Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Today marks the end of my first legislative session as Democratic Leader. I want to begin by saying that every day I have appreciated this great honor. Further, I want to thank the members of my caucus; I could not be more proud of the work we did this session.
I also want to express my extreme gratitude to our staff. They did wonderful work for every member of our caucus. You guys are the best.
This Iowa has always been a welcoming and accepting place. It has been a place where we have valued our children, provided for their education, and kept them from harm. Iowa’s history has been one of respect for all people and their rights. We have been a people of progressive thinking.
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.
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 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. So we will have a conversation with Iowans about those issues as we head into November and will work toward their accomplishment during the next General Assembly.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.