Senator Dix: The Importance of Local Elections

This week many Iowans cast a vote in their local school board election. Local elections have the biggest impact on your daily life, yet participation is lower than federal and statewide races. County, city, and school board leaders are responsible for the direct spending of your state and local tax dollars.

Iowa Senate Republicans understand policies are best executed at the local level. During the 2017 Legislative Session, Republicans provided more authority to school boards over spending and increased local responsibility for programs and workforce to ensure prosperous and stable communities in our state.

A significant portion of Iowa’s budget is invested in each level of education for the next generation. The legislature expanded Flexibility Accounts for schools to ensure money allocated to each district is invested annually in the performance and education of our kids. Collective bargaining reform eliminated costly government mandates, which inhibited creativity and achievement in our communities and schools.

Teachers, administrators, school board members, and residents all have a vested interest in the success of their local education system. It is vital that elected local leaders are effective in implementing these reforms. I hope Iowans made time to vote for school boards this week and will plan to vote in city council elections in November. These elections shape the direction of your schools and community, now more than ever.

Let’s make it happen!

Senator Bill Dix: Back to School

The turning of the calendar from August to September signals the end of summer and back to school for kids across the state. Iowa ranks in the top ten for education according to the 2017 US News Report review. It continues to lead the nation in high school graduation rates and dual enrollment. Enrollment in public schools is growing for the fifth year, after 14 years of it declining between 1997-1998 and 2011-2012. Education in Iowa is growing and producing quality students ready to make an impact in our communities and state.

During the 2017 Legislative Session, Senate Republicans made education a top priority. We made sure our schools received notice of State Supplemental Aid in a timely manner for planning and local budgets. We increased the 2017-2018 education funding by $40 Million, or $6,664 total per pupil funding. Further, while revenue estimates continued to decline, state funding increases for Iowa schools remained.

Prior to changes made this session, Schools operated under cookie cutter policies, often not reflecting their priorities or capabilities. By shifting more control and responsibilities of the budget to our school boards, it allows our local leaders to invest in quality programs for our children. Two bills passed the legislature in 2017 expanded funding flexibility for Iowa’s school districts.

House File 564 provides new allowable uses for specific funding received by school districts and requires the Board of Education to give deference to school boards when the Board of Education adopts rules. It lifts restrictions previously put on a series of funds for education, giving more local control to our schools, and letting them decide better ways to use their funding.

House File 565 allows for the creation of a Flexibility Account within the General Fund of each school district to collect unexpended and unobligated funds from a few different sources of categorical funding. This also allows the district to use those funds for purposes of the original source or other general fund purposes.

Education is part of Iowa’s success, which is moving this state forward. Senate Republicans will continue to support our schools and reduce the barriers imposed by Des Moines. I am proud to have been educated in Iowa and my kids are receiving that same quality education today.

Let’s make it happen!

Senator Bill Dix: Change Brings Results

In my opening day speech to the Iowa Senate I promised Iowans the Senate would pass legislation to expand growth and opportunities for all of us. My colleagues and I kept our promise to Iowans by passing bold, pro-growth reforms. Over the last several days the results of those reforms are becoming clearer.

Governor Reynolds released a statement on August 18, noting the state’s unemployment insurance tax rate will decrease an average of 25% on 2018 wages. This decrease, taking effect January 1, 2018, reflects the solvency of our unemployment trust fund. The latest unemployment numbers, released on the same day, also shows the strength of our workforce. Iowa’s unemployment rate remained at 3.2 percent and below the national rate of 4.3 percent in July.

A few days later on August 23, it was announced Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen is reviewing another proposed rate decrease in the state’s workers’ compensation premiums. The Iowa Insurance Division on July 1, 2017, approved a rate decrease of 3.9% and this latest proposal is an additional 8.7% decrease for January 1, 2018.

Recently, Iowa current workers’ compensation premium rates were the 24th highest in the country, ten years ago those same rates were the fifth lowest. Bureaucrats and judges implemented costly and anti-competitive decisions, negatively impacting businesses and employees in this state. The passage of Workers’ Compensation reform restored the balance to Iowa’s system and lowered costs for job creators.

These new rates are a victory for all Iowans. When the cost of doing business in Iowa is lower, employers have the opportunity to grow their businesses, the state and local economies benefit from their investments, Iowa is more attractive to new businesses and entrepreneurs, and those results are more career opportunities for Iowans.

This latest news shows these reforms are shaping Iowa’s economy to be more vibrant and competitive with any state in this country. And together, as Iowans, we can achieve that goal.

