Closing Remarks from Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver

Below are closing remarks from Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R – Ankeny, as prepared for delivery.

Mister President, Senator Petersen and colleagues in the Senate,

I will start by expressing my gratitude to the staff and senators in this building for all the work they have done this session. It is a privilege to lead such a dynamic and unified caucus. Every day I have the distinct honor of being a part of a caucus full of leaders with bold, fresh ideas for our state. Even with all our differences, our caucus remains committed to each other as a team.

It is hard to believe the 2019 session is drawing to a close. Just 103 short days ago, I asked you all to keep in mind the reason you ran for office. I ran for office to make our state and country a better place for my kids and our family – a place where they can grow up, go to school, succeed in a career they enjoy and spend a lifetime in a place we all love and are proud to call home…Iowa. 

When we began the 2019 Legislative Session I urged my colleagues in this body to be bold, challenge the status quo and enact meaningful policies that serve as a roadmap for the next generation to flourish for decades to come. I urged us to maintain the reform-minded perspective of the first two years in the majority. Together we set an agenda to strengthen and grow our economy, while allowing Iowans to keep more of their hard-earned money.

To implement that agenda, we did not want to just make small changes to a couple lines in an Iowa Code book; instead, we focused on generational changes to bring more prosperity, growth and opportunity to our state. 

These policies are already yielding an abundance of positive results.  We rank as one of the top states for jobs, high school graduation and concurrent enrollment. Our unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. Last year, Iowa was rated the Number One state in America by US News and World Report. Achieving that top ranking is not easy – but staying there is even more challenging.

This year, we provided an additional $89 million in sustainable funding for our K-12 schools, and extended the sales tax dedicated to help support their infrastructure costs. We passed four welfare reform bills to make those programs run more effectively and efficiently. These bills help ensure assistance is only for those truly in need, encourages people to join the workforce, and could save taxpayers millions of dollars. We passed a bill to protect Iowa businesses and workers, and promote better hiring practices through the use of E-Verify. We created a children’s mental health system in our state. We passed legislation to allow our state’s farmers to grow another crop and another to level the playing field for utility customers. We passed a bill to protect Iowa’s agriculture industry, and a bill to protect the First Amendment rights of students at our public universities.

We proposed a budget that was conservative, responsible and sustainable. It funded the necessities of our state, like education and public safety, and provided the state a cushion to respond to the massive flooding in western Iowa. Responsible budgeting always has been important to this caucus, just as it is important to every hard-working person in our state.

One of the number one concerns we heard when talking with Iowans over the last couple years was property taxes. And, they have reason to be concerned. Property tax collections have more than doubled in the last 18 years. These increases exceed more than $3 billion across Iowa. Meanwhile, during that same time frame, Iowans incomes have risen only 43 percent.

After passing income tax relief for Iowa’s hard-working families during the last Legislative Session, this year we passed property tax reform, to control increases for those who have seen their assessments rise year after year, improve transparency, and hold public officials accountable for any increase in property taxes.

Our work doesn’t stop when we leave this building. There are many issues we can work on next year and continue to forge a path to help grow our economy, retain young graduates and attract new Iowans to call our state home. 

I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for another outstanding session and for all the work we accomplished. Thank you for the thoughtful debate and discussion and the work you do on behalf of your constituents and our great state. We made a lot of progress this year for Iowa and Iowans, and I look forward to working with all of you next January as we continue this journey toward long-term prosperity.

Closing Remarks from Senate President Charles Schneider

Below are closing remarks from Senate President Charles Schneider, R- West Des Moines, as prepared for delivery.

Senators, guests and fellow Iowans:

I would first like to say it was a great honor to serve again as President of the Senate. I appreciate the trust my colleagues placed in me. I returned it by always doing my best to fulfill the responsibilities of the role to which you elected me.

My goal this session, and every session since I was elected to the Senate, was to make Iowa the best state in the country to live, work, and raise a family. I believe we made progress toward this goal during the 2019 legislative session.

I am proud of the work we did to bring transparency and accountability to the process by which property taxes are determined.

