Opening Day speeches in the Iowa House

The Iowa House convenes this morning and the first order of business was to elect Representative Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) as House Speaker.  He is speaking at this moment.  His prepared remarks are below the jump, followed by the prepared remarks of Representative Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines) who is serving as House Majority Leader then remarks from Representative Christopher Rants (R-Sioux City) the House GOP Leader.

House Speaker Patric J. Murphy Opening Day Remarks (as prepared)
82nd General Assembly

First off I want to thank my wife Teri for supporting me through many long campaigns, along with my four children Jake, John, Joe and Natalie who are all here with me today.I also want to thank my parents, particularly my dad, Larry Murphy, Sr., as well as my father-in-law and my sister, and my campaign treasurer and manager. They and many others have helped me over the years, and I owe them alot.

I also want to thank House members for entrusting me to this position. I will endeavor to preside over this body in a manner that is fair and bipartisan. We recently had an election. In elections, somebody wins and somebody loses. But the election is over, and now it’s time to govern. We need to put aside our differences and work together for the good of Iowa. We have more in common than we have differences, so let’s build upon what we have in common.

I think we all agree that the American Dream is the opportunity to prosper – to be educated, to have satisfying work, to own a home and raise a family, to give back to the community, and to retire securely. But the American Dream is not a guarantee. Achieving the dream requires old-fashioned Iowa values like sacrifice, accountability, fairness, and self-reliance.

I believe in the American Dream and in creating opportunities for Iowans to reach it. The Plan for Prosperity, which will be our roadmap this year, will harness the strength of our schools, our economy, and our natural resources with the values of Iowans to create a force for progress.

The “Plan for Prosperity” focuses on three major areas – improving learning from childhood through college; making Iowa the environmental “Green State”; and rewarding hard work.

Prosperity begins with a quality education and strong parental involvement. Children must be prepared to enter our schools, challenged with a rigorous K-12 curriculum, and taught by highly-qualified teachers. Higher education must be within the financial grasp of every Iowa student.

Our goal is to raise teacher salaries to at least 25th in the nation within five years. We must insist that teachers are certified in the subjects they teach and that students who are falling behind will get remedial help. We must provide state universities with sufficient funding so that tuition increases do not exceed the normal rate of inflation. And we must restore state support for work-study programs.

Iowa has energy alternatives – soy-based diesel, biomass, and wind energy – that can strengthen our economy, make a cleaner environment, create good jobs, and lessen reliance on foreign oil.

Our goal must be to establish Iowa as “The Green State” – internationally recognized for its alternative and renewable energy leadership. To that end, we intend to develop the nation’s first bio-refinery for the next generation of ethanol technology and significantly increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources.

We must make Iowa a leader in the manufacture of alternative energy production equipment. We should create a private partnership to commercialize alternative fuels research and technology. It is also essential that we secure Iowa’s food supply against catastrophic diseases and bio-terrorism.

Finally, we must assure that no one who works full-time is living in poverty. Right now, many hardworking Iowa families can barely make ends meet due to low wages and inadequate health care coverage. Similarly, main street businesses struggle with high commercial property taxes that stifle growth.

The Plan for Prosperity addresses the needs of small businesses and working families and offers hope for Iowans working hard to be successful. I hope we can all support legislation to raise the minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour. It has been 15 years since we last raised the minimum wage and there are over 100,000 Iowans currently making the minimum wage, 70% of whom are heads of household. This will be the first bill introduced and passed this year in the Iowa House. In addition, we must improve worker training programs at community colleges so that Iowans wanting to enhance their job prospects can acquire the skills they need.

On the business end, we must enable small businesses to pool their purchasing power and lower the cost of providing health insurance to their employees. And we must find a way to reduce property taxes on Iowa businesses without shifting the burden onto homeowners and farmers.

This is an ambitious agenda, but one that rewards hard work and makes it easier for Iowans to fulfill their dreams in Iowa. With this plan, all of Iowa’s greatest assets can be fit together to reach a common goal for all Iowans – prosperity.

I look forward to working with all of you, the Senate and Governor-elect Culver to make this plan a reality. Thank you.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Opening Day Remarks
82nd General Assembly

Thank you Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House.

