Iowa's 2022 legislative session begins with speeches about taxes, workforce, and a 'sinister agenda'
Iowa’s 2022 legislative session began Monday with speeches from state Republican and Democratic leaders, who set out their goals for the next few months.
Before that, GOP leaders gathered for a Republican Party of Iowa fundraising breakfast.
There, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said he’s more excited and optimistic for this session than he’s ever been.
“Iowa is in the strongest position we have ever been in,” Whitver said. “And that is not an accident. We’re in the strongest position after five years of this Republican trifecta. And the thing that I’m most proud of after five years of this trifecta is our ability to work together, to come together as Republicans and keep the promises that we deliver out on the campaign trail.”
Or, as House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, put it, “For five years, we have been kicking ass with this trifecta.”
He said 2022 is going to be a great year for Republicans and for Iowans.
At the Iowa Capitol, yet another protest against vaccine mandates was happening in the rotunda as lawmakers and lobbyists arrived.
The Iowa House of Representatives and Senate gaveled in shortly after 10:00 a.m.
In the House, Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, again pledged to cut taxes.
“The state is taking in more tax money than it needs, and Iowans deserve to have that money back,” he said, pointing to the $1 billion in the taxpayer relief fund.
Grassley also said he wants to “protect the freedoms of Iowans” and “push back” on the Biden administration, but he didn’t elaborate on which freedoms or issues he was referring to.
House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, gave her first session opening speech as the top Democrat in the chamber. She said lawmakers should strive to make the state more welcoming to all kinds of people as one strategy for fixing the workforce shortage.
“Or will we send them the message that only certain types of families are welcome here?” Konfrst asked. “Will we send the message that we prioritize more public money for private schools, statewide solutions to local problems, and a divisive agenda that’s rife with unintended consequences that make Iowa less welcoming? If this is the path we choose, our workforce crisis will get worse.”
She also said elected officials have a responsibility to fight misinformation and govern based on truth.
Windschitl said the budget surplus is “one of the biggest things that we’re going to have to face this session.”
“There’s going to be a lot of disagreements on how exactly to do that,” he said. “But we have to do it in a way that is not only responsible, but sustainable.”
In the Senate, Majority Leader Whitver also promised to “reduce income taxes on all Iowans.” And he proposed a few policies he said would help with the workforce shortage.
“Let’s make it easier to open and operate a child care center in Iowa so parents can return to the workforce if they choose,” Whitver said. “Let’s eliminate outdated licensing requirements and make sure someone with the necessary training and skills can get to work sooner without government-imposed delays.”
He also called for changes to public assistance programs. Senate Republicans have considered additional work requirements for Medicaid and food assistance in past sessions.
Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, accused media and teachers of having a “sinister agenda,” and said there is an attempt to “normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children.”
“Our students should be learning about science and mathematics,” Chapman said. “They should be learning about engineering and innovation. Instead, we have some teachers who are disguising sexually obscene material as desired subject matter and profess it as artistic and literary in value.”
Chapman is one of the state senators who has called for criminal penalties for teachers who make books that some consider inappropriate available in school libraries.
He also said the legislature should focus on “the total elimination of income tax.”
Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said lawmakers should be focused on addressing the workforce shortage, which he labels “the Reynolds workforce crisis.”
“Gov. Reynolds and Iowa Republicans have not made Iowa a place where more people want to live, work, raise a family, or start a business,” Wahls said. “And now Republicans want to double down on the same policies that have already brought devastating consequences to Iowa.”
Wahls called for expanding career training, giving more funding to public schools, make child care and housing more affordable, and guarantee access to free pre-Kindergarten programs.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is scheduled to set out her priorities for the year in her Condition of the State address Tuesday at 6 p.m.