Many Iowans felt their property tax burden getting worse, but could not explain why it was happening. Our convoluted property tax system made it difficult for property owners to hold the right people accountable. 

We believe the key to holding down property taxes is to bring more accountability to local budgeting processes. The bill passed by the Legislature will hold down budget expansions in cities and counties that had been on autopilot thanks to rising valuations, while allowing local leaders in growing communities to provide critical services to their constituents.

As a result, Iowans should expect to see the amount they pay in property taxes more closely align to local government budgets than their property valuations. This bill will remove what amounts to a government-imposed penalty on an appreciating asset regardless of the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

The property tax reform bill will shine a spotlight on city and county budget processes, while still allowing local government officials to make choices that make sense for their communities. As a former West Des Moines City Council member and a Senator who represents some of the fastest growing communities in our state, I understand these local leaders need the flexibility to grow their physical infrastructure and staff resources to keep up with their changing jurisdictions. I am proud this bill will allow well-managed, fast-growing cities, like those in my Senate district, to continue to make smart choices for their futures.

While many outside this chamber focus on the issues that divide us, I am proud the Senate was able to come together on a number of key issues facing our state.

For me, the children’s mental health bill we passed this session will be a legacy item. This bill demonstrates that the Legislature understands there is a children’s mental health crisis in our state. Unfortunately, this problem is not specific to our state. But, I believe the provisions in the children’s mental health bill position our state to be a leader on this issue. I hope the solutions that result from this legislation will be a model for other states to follow.

I am also proud of the lower-profile issues the Senate came together this year to address. Every session, Iowans from around the state petition their government to resolve issues in their day-to-day life. Though many of these issues do not make the front page of the newspapers, they are important to people in our state and I am proud of our work on them.

While we made important progress this session on a number of key issues, there is still work for us left to do during this General Assembly.

Businesses throughout the state are still experiencing a serious skilled worker shortage. We hear this shortage is already stifling economic growth in our state. While I am proud we supported the governor’s Future Ready Iowa initiative this session, there is still more work to do.

There also continues to be too many barriers to success in our state. Unnecessary occupational licensing requirements threaten to limit opportunities for Iowans to pursue their dreams. Iowa has one of the most heavily licensed workforces in the country. States like Arizona have made important strides to rebalance protecting the public with reducing barriers to economic opportunity. I believe policymakers in Iowa should have a serious conversation next session about this issue.

I would like to wish everyone a safe, healthy and prosperous summer. Thank you for your hard work on behalf of your constituents and our state. God bless you and your families. And, God bless the great state of Iowa.

Senate Republicans Release Budget Targets

Today, Senate Republicans released their budget targets for FY 2020. The overall budget of $7,619,300,000 is the same amount of funding allocated in FY 2019. These targets are $48 million less than the House and $39 million less than the governor. 

“Senate Republicans are maintaining their commitment to taxpayers to manage their money prudently and put their interests first,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “Our caucus is committed to continuing to implement pro-growth policies. This budget is one early step in implementing that agenda.”

Senate Appropriations Chair Mike Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, said, “I look forward to working with my colleagues, the House of Representatives, and the governor to implement a sustainable, responsible, and conservative budget to continue to fund the priorities of Iowans and keep Iowa on the path to maintain its status as the Number One state in the nation.”

These budget targets include $38.8 million in additional tax relief in FY 20. The targets also include nearly $130 million in new funding for education, $14.5 million in new funding for public safety, and $106 million in new funding for health care. The decrease in Unassigned Standings is because the increases in the FY 20 budget are less than the $113 million cash reserve repayment that is not necessary in FY 20. Reductions in Health and Human Services are because of one-time expenditures in FY 19 on Medicaid and an increase in federal funding for that program.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver’s Statement on Condition of the State

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver released the following statement regarding the Condition of the State remarks from Governor Reynolds.

“I applaud Governor Reynolds’ positive vision of Iowa. The policies enacted over the last two years have made Iowa the Number One state in the country. Senate Republicans will continue our partnership with the governor to implement bold, pro-growth policies to build on that success. We will keep our focus on expanding career opportunities for Iowans, enabling them to keep more of what they earn, and making Iowa the best state it can be.

