The Iowa House and Senate began their 2013 session yesterday with the usual welcoming speeches from legislative leaders and the ritual of choosing desks for each lawmaker in the chambers. Judging from this photo, returning legislators get first dibs.
As was the case in 2012, social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage were absent from the opening-day speeches. Republican leaders emphasized the need to cut both property and income taxes. Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen also claimed credit on behalf of Republicans for Iowa's improving fiscal condition. House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer spent a fair amount of time criticizing Congress before calling for state action to improve education and cut taxes. House Speaker Pro Tem Steve Olson repeated some themes of last year's election campaign and quoted U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix concentrated on tax reforms.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal focused on education and workforce training programs to address "Iowa's skill shortage." Senate President Pam Jochum focused on health-related issues: improve mental health services, helping elderly people stay in their own homes, and expanding Medicaid, which she described as "the biggest opportunity for this session to make a positive difference for Iowans." Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy emphasized the need for bipartisan work on a range of issues: education, mental health care delivery, the transition to a new maximum security prison, and protecting natural resources.
Follow me after the jump for excerpts from the opening-day speeches by legislative leaders (as prepared for delivery). I included the full text of Jochum's remarks, because her personal journey says a lot about who she is. Jochum also paid a lovely tribute to former Republican State Senator Pat Ward, who died last year.