We have officially started the 2021 legislative session, and it has been a very busy week. Especially as a new senator, I personally have had to adjust to new changes due to the pandemic, as well as adjustments to the learning the process of how our state government operates within it. The staff at the Capitol has been working hard to try to keep everyone in the building safe, while still allowing us to conduct our work and give you, a member of the public, access to your elected officials.
The first week is busy with learning a number of traditions, organizing a new Senate, and a new session. Eight new members were sworn in, myself included, adding a total of seven new members to the Republican caucus. The new senators will be great additions to the Senate, and I look forward to hearing ideas for the challenges and issues we will be dealing with this session.
This week, I attended Governor Reynolds’ Condition of the State Address. She spoke of the determination of Iowans to meet every challenge the state faced this past year and undoubtedly come out stronger. A year ago, Iowa’s unemployment rate was one of the lowest in the country, our economy was strong. Then, it felt like everything was halted in an instant – we had to learn how to protect our livelihoods during a pandemic, and face hardships together after the derecho that tore across our state.
These challenges the state has faced does not mean we will be complacent at the Capitol. Iowa’s unemployment rate is getting lower and our GDP is growing again. Yet, we still have much work to do to strengthen Iowa, and Iowans alike.
I am encouraged by the initiatives Governor Reynolds has laid out for this legislative session and I look forward to working with those in the House of Representatives to send strong legislation to her desk. We have the wonderful opportunity to work together, to improve access to high-speed broadband across the state, and get Iowa back to work. We will also work towards the goal of continuing to support programs that provide the education or training requirements needed to fill job openings in Iowa and secure the future of Iowans.
Throughout the pandemic it has been abundantly clear that mental health, telehealth, and supporting our health care systems is vital to support the well-being of Iowans. This is not something I take lightly and will do what I can to support Iowans through these systems. We must also focus on the future of Iowa’s children. We will work diligently to make sure Iowa students have the option to be supported through a full-time classroom environment.
2021 Senate Agenda
Every year the first day of the legislative session features opening remarks from the President of the Senate, the Majority Leader and Minority Leader. Many things are different during the 2021 legislative session, but this tradition remained.
These speeches lay out the vision and broad themes of the agenda for the upcoming session. Senator Jack Whitver has been Majority Leader since 2018. He is focused on rebuilding the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic:
“This year we are focused on putting our state back on a path of success and prosperity after all these challenges. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: the best recovery plan is a job. This recovery plan means sticking to those same principles guiding us for the last several years. It means freedom to work. It means continuing our work on tax reform, and putting more money back into the pockets of Iowans. It means ensuring the best education for Iowa students, in the classroom, where they learn best.”
Senator Chapman is the new President of the Iowa Senate. He joined Senator Whitver in advocating for a message of recovery and growth:
“’Back to normal’ has been the finish line frequently proclaimed in the midst of our universal disruption. But today we have a choice; today we can choose to go back to life as normal, or we can choose to work, sacrifice, and endure for a better life, a better tomorrow, a better Iowa. My hope is that this chamber does not wish for life to return to normal, but that we set our sights on the brighter tomorrow.”
Iowa will successfully recover from this pandemic. With pro-growth policies to encourage work and investment, this state of ours, and its people will recover and be stronger than ever.