Let’s make it happen!

Senate President Jack Whitver’s Closing Remarks 2017

As the 2017 Legislative session reaches adjournment, let me start by thanking all of you for the honor to preside over this body. Friends and colleagues, it truly has been a privilege.  I also would like to take a moment to ask the chamber to join me in showing our appreciation to the Secretary of the Senate, his staff and the Senate pages for their hard work and efforts during this Legislative session.

This year has been very memorable for me. I am proud to serve as the Senate President and preside over a chamber with fifty Senators who care deeply about this state. We all have the same goal – to make Iowa a better place. Admittedly, we sometimes have different solutions. We have had robust debates this year on the best way forward for Iowa. There were intense moments, friendly moments, serious moments and humorous moments. Throughout it all, I have done my best to be fair and promote an open, spirited conversation the entire Session.

When people look back at the 2017 Legislative Session, I believe they will say that this is the year that changed Iowa forever. They will say that 2017 was the year that created an economic revival in our state. This was the year that created growth and opportunity for generations to come.

At the beginning of this Session, I challenged this body to act boldly. With leading and acting boldly comes criticism and doubt. I would urge my colleagues and fellow Iowans to judge the success of this legislature on the results of these policies, not on the talking points from either party.

This session also was memorable for me because I had the honor of having my two daughters spend a day with me in the Iowa Senate. One of the joys I get as a father is playing with them, reading to them, and working on puzzle books. They love connect the dot books. It is amazing watching their faces light up when they see lines connected from dot to dot turn into a clear picture.

I truly believe our bold agenda was crafted with a realistic vision, which will positively affect for our state for years to come. The Legislature has passed many bills this year – let me share with you how Senate Republicans see the big picture after the dots are connected.

This Session we improved Iowa’s job climate by reducing burdensome regulations on small businesses, worked toward reducing frivolous lawsuits and created uniform employment law.

We revitalized rural Iowa by working to increase access to healthcare, lifted up our rural schools by giving them home rule, created additional legal protections for Iowa farmers, and ensured cities and counties could get more bang for their buck on infrastructure projects.

Education remains our priority as we increased funding to K-12 education despite severe budget challenges. We empowered local schools by providing administrators and boards more flexibility with spending decisions and working to solve equity issues with school funding.

The Legislature approved legislation to keep our communities and Iowans safe. We placed a ban on texting while driving, protected students from sex offenders while at school and passed legislation to provide substance abuse treatment for OWI offenders.

Protecting the personal freedoms of Iowans is imperative. We enhanced Second Amendment protections, improved the integrity of our election system and legalized fireworks. I am also extremely proud to know we passed several bills protecting the sanctity of life in this session.

We stand proudly for a smaller, smarter government. These measures will go a long way in helping us navigate out of our financial dilemma. We passed a balanced budget and made a commitment to refill our cash reserves in a timely manner. We passed legislation to prevent waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars as well as reformed the public sector bargaining system.

As I said in my comments on the opening day of Session, more than three million Iowans are looking to us to lead, and to make the hard decisions necessary to create a better future for this state. I asked this chamber to look beyond the next election and look to the next generation. I challenged the body to make decisions that will change our state forever. I know we have done that. We have made many major changes that I know will make Iowa a more prosperous and better state for years to come.

I started this Session with an abundance of optimism for our future.  As we close the 2017 Session of the 87th General Assembly, I am even more optimistic about the future of Iowa.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as Senate President, and thank you for your hard work and service to the people of Iowa. See you in January!

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix’s Closing Remarks 2017

Fifteen weeks ago, we made a series of promises to you, to the people of Iowa. Promises for the people who voted for a change, for action, and for results. On day one, we promised you real, substantive policies for growth. We were not elected for more of the same.

We were elected to make big changes and bold decisions, just like the people of Iowa made when they voted for an overwhelming Republican majority in the Iowa House of Representatives and here in the Iowa Senate.

This session was different. The reason this session was different is because over the last fifteen weeks, we have kept our promises. In contrast to the institutional dysfunction on display in Washington, DC we have worked together to move this state forward with bold, innovative reforms.

Fifteen weeks ago, we promised real policies that focus on economic growth in our state.

Senate File 1 required jobs impact statements on administrative rule changes and instructed the state’s departments to consider how these changes will impact jobs in our state, a decision vital to creating an environment for economic growth in our state.

We passed Senate Joint Resolution 9, allowing the people of Iowa to vote on putting a 99 percent expenditure limit amendment to the Iowa Constitution. This would provide confidence to Iowa families and job creators that the state will live within its means in the same way the people of Iowa must live within their means. That stability gives them the motivation to invest, and raise their families in this state.

We made a series of changes to regulations in this state, with the goal of allowing our job creators to spend less time fending off frivolous lawsuits and focus on expanding their businesses in our communities. The agriculture nuisance law protects good agricultural producers from job killing lawsuits. Workers’ compensation reform restored the balance to Iowa’s system and lowered costs for job creators. Medical malpractice reform lowers costs for doctors and encourages them to work in rural Iowa.

We promised you real policies for educational growth. This year we were able to pass on-time supplemental state aid, setting budgets early and allowing school districts more time and predictability to plan their school year budgets. Major education flexibility policy passed unanimously in this chamber allows schools the freedom to address their specific needs with fewer top-down restrictions. We passed collective bargaining reform, allowing school boards and administrators to reward good teachers and get rid of bad teachers.

We passed a bill Senate Republicans had been pushing for years – transportation equity for our rural school districts. This bill is important to many rural districts across the state as they seek to provide the best education to their students regardless of where they live in Iowa.

This Senate moved common-sense laws supported by a wide majority of Iowans, including one of the largest gun bills in recent history, expanding the rights of every gun owner across the state. We also passed a requirement for a government-issued identification in order to participate in one of the most profound responsibilities as a citizen of our republic – voting. This session also saw the most significant pro-life legislation in forty years.

This is what fifteen weeks of a Senate Republican majority looked like. Not wasting time with politics – just substantive, real policies. This is only a chapter of the legacy we hope to leave for our state as we move this state forward in a positive, fiscally responsible, economically prosperous direction.

At the beginning of this session I said Iowans wanted us to change the way we do business. They wanted us to kick the door in. Well, we accepted that challenge and we kicked the door in. Now, the door of opportunity is wide open for Iowans to invest, grow, and succeed.

2017 was a legislative session in which we made it happen!

Senate President Jack Whitver’s Opening Day Remarks 2017

Good morning.  It is an honor and a privilege to be elected as the new Senate President. And, like all of you, being elected to serve the great people of our state is not a responsibility I take lightly.

The first day of every General Assembly is always my favorite day because I am overcome with a great sense of optimism. I have so much optimism because I look around this room and see so many great public servants. I see teachers, peace officers, farmers, bankers, small business owners and pharmacists. And yes, I see Republicans, Democrats and a no party.

But, beyond professions and party affiliations, I see Iowans. I see senators who share a common passion – a love for this state and our fellow Iowans. I see senators who welcome the task to make Iowa the best state we possibly can. I have so much optimism because I see 50 senators coming from every corner of this state, converging in Des Moines with big plans and big dreams for this upcoming session.

Though I represent the great community of Ankeny, I was raised in rural Iowa – in Grinnell. This is where my parents, who are with us here today, taught me so many life lessons, the importance of hard work and what it means to have Iowa values.

When moving in my office, I learned of a couple of old pictures available through the State Historical building. One of them inspired me and now hangs in the Senate President’s office behind this chamber. It is a picture of Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, a pioneer who founded the city of Grinnell. He served in this body, the Iowa Senate from 1856-1860.

Many of you have heard the phrase, “Go west young man, go west.” This advice, many say, was given by the great statesman Horace Greely to a young man named J.B. Grinnell.

Greely’s advice was more than a compass direction. The west back then represented many things: Natural beauty. Wilderness. Boldness. Optimism. Opportunity, and its constant traveling companion, Risk. Most of all, it represented a pursuit of destiny, with little regard for what was familiar, or comfortable, or even safe. The West was where the future was being built.

Grinnell took Greely’s advice and traveled west into the unknown. He set out looking to make his mark on his country and create a legacy for those who came after him. He finally settled in what is now the city of Grinnell because of the endless opportunities he saw right here in Iowa.

Now, more than 150 years later, I believe the endless opportunities Grinnell chased are even greater today in our state. I challenge us to look at Iowa and seek out the same opportunities he pursued.

I urge my fellow senators to spend the next 110 days as J.B. Grinnell did – thinking big and acting bold.

When this session ends and people remember the 2017 session, let them say that this was the year that positively changed our state forever. Let them say this was the year an economic revival began in Iowa. Let them say that 2017 was the year the legislature dared to dream big.

