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Republicans Begin Third Iowa Legislative Session With Complete Control

John Pemble/IPR
(Right to left) Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake), Sen Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R- Ankeny), Senate Minority Leader Sen. Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines), House Minority Leader Todd Prichard (D-Charles City).

Iowa lawmakers will gavel in Monday to kick off the 2019 legislative session. It’s the third legislative session in a row with full Republican control of the statehouse.  Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver. R-Ankeny, says his members are excited to build on their accomplishments of the past two years.

“Just because it’s been done a certain way for 20 or 30 or 40 years, doesn’t mean it needs to be done that way for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years,” Sen. Whitver says.

Sen. Whitver says Senate Republicans are looking at ways to reduce property taxes and get more people into the workforce. Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, says she sees a lot of opportunities to build bipartisan support in areas like workforce development and healthcare.

“But if we continue to see Iowans shoved to the back of the line, putting out-of-state corporations first and millionaires fist,” Sen. Petersen says. “We will be loud and fierce in our opposition.”

A few issues to expect in 2019:

There is an appetite to continue looking at Iowa’s tax code.  Income tax cuts were passed last year and “there might be some minor tweaks to that policy,” IPR State Government Reporter Katarina Sostaric says. “But with recent state and federal tax changes, they might be more cautious to wait and see how those affect the state.” Gov. Kim Reynolds told IPR she has four years for tax cuts.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders are talking about trying to lower property taxes. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer says voters have had a lot of questions about that. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver says he wants lawmakers to review the entire property tax system.

Republicans are open to looking at changing the process of nominating Supreme Court Justices. The House speaker, Senate majority leader and governor all say Iowa’s process for choosing Supreme Court justices should be reviewed. Sen. Whitver takes issue with the fact half of the commission that selects nominees for the court is made up of attorneys chosen by other attorneys and says perhaps the “general populace” should have more of a say. Democrats say that would politicize the process.

Don’t expect Regents universities’ state funding restored to previous levels. “Republican leaders didn’t sound very willing to restore funding to the regents universities,” Sostaric reports. “They were more enthusiastic about supporting community colleges.” Senate Democratic Leader Petersen said lawmakers should make higher education funding a bigger budget priority or else the next generations will be afraid to pursue higher education because of tuition costs.

Hear IPR’s Clay Masters and Katarina Sostaric’s conversation with Gov. Kim Reynolds here.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter