After a few days of overtime, the 2014 legislative session wrapped up work in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 1st.
As I expressed on opening day, I had hoped that this legislative session would improve public schools and early childhood education, create a better environment for quality jobs, and reduce taxes for families with average incomes. I’m afraid the results were mixed.
Last year, we made significant bipartisan progress in property tax, education and health care reform. This year we seemed to lose momentum.
I’m proud of some of the bipartisan work we did this session. We froze tuition again at the state universities. We extended skilled job training programs. We encouraged more production and use of renewable energy.
In an effort to help the middle class, we also provided some child care assistance to parents who want to gain new job training skills. However, it was far too modest in scope and should be expanded to help more families.
But we missed other opportunities to improve the quality of life in Iowa. We could have taken a big step toward transforming our K-12 school system into a pre-K/14 system by reducing tuition for community college students and extending early childhood education to all Iowa kids, but we didn’t. We also failed to meet our legal obligation to set public school funding.
Too many of Iowa’s children are being bullied in schools, yet for the second session in a row, we didn’t get a reasonable bill to protect them signed in to law. The majority party wouldn’t consider an increase in the minimum wage by even so much as a dollar and we didn’t find a way to expand broadband access to more Iowans.
These issues remain unresolved, even though Democrats stood ready to work together and address them this session. In the months ahead, we will have a conversation with Iowans about those issues and will work toward their accomplishment during the next General Assembly.
While the session is over, I encourage any Iowan to contact me with questions or concerns. I can be reached at email@example.com or 515-281-3054. I look forward to hearing from you.
Contact Leader Mark Smith
Des Moines, IA 50319