We have finished the first week of session which includes the annual addresses from the governor, chief Justice, and the head of the National Guard.
Governor Reynolds outlined her initiatives for the session in her address Tuesday evening. This was the first time to my knowledge that the governor held her Condition of the State address in the evening, normally it’s been at 10:00 AM. I won’t recount the entire speech here because other news articles will have already done that. One of the significant points that I want to highlight are the initiative to allow parental choice in education. Especially now with the pandemic, parents are not feeling like they are being heard. I support the governor’s initiative to make sure that every family that wants 100% in-person learning for their children will have that option. The one-size-fits-all solutions that some school districts and the Democrat caucus here in the capitol are pushing is simply unacceptable, and not realistic given today’s family situations with many single-parent and two working parent households unable to stay at home with their child.
A related issue to parental choice that the governor raised is the fact that some school districts still do not allow open enrollment, trapping these families into one choice for their child’s education. These restrictions on open enrollment were hurting families before COVID-19 even began. I have been aware of this issue and I have for several years now filed legislation to eliminate this loop-hole in the Iowa Code. At issue for my legislative district is the fact that Waterloo has implemented this ban on open enrollment, preventing families from open enrolling into the Union School District which includes La Porte City, part of my legislative district. As is often the case, sometimes ideas like this take time to take hold, I am delighted to hear the governor press this issue and I anticipate the idea moving forward perhaps as part of a larger piece of legislation. I will be also filing my own bill as well.
When the Governor delivers her annual Condition of the State Address each year, she also delivers her budget proposal to the legislature. Thanks to the leadership of Republicans in the “Trifecta”, the House, Senate, and governor’s office, Iowa’s budget is sound, one of the strongest and most resilient in the nation. Our reserve accounts are full, we have a healthy ending balance, and our commitments are fulfilled. Unemployment stands at 3.6% in Iowa, one of the lowest in the nation thanks to our responsible approach to the pandemic. We will maintain our sound, disciplined, and conservative approach to budgeting for Fiscal Year 2022. Democrats are already insisting that the state dip into reserve and emergency funds for one-time payouts, but these funds are required to be paid back to restore the fund in the following year, making budgeting more difficult in the future. There’s no free lunch as Democrats seem to believe. When Democrats foolishly used these funds a decade ago during the governor Culver administration, the budget was thrown out of control and was only restored to sanity after governor Branstad was elected and Republicans took control of the Iowa House. We dare not go back to the failed budgeting ideas of the Democrats.
On Wednesday we heard Chief Justice Susan Christensen deliver the Condition of the Judiciary Address. Chief Justice Christensen related the many actions taken throughout the Iowa Judicial system to address the Wuhan Virus this past year and stressed the remarkable work of the employees in the judicial system. She also highlighted the work the judicial system is doing in helping to reform those citizens that are in the judicial system. She related the struggles and ultimate achievement of one young man who had been addicted to Methamphetamine and how the judicial system helped him overcome his addiction and regain his family and work life. I have the utmost confidence in Chief Justice Christensen, since her appointment to the court in 2018 she has earned the respect of her colleagues for her wisdom, knowledge, and managerial abilities.
On Thursday we heard Major General Corell deliver the Condition of the Iowa National Guard Address. General Corell assured us that the Iowa National Guard is strong and mission ready. He related the many actions the guard assisted citizens of this state with during the pandemic, and during the derecho event that tore through the center of our state. We owe much to the men and women in the Iowa National Guard and their families who also serve our state in their sacrifice of their family member’s service.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you during the session. I’ve usually signed off on this newsletter by inviting you down to the capitol, but I’m less enthusiastic about those visits given the pandemic. The capitol is open for visitors however, we’ll just have to social distance.