Under the Golden Dome, Too

With the adjournment of the 2014 legislative session, the work of the 85th General Assembly is complete.

In my role as the Majority Leader, I had the privilege to provide closing remarks at the end of this year's session. 

During those remarks, I noted that at the beginning of the 85th General Assembly, back in January 2013, I spoke about my concern that Iowans were losing faith in government. This arose from the gridlock that has consumed Washington, D.C. Each night you can turn on the television and watch pundits and politicians arguing about blame when we really need to be coming together to talk about solutions.

It's the kind of culture in the federal government that has Iowans doubting that elected officials can come together and tackle issues head on.  Our challenge was to show Iowans that we could do better.

So how did we do that?

We did it by taking on an issue like property tax growth that has been unresolved for years.  We have long known that the growth in property taxes was unsustainable for homeowners and that it was discouraging job growth. This General Assembly we stepped up and passed the largest tax cut in state history. We tried to show Iowans that they can have faith in state government when we did more than talk about improving our children's education system.  Instead of lip service when it comes to education reform, we stepped up and truly innovated.  The newly implemented teacher-leadership model broke the mold of how we look to improve student achievement and will help us compete with an increasingly global challenge.

After a couple years of strong fiscal discipline, some may have assumed we would slip back into the bad budgeting practices of the past.  Rather than doing that, we kept our commitment to commonsense budgeting principles.  As a result, we are spending less than we take in and sending more money back to you, the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa.

A few short years ago, the state racked up unprecedented debt.  While the federal government burdens future generations with their borrowing, we chose to go a different direction.  Over the last two sessions, we have paid off over $200 million in debt early and ensured a stronger financial future for Iowa.

Doing the easy thing and the right thing are rarely the same thing.  There is no better example of that than what Iowans sent us to the Legislature to do.  Iowans expect us to come together, in a bipartisan manner, and get work done.  While I am proud we have done this, this session we were also reminded how fragile this can be.  At times this year there were efforts to campaign through our committees, namely the Government Oversight Committee.  When that happens, it becomes hard to distinguish our process from the one in D.C.

Rather than considering HF 2462, a bill passed in the House with bipartisan support that provides greater accountability and transparency in state government, the Senate Majority party instead chose to play politics with the issue. For example, the state government worker exclusion list was politicized in the Senate. At the very least, Iowans expect thoroughness and competence from their state government.  Maintaining a list of individuals ineligible for service with the state reflects that.  Everyone would agree that an employee who commits lewd conduct or physical abuse in one state workplace, should not be rehired in another state workplace.  These are examples of the people included on the list. Thankfully, we were able to rise above the fray and complete our work for the year.  In the end, we were able to come together and do what is in the best interest of Iowans.  I am hopeful our federal government will look to Iowa as an example for the leadership they so greatly lack and need to follow.

During the interim, please feel free to continue to contact me with your feedback and questions.  I can be reached at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.govor 515-281-4618.  I look forward to seeing you at our communities' parades and events this summer!