The final gavel fell on the 2013 Iowa legislative session about an hour ago. We were scheduled for 110 days but went three weeks into overtime. In the final week, two of my proposals passed the legislature and will now be considered by the Governor. It was an exciting end-of-session.
Since before the session began I’ve been committed to working in a bi-partisan manner to help create jobs and grow Iowa’s economy so middle class families in Iowa can get ahead. Unlike the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., we were able to work together and create new opportunities for families across Iowa. While keeping the state budget balanced, we made great progress this year building a highly skilled workforce, expanding access to affordable health care, and growing our economy.
When the 2013 session opened, back in January, many Iowans wondered if the session would close with historic agreements in education, property taxes, and health care or whether it would end in a stalemate. After putting politics aside and working together, legislators chose to forge compromise on the key issues facing Iowa. While no one got everything they wanted and it wasn’t perfect, I think Iowans will see real progress in strengthening the middle class.
The foundation of a strong middle class is affordable education and a highly skilled workforce. We continued Iowa’s preschool program and expanded early literacy efforts. We made improvements to our K-12 schools to keep good teachers in the classroom and ensure every high school graduate has the skills necessary to land a good job or continue their education.
Since today’s jobs require some training beyond high school, we focused on making tuition affordable at our state universities and community colleges. Also, we expanded worker training initiatives at community colleges to train Iowans of all ages for high-skilled jobs. We’re also building connections with Iowa businesses to make certain the skills our students are learning are the same skills Iowa businesses need today.
A proposal I made to address the skilled-worker shortage passed the House and Senate this week. Through the assistance of the State Energy Sector Partnership Grant, the I-Green Center in Newton has established itself as a successful program to help improve Iowa’s skilled worker shortage and put Iowans back-to-work. I-Green provides training for electrical workers and various ‘green-collar’ renewable energy jobs. Programs and courses are offered at the facility in Newton in cooperation with DMACC and other community colleges in various parts of the state. If the Governor signs it, my legislation will invest $300,000 in this valuable and sustainable program.
Middle class families also deserve the security of quality, affordable health care in their own community. A compromise health care plan passed in the final hours of the session. Because of this compromise, on January 1, 150,000 hard working Iowans who don’t already have insurance through their employer will have access to health care at their local doctor’s office or clinic. The compromise plan approved by the Legislature also includes wellness initiatives and other measures to keep health care affordable.
We must do the right thing and stand with our food banks if we are to truly make Iowa the ‘Healthiest State.’ Rep. Art Staed and I co-sponsored legislation developing a public-private partnership in support of Iowa’s emergency food banks. The day before we adjourned, our proposal passed the Legislature with strong bi-partisan support. Thirty-eight states provide support for their food banks - Iowa doesn’t, yet.
Hunger is the great paradox of Iowa. We are the breadbasket of the world, yet many Iowans go to bed hungry at night. It is particularly upsetting to realize that many of these Iowans are children. According to the Food Bank of Iowa, one in eight Iowans are food insecure. Worse yet, one in five Iowa children lacks enough to eat on a regular basis.
Our proposal now goes to the Governor. I’m hopeful he will sign it.
The final vote of the session fixed a problem that’s been talked about for 30 years, we found a compromise and reduced commercial property taxes for small and medium sized businesses. The historic compromise reached on taxes this year is a step in the right direction. It will grow Iowa’s middle class by putting $30 million into the hands of hard working Iowans who struggle to pay their bills. After years of partisanship and stalemate, the agreement will also cut property taxes for Iowa’s small and medium sized businesses who want to expand and create new jobs. It also targets more support to Main Street businesses. While the agreement isn’t perfect, it’s a responsible, sustainable compromise.
It’s an honor to represent you in Des Moines, and it’s going to be nice to get back to Jasper County for the interim.
I’m proud to represent Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Mingo, Kellogg, Prairie City, Lambs Grove, Ira, and Valeria. Feel free to contact me anytime at 641-521-9260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit my website at www.electkelley.com. ‘Friend’ me on Facebook and ‘follow’ me on Twitter. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.