The 2013 Legislative Session opened this week and I’m excited to get to work at the Capitol. It’s time to put partisanship aside and work together. I’ll be listening to you on the critical issues we face and working to find common ground to strengthen Iowa’s middle class.
The opening gavel dropped at 10 a.m. Monday morning. It was exciting to see several Newton Firefighters, including Chief Jarrod Wellik, participate in the presentation of the colors. My 8-year-old nephew, Trevor, stood with me at my desk as I took the Oath of Office.
I will always remember that moment and I hope he is old enough to be able to recall it someday. Later in the day, House members selected our desks for the next two years. I moved one seat to the left in the front row on the aisle. I now sit at Desk No. 1. It’s your desk. Thanks for choosing me to sit in it. It’s an honor and a privilege.
By starting my second session, I am no longer a freshman legislator. While I am still in the minority party, I have six new fellow caucus members. There are now 46 Democrats and 53 Republicans in the House. A special election will be held next week to fill a seat left open due to a retirement following Election Day.
The Senate remained at 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans. Iowa is one of only three states with a ‘split legislature.’ Iowans like balance and they demand cooperation. Not all legislators understand this, but I do. I return with a good margin-of-victory on Election Day. This puts me in a great position to fight for middle class families of Jasper County.
Like last session, this one brings many new voices to Des Moines. With 37 new legislators in the House and Senate, I look forward to hearing new ideas and different perspectives on the issues facing Iowa today. The 110-day session is set for adjournment May 3.
Legislative leaders outlined their priorities Monday. Governor Branstad delivered his Condition of the State address Tuesday, and Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Mark Cady gave the Condition of the Judiciary Wednesday. The rest of the week was spent in committee meetings and getting organized for the 2013 session.
I return to familiar assignments for 2013-14; Environmental Protection, and Agriculture. And look forward to some exciting, new assignments; Ways and Means and International Relations. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, once again, selected me as Ranking Member of the Administration and Regulations Budget Committee. This assignment puts me in an excellent position to help keep the state budget balanced while meeting the critical needs of Iowans, especially those most vulnerable, children and seniors. My budget committee covers many of the administrative and regulatory departments and agencies in the executive branch. I’ll work hard to prevent wasteful spending and do my best to make sure these offices have the resources to serve Iowans.
We are expected to address several important issues this session, including: property tax reform, the governor’s proposal to increase the gas tax, nutrient-pollution strategy to protect our water, worker-skill-shortage, and strengthening education. The governor focused on his education reform package during his State of the State speech. Unfortunately, the governor’s funding plan for education is devastating for schools, especially those in rural districts. He’s threatened no action on school funding, or allowable growth, until his education-reform-package is passed. The budget he outlined provides zero new dollars for schools to keep up with costs they already have today, including transportation and energy costs. Quality schools are critical for moving the middle class forward. While I and many of my fellow legislators are willing to work with the governor, none of us will be bullied. Threats won’t get the job done. Good faith negotiation along with a commitment to proper school funding is what Iowa’s kids and educators need.
Feel free to contact me anytime at (641) 521-9260 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.electkelley.com and ‘friend’ me on Facebook.