Let’s work together this session to expand our workforce, strengthen our economy, rejuvenate our ag industry, ease the tax burdens on Iowans, create financial stability for our rural communities and school districts, and provide students with a top notch education.

Let us go west, not across the ground, but in our hearts and minds. Let us confidently face the unknown future the way J.B. Grinnell faced the challenges of the wild frontier.

Today is a good day to be an Iowan. Let’s work together to make tomorrow even better.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix’s Opening Day Remarks 2017

Today, we embark on a new direction for the State of Iowa. It will be a journey that creates optimism and a stronger financial footing for our great state.

This last election was a tough one, for both sides. Now, more than ever, we need to come together and do what is best for Iowans. We all want Iowa to be the best state in the country; one that keeps Iowans here, and attracts new residents to our state. It is imperative we create an atmosphere in which people can create businesses and thrive, raise their families, and trust their children are getting a world class education.

Our priorities are not new – and they shouldn’t be. For the past few years you have heard our hopes and concerns. Our ideas and dreams. Our plan for a better Iowa.

Senate Republicans have a vision of economic prosperity for the people of Iowa, a vision of a vibrant agricultural presence in our rural communities, a vision of fiscal responsibility in the Iowa Senate, and growing our state and making it attractive for investment and new career opportunities.

Iowa is an agricultural state. I, myself, am a farmer with a diverse operation. Our rural communities have long been the backbone of Iowa’s economy, culture and character. There is no reason these communities should be struggling the way they have been for so long. This must change, and let me tell you why.

Do you remember when you were taught to tie your shoes? You were told to tie them once, nice and tight, and then again, a double knot for security, so you do not trip and fall. A double knot, so you could move forward without worry you will trip and fall, so you could move without concern it will all come undone.

We are all here for the same reason – we care about our state. We care about our families, friends, neighbors. We care about people and want them to have the best life they can. We want them to be successful and thrive. We want to make sure Iowans can do more than just make ends meet, but even tie the ends a few times over, like a double knot. To ensure Iowa families feel secure. We want to enable them to grow, to move forward, and succeed.

These last few months, Republicans promised a limited, more efficient government. We promised more money back in the pockets of Iowans; money Iowans have earned and deserve to keep. We want a balanced budget with responsible budgeting principles, much like Iowa families budget to honor their commitments.

As I talk to Iowans all around our state in our rural communities, I hear firsthand about declining school enrollment. Iowans also share with me concerns about stagnant wages and unsustainable government spending.

The solution for each of these challenges is quite simple: Growth, growth, growth. We should be making our state attractive, inviting, and a great place to live for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We must foster an environment that creates flourishing career opportunities for those graduating high school, college and for those seeking to embark on a new career path.

Iowans responded to these words, to these promises, to these principles and overwhelmingly chose us to move Iowa forward. And, we are ready to lead.

The windows of my Senate office look out over the Des Moines skyline. If you look out those windows, you can see the positive things investing in our state can do. It represents the commerce and economy of our state and the positive impacts of investing in our state, its people and ideas.

Let’s get to work in our pursuit of real, substantive policies to provide an environment for growth. Economic growth, personal growth, educational growth. The key here, is growth. Senate Republicans are excited to start this new venture and work with the House of Representatives and the Governor.

We stand ready to make all Iowans hopeful for and proud of what is on the horizon for our great state.

Let’s Make It Happen!

Senator Bill Dix’s 2016 Session Closing Remarks

Thank you Madame President.

When session began this year I commented on the need for state government to be fiscally prudent and instill the kind of fiscal discipline into the state budget that Iowa families put into their own budgets. Now, nearly five months later, it is time to evaluate the results of this session.

Budgeting is simply a matter of revenues and expenditures. For the State of Iowa, revenues have been strong during the last four years. Revenues grew by nearly $589 million from FY13 to the estimates for FY 17. Unfortunately, for Iowa taxpayers, expenditures increased by nearly $1 billion during that same time period. When the state closed its books at the end of FY 13, the ending balance was $927 million. With the passage of this year’s appropriation bills, the ending balance projects to be approximately $80 million. The data regarding the state budget is clear; Iowa government does not have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem.

Iowa families know that they cannot spend more than they take in for very long. Ultimately, that credit card bill comes due. As I just illustrated the state budget has been growing at a pace that exceeds revenue. Sadly, this behavior isn’t limited to just the general fund. For years the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund budget has been raided for all sorts of projects. Now, the state’s existing vertical infrastructure cannot be maintained because, between the ill-fated I-Jobs program and other bonding commitments, the first $70 million per year is already committed to bond repayments.