As the new Majority Leader, I want to acknowledge the outstanding work of my predecessor, Representative Gipp. Representative Gipp, you ran a first-rate office. As a leader, you were fair and open and you listened to all members, regardless of party. Thank you. Representative Rants, I enjoyed our meeting last week and look forward to working with you. If our meeting last week was an indication of things to come, I think you will agree that we can develop a good working relationship. I will do my best to keep you and your caucus informed on the bills we will be debating.

Like all of us here, we would not have been elected without the strong support of our friends and family and I want to acknowledge and thank my family that are present…my wife Marcy and our four-year old daughter Kennedy and my father and mother, Bill and Linda McCarthy.

Prior to this year, for most of the past few decades, voters in Iowa chose to have divided Government…where one political party controlled one or more chambers of the legislature and a different political party controlled the executive branch. After choosing divided government, we were always told that the resulting message Iowans were sending was that they wanted bipartisan cooperation…that the message of divided control was that they wanted both parties to work together for the common good. But, we do not have a divided government this year. For the first time in four decades the Democrats control the House, Senate and the Executive Branch. If divided government equaled a message of cooperation for us as elected officials, what then is the message that voters sent to us this year where only one party now controls? Do we now have leave to abandon bi-partisanship? Is that the message voters gave us? Should we in the majority party avoid difficult bi-partisan work to instead take the easy road and utilize the structural power that we now have to accomplish our goals?

We know intuitively, of course, that this was not the message voters gave us this year at all. Rather, we know that now, probably more than any other time in our state’s history; Iowans want us to put aside our petty differences and to resist the easy temptation to slip back into partisan bickering.

After last fall’s campaigns, this may be harder than we would all like to admit. Several of you have just come off hard-fought, negative political campaigns. Some campaigns were so negative that it left the candidates involved longing for the good old days of negative campaigning where the opponents merely distorted each other’s records. We need to improve the tone of our political discourse. Why? Because it is desperately needed and it is the right thing to do. I believe the challenge this session for us in the majority party is to recognize that always traveling down the easy road of using our new power will not be as productive as the more difficult road is of bi-partisanship. The challenge for all of us here this year is to recognize that no one party has sole monopoly on the truth and that more often than not…the best legislation springs, not from partisan conflict, but from our work across party lines. This will not be easy, but we all know that in the long-run the easy road is never the best course to take. Let’s all commit to take the road less traveled and to take that more difficult journey…together. Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Christopher Rants’ Opening Day Speech
January 8, 2007

Thank you Mr. Speaker; Mr. Speaker, Ladies & Gentlemen of the House, Friends and Families.

“Truth is the glue that holds government together.  Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.” That is how President Gerald Ford described the two basic elements needed to operate an effective government.  It is as true today as it was thirty years ago.

Adhering to Ford’s analysis would serve us all well as next few weeks will be a period of adjustment for everyone in this chamber; for some it’s the adjustment of serving for the first time in the people’s House, for some it will be the challenge of accepting a new role of responsibility serving in the majority, and for we Republicans it will be the challenges of our new role as the loyal opposition.

One way to find that compromise, or that oil that makes government go, is to start out on common ground – an area where we have already found compromise.  Last year we began the year in a bi-partisan fashion when Representatives Kuhn and Raecker co-sponsored HF 2002.  This was the first bill debated by the appropriations committee, and it passed the full House in January. HF 2002 requires that the Senior Living Trust be repaid $300 million dollars.  That bill had unanimous support in this chamber.  I would hope there would be unanimity again as we now have a unique opportunity to make the Senior Living Trust whole by transferring our FY07 budget surplus – after the reserves are filled at ten percent – to refill the trust fund. This can be accomplished without impacting the budget for FY 08 we are about to begin working on. We have all said that we support that measure, we now have the funds, and the opportunity to do so.  Mr. Speaker, I would respectfully ask that we be allowed to honor that promise.