“Iowans rewarded our leadership over the last two years because we delivered on our promises. I look forward to furthering that record of achievement with Governor Reynolds throughout the 2019 session.”

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver’s Opening Remarks 2019

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver’s opening day remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you Mr. President.

Mr. President, Senators, staff, families, and friends —- Good morning and welcome to the 88th General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature.

It is great to be back today in this historic chamber, and great to see so many friends and colleagues. We are a citizen legislature, here from all walks of life. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, small business owners, and farmers, to name a few. We bring a variety of experiences to the table, and represent even more back in our home districts. We are here to represent the interests of everyone who has the privilege of calling our great state home. 

To our nine new members in this chamber, I want to welcome you to the Iowa Senate. I wish you the best as you are sworn in and represent your respective districts. My hope for you as you begin your time serving in the Iowa Senate is that you never forget WHY you ran. No matter if you serve one term, or 5 terms, it is extremely important to always remember why you first put your name on the ballot. 

And, that is a question I would ask all of you here in this room… why is it that you first ran for office. What is your WHY?

As I begin my first session as Majority Leader and have been thinking a lot about our agenda for the upcoming session, it is a question I have found myself thinking a lot about lately. 

I am blessed to have my wife and children here today. For years, when my kids asked me what we do in the Iowa Senate, I always said “We make laws.” Last week, my oldest daughter Ella asked me what we do in the Senate and I had a different answer. I told her, “We work to make your life better.” Shortly after saying that, it struck me…..We are not here to change laws; we are here to change lives.

Our mission is simple: Improve the lives of Iowans through challenging the status quo and reforming Iowa for the next generation. 

Looking toward the next generation is extremely important to me. Not just because I have three young children of my own, but because too often politicians are too worried about the next election to think about the next generation.

This should never be the case. As we begin our 2019 session, our focus should not be on the next election; instead we must look toward lifting up our next generation.

When I think about the last two years, I often think about a quote I first heard while in business school at Iowa State – from a best-selling business author – he said, “Greatness is not a matter of circumstance, greatness is a choice.”

Over the past two years, this body has CHOSEN greatness. We have made a conscious decision to make our state the Number One state in the nation. We have made tough decisions, taken political risks – we have chosen greatness for the state of Iowa. 

Those choices are not always easy. Often in politics, the greatest challenge is not finding the solution. We often know what the solution is. The greatest challenge is finding the political will to make it happen. 

I am proud this body has shown the political will to make those tough decisions. 

Two years ago, we set out to implement a better job climate in the state of Iowa. Today, we have the lowest unemployment rate in the entire nation. We went from a state asking “where are the jobs” to a state asking “where are the workers?”

Two years ago, we set out to improve our educational system in the state of Iowa. Today, schools have more local control over their school districts; have more flexibility with the financial resources we give them and more funding for transportation in our rural districts.

Two years ago, we inherited a budget with a $113 million deficit. Today we have a balanced budget, our cash reserves are full, and we have an expected surplus of over $196 million in the current budget year.

Two years ago, we had one of the highest tax burdens in America. Last year we passed historic tax reform resulting in the largest tax cut in Iowa history for hard-working Iowans. 

Additionally over the past two years we have passed mental health reform, water quality legislation, tort reform, strengthened Iowans 2nd Amendment rights, and protected the sanctity of life.

The past two years have been the most productive and historic two years this state has ever seen. It is hard to argue with the results — we were named the Number One state in the nation by US News and World Report.

As I traveled the state this last election cycle meeting with Iowans, we talked about the progress we have made. At every stop, I said that this last election would be a defining moment in the history of our state – where the people would decide which direction we want to go and what kind of state we want to be. 

I am grateful the people of Iowa have given us the responsibility and honor of continuing to lead in the Iowa Senate. They expect us to step up to make tough decisions and continue down the path that has made us Number One. We are grateful the voters have joined us in choosing greatness for the state of Iowa!

