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!