As lawmakers returned to the Iowa Capitol Monday to kick off the 2019 legislative session, Republican leaders said they are excited about having full control of the statehouse for the third session in a row.
Party leaders and lawmakers started the day at a fundraising breakfast for Iowa Republicans, where party chair Jeff Kaufmann said the recent elections gave them a mandate to continue their work.
“Iowans spoke in 2018, and what they told you is that when you do what you say you’re going to do, they will back you,” Kaufmann said. “That is what you should take with you to that capitol.”
At the Capitol, 150 lawmakers took their oaths of office, including a record 45 women. Family and friends of all ages joined legislators in the House and Senate chambers.
In her speech to start the session, House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, called for a focus on children’s mental health care, education and workforce development, and revitalizing rural Iowa.
“After the election, no matter who’s in charge, Iowans expect us to move beyond the partisan gamesmanship and govern,” Upmeyer said. “We’ve listened to Iowans, heard their priorities, and now it is time to act.”
In the Senate, Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, urged his fellow senators to keep the next generation in mind.
“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” Whitver said.
He said Senate Republicans made tough decisions in the past two years that led to many accomplishments. He also promised to deliver “bold action” to build Iowa’s workforce, reduce taxes and keep other campaign promises.
Democrats returned to the statehouse as the minority party for the third year in a row.
New House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, said he’s proud to lead the first caucus in Iowa history that has a majority of women.
He went on to say that the legislature has ignored Iowa families and focused on special interests and the wealthy. He said Iowa faces challenges with school resources, health care, a workforce shortage, and soil and water health concerns.
“As the leader of the minority party, I pledge to each of you that we will work in good faith with the majority party to solve these problems,” Prichard said.
Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, called for expanding voting right, fully funding workforce development programs and making child care affordable.
“When we put people at the front of the line, good things can happen,” Petersen said. “Instead of ‘reforming’ stuff that isn’t broken, let’s fix things that are broken.”
She listed Medicaid managed care, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse charges, and women’s health care.
Petersen also said she’d keep working to make the statehouse a safe work environment after previous issues with sexual harassment in the building.
Meanwhile, she’s continuing to deal with the fallout from Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, being accused of touching women without their consent before he was a senator.
Petersen assigned him to two committees, but she said they are not the committees he requested, and she denied him a leadership position.
“My expectation is he will uphold the duties of the office while he remains in the senate,” Petersen said.