So, what do some in this body propose? This headline from last week in the Cedar Rapids Gazette summarizes it well: “Senate Includes Borrowing in Infrastructure Budget.” According to the article the proposal would further indebt Iowa for $110 million. The disease is overspending and according to some the cure is…more spending!

My colleagues and I are concerned about spending growth for the simple reason that when government grows, the private sector shrinks. When the private sector shrinks, opportunity for young Iowans either disappears, or it moves to Kansas City, Austin, or Indianapolis.

I believe Iowa has all the necessary ingredients for a period of dynamic economic growth. I am optimistic when I think about Iowa’s future and the possibilities young Iowans have in front of them. Iowa has some of the most productive farm land in the world, a citizenry that is hard-working and engaged, and, of course, only the finest bacon.

Opportunities to invest and succeed are important and when this body throws up barriers to growth, whether that is excessive regulation or excessive taxation, we only hurt our own children and grandchildren. Senate Republicans advocate for policies that encourage economic growth, that remove barriers that inhibit growth and that incentivize work and investment. The more government gets out of the way, and the more of their own money Iowans keep, the more Iowa’s economy will grow.

As some of you know my oldest son is graduating from high school next month. I want Iowa to be a viable option for his future because career opportunities are available. We need to leave a legacy of opportunity for every Iowan.

Let’s make it happen!

Senator Dix’s 2016 Opening Day Remarks

January 11, 2016

Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix’s opening day remarks as prepared.

Thank you Madam President.

The memory of the last winter storm remains fresh in our minds as it blanketed much of Iowa with snow and ice two weeks ago. Prior to the storm, many Iowans flocked to the stores to ensure they had milk, bread and other necessities. Iowans understand the importance of being prepared when such a storm strikes.

Iowans expect the same sense of preparedness from their elected officials. Senate Republicans have called for such action and it has fallen upon deaf ears in this chamber. For the past several years, I have stood here – in this spot on the opening day of the legislative session – and stressed the seriousness of getting our state spending under control. Senate Republicans have long warned, if we do nothing to curb the appetite to spend the money of hard-working Iowans there would be consequences. Senate Republicans predicted a financial storm was coming unless we changed these reckless spending habits. Colleagues, this storm is no longer on the horizon. We are in the eye of the storm – seeking shelter is not an option.

This is a problem which requires action, and more important – leadership. Leadership is not pointing fingers, raising our voices or grandstanding with the intentions of questioning someone’s integrity. It is about rolling up our sleeves, working together to get to the crux of the matter and providing a solution. As we have witnessed repeatedly in the last several years, when state cost-cutting measures were proposed they faced great resistance. The burden of leadership is making tough choices that fly in the face of what some may want because it is the right thing to do. One of those solutions is to quench that never-ending thirst to overspend the people’s money. It is time to lead. This is what Iowans expect and demand from their elected officials.

Do not fool yourselves; Iowans are watching and fully understand the challenges we face. Ask the farmer who took a loss on last year’s corn crop. Reach out to a northwest Iowa poultry producer devastated by last spring’s avian flu. Talk to a small business owner who struggles to make ends meet due to increasing health care costs and rising tax burdens.

We must face some undeniable facts. State revenues continue to come in below projections. The Ag economy is not as stable as in recent years due to lagging livestock and commodity prices. We also were dealt a significant blow last spring when the avian flu ravaged that sector of the economy. Colleagues, all of these factors affect Iowa’s state budget.

Senate Republicans will continue to stress the importance of controlled spending and treat our state budget as we do our family budget – which means we must not spend more than we receive. It is vital we do not overpromise only to under deliver.

We will discuss education at great lengths this legislative session – and we should. We must ensure we keep our promises and budget responsibly when it comes to education. There is too much at stake for our children and taxpayers if we fail to honor those commitments. Keeping our word to students and educators is essential.

It would be a disservice to our youth and businesses across the state if we do not offer them the means to compete in a global economy. Remember colleagues, the vehicle that drives the world economy is fueled locally, whether that is in Harlan, Shell Rock or Red Oak.  It is essential to give job creators in our rural communities and all across Iowa the tools necessary to have a presence in a world marketplace, and then get out of their way so they can succeed.

Though the last winter storm may be a memory, the financial storm we face remains a present and constant concern. I ask you today to work with Senate Republicans to weather this storm. Together, we can accomplish great things in creating a legacy of opportunity for all Iowans and making our great state even stronger.  Let’s Make it Happen!