10th Annual Iowa Safe Schools Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth on April 3 , we are hosting workshops from experts to discuss the implications of LGBTQ homeless youth in rural Iowa and how to stop the trend from continuing in 2015. Workshops also include Iowa laws and proposed legislation and its direct impact on LGBTQ students including bullying and harassment.