Iowa Senate leaders’ opening statements

Here are the prepared remarks from Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs and Senate GOP Leader Mary Lundby of Marion.

Text of remarks by Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal

Mr. President, colleagues and staff.  Welcome to the Eighty-Second General Assembly in the Iowa Senate.

Two years ago, the people of Iowa changed how we do things in the Iowa Senate.  They did so by electing a tied Senate for the first time in 72 years, something which forced both parties to work together. 

That meant that here in the Senate we had to listen.  We had to listen to each other and find common ground, and we had to listen to Iowans.  We had to focus on the issues that really matter to working families.

The results were impressive.  We passed America’s toughest anti-meth law and dramatically reduced the number of meth labs in our state.  We toughened penalties and supervision of sex offenders. 

We approved several measures to support veterans and active duty Iowans.  Our bipartisan water quality initiative is helping clean up Iowa’s polluted waterways.  We instituted strong government accountability measures in the wake of the CEITC outrage.

We passed the nation’s strongest effort to promote alternative fuels, expanded health care for Iowans, cut taxes for seniors and retirees, and took steps forward on teacher pay and student achievement.

I think people liked how we did business during the last two years.  And I think their approval was reflected in last November’s election. 

That election was a mandate.  It was a mandate for the Senate to keep listening and to keep working to bring people together, both here in the Senate and in Iowa’s communities. 

I’m optimistic that we will work together to pass major legislation that strong majorities of Iowans want. 

For example, we know protecting Iowa’s status as the state with great educational opportunities is key to our future growth and prosperity.  The single most important factor in a student’s success is the quality of the classroom teacher.  We have great teachers, but we pay them as if they were ineffective teachers.  That’s why other states see Iowa schools as a great place to recruit the teachers needed to improve the schools in their states.

This is the year to keep the promises repeatedly made by both Republican and Democratic legislators to Iowa’s students, parents and teachers.  This session, I expect to vote for the Senate or House file that will finally keep our promises by bringing the average pay of Iowa teachers up from 40th in the nation to 25th in the nation.

Soon it will be 10 years since Iowa’s lowest paid workers have had a raise.  10 years.  What difference will raising the minimum wage make?  To most Iowans, the answer is “Not much.”  But to the 100,000 to 125,000 Iowans who earn the minimum wage—70% of whom are family breadwinners—raising the minimum wage will make a big difference. 

A strong majority of Iowans know this.  I think if both chambers had voted on the minimum wage last year, an increase would have passed.  It is a shame we didn’t have the chance to stand together on this issue, and a shame that Iowa’s lowest paid workers had to wait yet another year for raise. 

This year, we will vote on the minimum wage and Iowa will be a better place because of it.

Too many Iowans live without health insurance.  This makes life more difficult for them and makes health care more expensive for everyone.  Through programs like hawk-i, we’ve brought tens of thousands of previously uninsured children into the health care system. 

Now it is time to bring their working parents into the system as well.  The moral argument is straightforward and, when the federal government is ready to pay 2/3 to ¾ of the cost, the financial argument in favor of expanding health care is also strong.

Last session’s successful alternative energy industry initiatives should be the model for a continued bipartisan focus on growing Iowa’s economy.  For example, we should review every economic proposal to insure that it aids both rural and urban communities.  We need to continue a comprehensive approach that addresses the needs of workers seeking skills to move ahead.  We have seriously underfunded Iowa’s community colleges, making it much more difficult for them to offer training programs which fit the needs of their local industries.

I’m excited about the next two years.  I’m ready to build on the last two years of bipartisan cooperation.  We’ve seen what works and so have the voters. 

Let’s pay attention to the mandate the voters have given us. Let’s keep listening, keep looking for common ground and keep focused on the concerns and dreams of Iowa families.


Iowa Senate Minority Leader Mary Lundby (R-Marion) today delivered the following remarks on the opening day of the 82nd General Assembly:

Thank you Mr. President,

Mr. President, Senators and our esteemed guests, welcome to the Senate and the beginning of the 82nd General Assembly.  To the newly elected Senators, I offer my sincere hope for a good and productive session; and to those returning to the place we know and, on occasion, enjoy, I wish you all a good and productive session, as well. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I have taken the opportunity to read past speeches given by the “man with unseen power, the most powerful Iowa politician”,   Senator Mike Gronstal, the new Senate Majority leader.   Senator Gronstal offered many words of wisdom in those speeches and I have a few quotes that I thought truly set the right tone going into the 82nd General Assembly.

Quoted from Senator Mike Gronstal’s opening remarks to the 77th GA:

“In my campaign last fall, while knocking on thousands of doors, I never heard a citizen suggest that we needed Republican solutions…and I also never heard one say we needed Democratic solutions.  They expect us to listen to each other and recognize that neither party has all the answers and together we can find common sense solutions to the challenges that confront us.” 

How true, Senator Gronstal. 

And this quote from the opening of the 78th GA:

“After a contentious campaign, it is hard, at times, to forget that elections are about defining differences between ourselves and our opponents, but governing is about finding common ground to deal with the issues that face our state.” 

Once again, Senator Gronstal, you speak the truth.

And this one from the 80th GA:

“ History tells us that we are at our best in the Iowa Legislature when we sit down, resolve our differences, and move ahead with confidence and boldness. When we are together and bold, the people of Iowa – whether Republican or Democrat – are the winners.” 

I want Senator Gronstal to know, from day one, we agree.

Of course, bi-partisanship serves the best interest of all Iowans.  And with ten years of comments indicating your continuing support for Democrats and Republicans working together, I am looking forward to a session where we produce good, balanced bipartisan policy. 

And make no mistake; Republicans intend to bring our constituents voices to the table.  We will work with Democrats when legislation represents the best interest of all Iowans.

When Senate Democrats propose legislation that takes a pragmatic approach to the environment, understanding the need for balance between agriculture, small business and quality of life, Senate Republicans will work with you. 

When Senate Democrats propose legislation that returns our budget surpluses to the taxpayers and not squandered on unnecessary expansion of state government, Senate Republicans will work with you. 

When Senate Democrats propose legislation that supports a common sense approach to public safety, which will maintain our ranking as the 2nd safest state in the country, Senate Republicans will work with you. 

When Senate Democrats propose legislation that boldly addresses our crisis in property tax policy through full scale reform and not simple shifts in the property tax burden that represents a stop-gap approach, Senate Republicans will work with you. 

When Senate Democrats propose legislation to increase teacher salaries, to treat teachers as professionals and not a mere bargaining unit, and insist on accountability, standards and results, Senate Republicans will work with you. 

When Senate Democrats propose legislation that helps all Iowans access affordable health care and assists small businesses by providing private sector solutions to health care, Senate Republicans will work with you. 

Senate Republicans whole heartedly agree with Majority Leader Gronstal’s long term goal of creating a bipartisan environment in the Iowa Senate.  I look forward to the long days in this session where Democratic and Republican bills and amendments will find equal time on the floor, where the debate on the Senate floor will be engaging and bipartisan and where good policy is made that reflects the best, bipartisan interests of all Iowans.

It is possible to find the middle ground and build a long list of accomplishments during this first session of the 82nd General Assembly, it simply requires that we listen to each other with optimism, hope and enough curiosity to find our common interests.  I wish you all good health and a happy and productive legislative session.  Let’s get to work! 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.