Now, as we look toward the upcoming session, we will continue to deliver bold action to build our workforce, continue to reduce taxes, and reduce government dependence in our state. 

We will continue to be dedicated to our pro-growth agenda for Iowa – growth for our businesses, growth for our schools, and growth for our rural and urban areas. 

We are devoted to the Iowans who elected us to this chamber and we are committed to keeping the promises we made on the campaign trail. 

We will continue to challenge the status quo and continue to push reforms that will keep us as the Number One state in the nation.

I am honored to serve as the majority leader of Iowa Senate, and look forward to working with each and every one of you to make Iowa the best we can. 

Let’s get to work!

Senate President Charles Schneider’s Opening Remarks 2019

Senate President Charles Schneider’s opening day remarks as prepared.

Welcome to the First Session of the 88th General Assembly.

I would like to offer a special welcome to the new members of the Iowa Senate – Senator Whiting, Senator J. Smith, Senator Nunn, Senator Celsi, Senator Koelker, Senator T. Taylor, Senator Wahls, Senator Miller-Meeks and Senator Cournoyer.

It strikes me the new members hold almost 1 in 5 seats of this body. This is a positive sign that Iowans are willing to give their time and talents at the state Capitol in the service of their neighbors. While this is a sacrifice for some, especially those who come from the far corners of our state, I can speak for those who have served in this chamber before when I say it is also extremely humbling and a unique honor to serve the people of this state in the Iowa Senate. I wish you all the best during this General Assembly.

I am proud to say Iowa is thriving. Our state boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Thanks in part to the reforms passed during the last General Assembly, Iowans’ incomes are rising, their taxes are shrinking, and our economy is growing.

Most of you have probably heard that US News & World Report ranked Iowa the #1 state in the country. This recognition is something we should all be proud of. After all, it didn’t come about because of one General Assembly. It is something that we have worked on collectively over many years, and through split control of government.

Being #1 doesn’t give us the freedom to rest on our laurels. Iowa may be the #1 state in America today, but the other 49 states are looking for opportunities to make their states more desirable. Becoming the best hard, but it’s more difficult to stay there.

Being #1 does not mean that we have achieved perfection. We still face many challenges: brain drain; workforce training; improving our business climate; improving student achievement in education; enhancing our quality of life. Most of us would agree that these are all areas that need our attention. I believe we are up to the challenge.

Addressing some of these challenges means getting government out of the way. Taxes that hinder growth will result in fewer jobs, lower incomes, and less economic development. 

We need to find ways to continue to reduce the tax burden on hardworking Iowans – particularly when it comes to property taxes, which have an unfair, disparate impact on Iowans who live on fixed incomes, like many seniors.

Regulations and job licensing requirements can go too far. Some regulations and requirements are necessary for public health or safety reasons. But if they go too far, they can trap the unwary in debt and discourage people with ambition from taking a chance to start a business or a new career, crushing the American dream.

Addressing some of these challenges requires government involvement. We must continue to invest in education and workforce development if we want to ensure that all Iowans are able to share in the state’s success. We must ensure we have a safety net for those who are most in need. 

As we make these and other investments, we need to remember that taxpayers expect us to use their tax dollars wisely. Doing so requires setting priorities. 

I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate, and with the House and Governor Reynolds, to address these challenges. It won’t be easy, but I have faith in our ability to overcome adversity.

Part of my faith lies in our proud tradition of being a true citizen legislature. In this chamber today, virtually none of us is a career politician. Many of us leave our regular occupations as farmers, teachers, lawyers, or business owners to serve in the state capitol. We know that we need to get our work done so we can return to our normal lives.

I hope this means the Iowa Senate can operate without the harsh partisanship that is infecting our current political discourse. For too many politicians, politics has become a sport. Some politicians focus on supporting their own team, or furthering their own ambitions, rather than shaping good public policy. When that happens, discourse suffers.

As we all know, it is a violation of a long-time Senate rule to question the motives of another senator on the floor. The rule justifiably recognizes what we sometimes forget – every senator deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his or her motives on an issue. I believe that every person here decided to run because they have the best interests of their constituents in mind. I believe that is what drives the passion each of us has for the work we do here. I hope we can all aspire to keep this in mind as we go through this legislative session.