Republicans will be working this session to honor other promises that we have made.  Like repaying the Senior Living Trust Fund, several are promises that Democrats made as well.  Adopting a mechanism to allow small businesses to pool their employees to purchase health insurance was a campaign theme for both caucuses.  You may expect that Republicans will, in the manner of any true loyal opposition, bring our suggestions and ideas to the public debate. For example, Republicans suggest that all employees be allowed to participate – not just 10 percent.  Nor do we believe that allowing pooling for only a short period of time will serve those wanting to pool their employees well, rather we need a permanent solution. Additionally, Republicans believe wellness is key to driving down health costs.  Changes to drive individual businesses to create a healthy workforce and family must happen.  A simple change in Iowa law would allow small group plans to have differing premiums for smokers and nonsmokers.  These kinds of “smart change” must occur with pooling if we are to produce results.

Limiting the crushing effect commercial property taxes are having on Iowa’s entrepreneurs is also on the Republican agenda.  Speaker Murphy, I couldn’t agree more when you said, “this is the single biggest economic development issue for current existing businesses in this state.”  I’m with you.  But so far, I haven’t heard a proposed solution – other than more study.  The last thing business owners need is another study.  The last thing homeowners need is to become the new victims.  There is an old adage, when you are in a hole and need to get out of it, the first thing you do is to stop digging.  If we are going to improve Iowa’s property tax climate, then the first step must be to limit the growth.  To the Democrats who supported last biennium’s HF 847, you know where the answer lies.  If you are still interested in actually limiting the growth of property taxes, and not just shifting the burden to someone else, Republicans are here and ready to help – again, filling the role of the loyal opposition.

Earlier I spoke about starting out on common ground.  Unfortunately one place that common ground will not exist is when Democrats pursue an agenda for which you do not have a public mandate. Gutting Iowa’s Right to Work Law thru any type of forced unionism was not part of your pre-election agenda.  We can’t find it in any of your mailings, tv ads, or newspaper advertisements – yet it was rolled out the week following the election on Iowa public television.

Make no mistake; if you didn’t campaign on it, you don’t have a mandate for it.  Raising the minimum wage – Democrats have a mandate.  Forcing non-union members to pay union dues – Democrats have no mandate.   Expanding job training at community colleges, mandate.  Taking away an individual’s right to choose whether or not to participate in a political organization – no mandate.  6% allowable growth for schools, mandate. Destroying Iowa’s business climate – no mandate.

There is nothing “fair” about forcing individuals to pay dues to a union or any organization they do not choose to belong to.  The first half of Iowa’s motto is, “our liberties we prize” – attacking our Right to Work Law is an attack on those liberties.  If Democrats pursue that course, you can expect Republicans to hold fast to the rest of our motto – our rights we will maintain.

More than two centuries ago, Samuel Adams observed, “It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in people’s minds.”  If Democrats pursue this course of action, expect Republicans to be tireless in our opposition.

Mr. Speaker, I hope it doesn’t come to that.  There is plenty of common ground and plenty of work to do there.  Alternative energy, for instance, is an important issue to both of our members.  I can’t think of a greater tribute to Representative Mary Lou Freeman, who unexpectedly passed away this fall, than to continue her work creating opportunities for Iowa farmers to raise not just corn and beans, but megawatts and ethanol.  Much progress has been made in the last two years, but we must be ever mindful that technology changes, and Iowa must be on the leading edge in developing the next generation of bio based fuels, and more importantly developing a method of storing the vast amounts of energy generated across the windy plains of northern Iowa.  Two ways to stay ahead of the curve are to invest in the research arms of our universities and empower the private sector to dictate the direction of that research. If there is one decision I would change from last session, it would be the make up of the Battelle Board, and who guides the research.  Representative Wise, Representative Huser – I should have heeded your advice.  Should you want to change the course we are on now, I would be glad to assist you in that effort.

I know that some of you are waiting for the T.R. quote – and others of you are just waiting for me to quit talking.  Well, not today.  But don’t worry, I’ll be quoting Roosevelt often enough this year.  You see, Roosevelt began his career in elective office in 1882 as a member of the New York General Assembly.  During his tenure in the people’s house he made his mark by often rising during the heat of debate from the back of the chamber on procedural points of order, shouting to get the attention of the Speaker.  I trust, Mr. Speaker, that pushing my button will suffice – shouting won’t be necessary.

Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen, congratulations again on your individual victories.  Great challenges await us all, and I look forward to the opportunity to work with each and every one of you.  Mr. Speaker, Republicans are ready to go to work.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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