2018 Legislative Session: Closing Day Remarks

House Democratic Leader Mark Smith

First, I want to thank the members of my caucus for sticking together this year and leading the fight for everyday Iowans.

On behalf of my caucus, I want to thank the House Democratic Staff — Joe, Rachelle, Kelsey, Dave, Alison, Bill, Joe, Brian, Jessica, Jake and Dean — for your hard work this session. It’s no secret you are the best staff in the Capitol. A special thanks to our Page, Brady Fisher, who was in charge of the office this year.  You did great and we wish you well in your studies at the University of Northern Iowa this fall.

I also want to thank LSA, the clerks, the doormen and all the capitol staff who work hard behind the scenes to keep this place running.  We are a demanding group and your hard work does not go unnoticed.

Many years ago, my great uncle purchased a grocery store in Hopkins, Missouri from a previous owner.  When he and his family started preparing the store for the grand opening, they found that many of the items they thought were on the shelves were actually empty containers and that the actual goods weren’t there.  The goods they thought they had purchased were really just empty boxes.

In the months ahead when Iowans expect to see the promises made by this Legislature impact their own life, they’re going to find an empty box.

The working family in Muscatine expecting a tax break will get a higher property tax bill and new sales taxes for online purchases and streaming services instead.

The teacher in Sioux City hoping to give her students more one-on-one time in the classroom will have to take a pay cut.

The soybean farmer in Winneshiek County expecting a bumper crop and profit this year will find a weak market, low prices, and even higher property taxes.

The fisherman from Louisa County expecting cleaner waterways will find zero progress has been made again this year.

The young woman in Bettendorf will still struggle to find reproductive health care and cancer screenings.

The parents in West Des Moines desperately trying to find mental health support for their son will find the state didn’t fund any significant expansion of services their child needs to survive.

The small business owner in Marion expecting a new affordable health care plan will find out her application was denied because she had a pre-existing condition.

The mom in Ankeny pregnant with her second child who just received the worst news of her life regarding her unborn child will find out she has no options left because she lives in Iowa.

The 2018 session was indeed historic – for the special interests, but not for everyday Iowans.

Iowans don’t ask for much, but WE know they are tired of politics as usual and broken promises from politicians. They just want a decent paying job and the chance to lead a happy, healthy life.  

As lawmakers, I believe our job is to listen and work to improve the lives of everyday Iowans.  That’s why we offered ideas this session to get back to the basics and create new opportunities for all of us to get ahead.  

This means putting everyday Iowans first, not the special interests.

This means lowering costs and expanding health care, not reducing access and denying care.

This means keeping college and job training affordable, not raising tuition and putting job training out of reach for thousands of families.

This means investing in public schools to build our skilled workforce, not shortchanging public schools and raising class sizes.

This means protecting and expanding women’s health care, not taking away rights and limiting access.

This means revitalizing rural Iowa, not closing schools and ignoring the challenges they face.

This means restoring fiscal discipline and balancing the state budget, by not putting the state budget in the red with billions more in tax giveaways to the wealthy and special interests.

When the session began, I offered our assistance working in a bipartisan manner to address the challenges we face and simply asked that you engage us from the beginning. Very little of that occurred at all this session because you chose to work behind closed doors with special interests instead. The Iowans we represent deserve better.   

Over the last two years, we’ve proven time and time again that House Democrats will never walk away from a fight.

The poet, Robert Frost, has said, “It will not do to say of night because darkness is what brings out your light.”  The light of 41 members of the Democratic House Caucus shown through the darkness that too many in our state felt the last two years.   

There is no substitution for genuine.  There is a saying that sometimes good theater takes a few days to sink in.  We leave here today and return to our homes. It is my prediction that as we talk to our friends and neighbors, they will realize the positions House Democrats took this session, the battles we fought, and sincerity of our efforts were and are for the best interests of everyday Iowans.

There are no broken promises or empty boxes for Iowans from House Democrats.

I want to say a final thank you to the unprecedented number of Iowans who came to the State Capitol, sent emails, went to forums, participated in rallies, called their lawmakers, and marched for what they believe in.

We’ve lost a few battles, but please don’t give up. History has proven the struggle for progress has never been easy, but it has also has proven it’s always the right thing to do. Keep holding your elected officials accountable and keep fighting for the Iowa we love.

Thank you Madam Speaker.