Listen Here: Speaker Pro Tem Polly Bukta – 2009 Opening Day Remarks

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Majority Leader, Mr. Minority Leader and colleagues of the House. Thank you for your trust in me by electing me Speaker Pro Tem for the 83rd General Assembly. It is truly an honor to sit here before you today.

To the Chief Clerk and his staff, both caucus staffs, the legislative Assistants to leadership, legislative clerks, the Sergeant of Arms, doorkeepers, pages, Postmaster, Finance Officers, custodial staff, thank you all for all the hours you spent to prepare this awesome chamber the for this first day of session. And thank you in advance for all the time and effort you will put forth to make this session run as smoothly as in the past.

Family members and friends of the Representatives, especially you who have traveled any distance on this typically Iowa winter day, to witness your loved ones take their oath of office, as new or returning members, I extend my most sincere and warm welcome! Your presence adds to the joy and ambience of the day.

Today we welcome 18 new members to the Iowa House, and welcome back the returning 81 members. You probably noticed that 18 and 81 do not total 100. It is not my math mistake, Representative Royd Chambers is on active duty in Iraq and will miss the 2009 session. We wish him well and a safe return for active duty in the Iowa House, hopefully for the 2010 session.

Iowa has made history again by expanding our diverse population to match the make-up of our great state. This session shows a record number of African Americans totaling six – a gain of two. The number of female representatives, sorry to say, is three less than last session, but still, we women make up 25% of the membership.

Our Chamber consists of members from all age groups ranging from the late twenties to the early eighties. How proud we can all be of the balance in this chamber in age, gender, race, and creed. I hope we will all remember that each of us brings to this gathering our own unique self with our own unique ideas on how best serve the constituents of our own unique districts. If we are able to keep this in mind as we move forward this session we will be able to treat each other with respect. We need to listen to one another, talk to one another, and work together to do the very best we can for our particular districts as well as for our entire state. Iowans expect this behavior from us, and it can be accomplished.

We have some trying times ahead of us, and it will take a concerted effort on our parts to get us through the difficult decisions, that we will have to make in the weeks and months ahead. Nobody could have predicted the economic downturn, nor the devastating natural tragedies of this past summer. There is work to do and problems to solve, and we will do both because we are IOWANS! We’re strong, we’re deliberate, we’re compassionate, we’re responsive and we are problem solvers.

I would like to end by reading a quote from a Texas state senator, Leticia Van de Putte, from her 15 tips on being an effective legislator – honor the institution (I won’t read all 15 of them, just the first one). Honor the institution. Thomas Jefferson did it, and so did James Madison, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and other builders of our governmental institutions. They worked tirelessly to make respresentative government work. Now the well-being of our state legislature is in our hands. Preserve and protect it so it remains a strong, co-equal branch of government. Legislative service is one of democracy’s worthiest pursuits. It is an important duty that deserves our time, attention and dedication. To work well, government requires a bond of trust between citizens and their representatives. Try to appeal to the best instincts of the electorate, talk about what you stand for, what you intend to do during your time in office and then work as hard as you can to fulfill those promises. Remember why you ran for office — to make a difference, a difference for the better.

Thank you, and enjoy your day.