Today, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver released his closing remarks as prepared for delivery.
One hundred and fifteen days have passed since my opening day remarks in this chamber. During that speech I talked about how proud I have been to hear the word historic used again and again to describe our accomplishments in the prior six legislative sessions.
Historic tax relief, historic expansion of Iowans’ 2nd Amendment freedoms, historic protections of our elections, historic mental health reforms, and historic support for law enforcement are all included on that list.
In our 7th session in the majority, and first in the supermajority, we stacked more historic achievements on top of that list. One of the first bills passed by the Senate this year was HF 68. It kept our promise to parents to give all students choice in their education.
Iowa has tremendous public schools, but they may not be the best fit for every student. School choice gives all parents and students the same opportunities currently available only for families with the means to pay their income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and still have enough to pay for private school tuition. School choice opens doors for families and it has shown in study after study to improve student achievement both for students in public school and in private school. Senate Republicans have led on this issue for years and we enjoyed seeing this policy cross the finish line so early in session and now the state of Iowa is a leader in school choice.
On day one I also mentioned how often we heard from Iowans about their serious concern of impeding property assessment increases. They were right. Over the last several weeks they shared their stories of 20%, 30%, and even 50% increases in the value of their property. They were angry about these increases because for decades they’ve seen their property tax bills go up and up, while being told by their local governments it’s the assessor’s fault, not the taxing authority.
HF 718 was another historic achievement. It fixed the assessment problem. This bill implemented structural property tax reform and protected Iowans from those massive jumps in property taxes they feared by automatically reducing tax rates when assessments rise and consolidating and simplifying more than a dozen different levies. It also empowered taxpayers by giving them information about the taxes and spending of local governments on how it impacts their tax bill.
The final issue I addressed was workforce. Senate Republicans took several major steps to addressing the workforce shortage in Iowa by creating the Iowa Apprenticeship Office to put Iowans on the fast track to high-demand careers with strong salaries and benefits. We also made it easier for teenagers to explore potential career opportunities or make more money with common sense reforms to youth employment and removed unnecessary burdens to teachers looking to work in Iowa.
But our work wasn’t just limited to those three issues. We passed a common-sense ban on gender transition surgeries on children and simply directed K-12 schools to have boys use the boys’ bathroom and girls use the girls’ bathroom.
The list of achievements goes on: We also passed several common-sense policies to expand health care access and availability by limiting non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases and a rural emergency hospital declaration to help stabilize rural emergency hospitals. Reforms to Iowa’s public assistance programs were overdue. This year those reforms passed both chambers and the state’s welfare programs will be better protected from fraud and available for Iowans truly in need. K-12 schools got more flexibility to meet the specific needs of their districts. For the first time in 40 years state government was aligned to improve efficiency, eliminate redundancies, and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The 2023 Iowa Legislature was truly a historic session, one of the most productive since as far back as 2021. Now is the time to celebrate our achievements. I am proud of the work this caucus did. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are looking forward to some days off, time with our other jobs, and time with our families. I will see you again in 8 months refreshed with new ideas to continue to deliver results for the great people of Iowa.
Thank you madame president.