Gronstal 2016 Opening Address: Let’s get to work!


Welcome to the first day of the 2016 session of the Iowa Legislature.

Our focus this year must be bringing more workers and their families into Iowa’s middle class.

Iowans are counting on us.  Based on the events of the last year, here are two steps that should receive strong, bipartisan support in the Iowa Senate, the Iowa House and in the Governor’s office.

One, we should expand educational opportunities and, two, we should strengthen the health care safety net all Iowa families count on.

Our children and grandchildren must be better prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century economy.  If we want more high-wage, high-skill jobs in Iowa, we must do more to prepare Iowans to fill those jobs.

That’s why we must invest more in K12 and higher education. This includes increased state aid to our local K-12 schools for the next two years by an amount that will increase educational opportunities.

We must also invest more in our universities and community colleges.

We must break the pattern of the last few years when the Governor and Iowa House leaders successfully insisted on inadequate funding for our local schools.

Look at the results: more crowded classrooms, fewer advanced courses, and higher property taxes.

Last year, House leaders refused to provide adequate funding in the Education Budget to continue the in-state tuition freeze at our state universities.  They also refused to make adequate investments in Iowa’s community colleges.

Those mistakes are making it harder for students from middle-class families to get ahead.  Those mistakes are also making it more difficult for Iowa businesses to hire the skilled workers they need.

In 2016, we can and must do better.

Every Iowa family counts on the Medicaid safety net when faced with the most severe medical challenges.

Everyone in this chamber has talked with constituents whose family health care costs would bankrupt the financial resources of 99% of all Iowa families.  Rather than dismissing their well-founded concerns, we should listen and take action.

During the summer and fall, Senate Democrats organized 17 listening posts in every corner of the state because we wanted to hear first-hand what Medicaid recipients, their families and health care providers had to say about Medicaid privatization.

Iowans — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — told us that the privatization scheme developed unilaterally by the Branstad/Reynolds Administration is a  poorly planned, poorly implemented mess.

There is much we can do to help fix this problem.  If we want to help, we can.

We can ensure that all Iowans have access to high-quality, affordable health care.

Last year, the House refused to take up the Senate’s Medicaid oversight legislation.  That was a mistake.

This year, I hope that the events of the past six months and the outcry from their constituents will have changed their minds.

And I also hope we will agree on legislation to stop the Branstad/Reynolds Administration from closing Iowa’s remaining Mental Health Institutes.

Voting for quality, effective mental health care is a matter of human decency and public safety.

It is time to stop outsourcing mental health care onto local police departments, county jails and local property taxpayers.

Much has happened since the Legislature was last in session.

During that time, everyone in this statehouse – State Representatives, State Senators, the Governor and Lt. Governor –have told our constituents that we support:

  • Better education for our children, and
  • High quality, affordable health care

Here’s my main point today.

It’s not enough to tell your constituents that you agree with them on better schools and better health care.

Talk is cheap.  We all know that.

Let’s not forget that failing to invest in education and health care is certain to be ruinously expensive.

Starting today at the Capitol, it’s time to back up your words with action.

We can do it.  And we can do it this year.

But to get this accomplished in 2016, Senate Democrats need willing partners.

We need people willing to find solutions, people from the Senate Republicans, the House Republicans, House Democrats, and Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds.

We need your support. We need your votes.

Your constituents, your families and your state need less talk and more action.  So, let’s get to work!

Thank you.




Posted Jan. 11th, 2016 at 10:29 am by
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