As elected officials and leaders of our state, we have a responsibility to bring people together. The time for drawing contrasts is over. The time to govern has arrived. We are all Iowans. We are all here to make our state a better place for our families, neighbors and communities. Now is the time to come together and focus on Iowa’s future.

I wish everyone in this chamber, including the staff, clerks and pages, a happy, healthy and productive legislative session. I look forward to working with all of you to continue the success of our state.

Senator Whitver Announces Committee Assignments

Today, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, released committee assignments for members of the Iowa Senate Majority for the Eighty-Eighth General Assembly.

The standing committees assignments are:

Appropriations
Senator Breitbach – Chair
Senator Kraayenbrink – Vice Chair
Senator Greene
Senator Rozenboom
Senator Garrett
Senator Costello
Senator Lofgren
Senator Shipley
Senator Guth
Senator Johnson
Senator Koelker
Senator Miller-Meeks
Senator Schneider

Agriculture
Senator Zumbach – Chair
Senator Sweeney – Vice Chair
Senator Brown
Senator Edler
Senator Shipley
Senator Kapucian
Senator Rozenboom
Senator Costello

Commerce
Senator Chapman – Chair
Senator Koelker – Vice Chair
Senator Brown
Senator Dawson
Senator Sinclair
Senator Breitbach
Senator Miller-Meeks
Senator Feenstra
Senator Johnson
Senator Smith
Senator Nunn

Continue reading Senator Whitver Announces Committee Assignments

Senate Republicans Reelect Whitver, Schneider to Lead Caucus

Senate Republicans reelected Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, as Majority Leader and Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, as President of the Iowa Senate for the 88th General Assembly.

“Thank you to my fellow Republican Senators for their continued trust in my leadership. It is an honor to receive their unanimous support for Majority Leader of the Iowa Senate,” said Whitver. “On Tuesday Iowans voted to continue the bold agenda we delivered over the last two years and we will not let them down. Our caucus will continue to deliver bold policy reforms to improve career opportunities, make sure Iowans keep more of their hard earned money, and to maintain Iowa’s status as the best state in the country.”

Whitver was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010. He was chosen by Senate Republicans to preside over the Senate as President in 2016 and became Majority Leader in 2018. On Tuesday he was reelected to a four year team to represent Ankeny, Alleman and a portion of northeast Des Moines in the Iowa Senate. He resides in Ankeny with his wife, Rachel and their three children.

“Senate Republicans are excited to get back to work,” Senate President Charles Schneider said. “We believe Iowans recognize that the policies adopted during the last two years are working to improve the lives of people in our state. I am excited to work with my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the House and Governor Reynolds to continue to pass pro-growth policies and cement Iowa’s place as the best state in the nation.”

Schneider lives in West Des Moines with his wife Lisa. He was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 2012 to represent West Des Moines and Waukee. He was elected President of the Senate in 2018.

The Republican leadership team consists of the following Senators:

  • Majority Leader, Senator Jack Whitver, Ankeny
  • President of the Senate, Senator Charles Schneider, West Des Moines
  • President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Senator Jerry Behn, Boone
  • Majority Whip, Senator Amy Sinclair, Allerton
  • Assistant Majority Leaders
    • Senator Randy Feenstra, Hull
    • Senator Jake Chapman, Adel
    • Senator Waylon Brown, St. Ansgar
    • Senator Dan Zumbach, Ryan

Iowa Working Families Tax Relief Act

Iowa Working Families Tax Relief Act is a bold initiative that will enact the largest tax cut in Iowa history. This plan completely rewrites Iowa’s complex tax code. Over the years Iowa’s tax code has become a collection of tax deductions, exemptions, and credits standing in the way of economic growth, job creation and Iowa family priorities. Senate File 2383 sets competitive tax rates that will drive Iowa’s economic growth initiatives, making Iowa known as one of the most tax friendly states in the nation.

Continue reading Iowa Working Families Tax Relief Act

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!