Jochum 2016 Opening Address: Focus on the next generation of Iowans

Welcome back.  Hopefully during the interim you were able to rejuvenate and enjoy some quality time with family and friends.

This is a hopeful time of the year when we ring in a New Year and a new legislative session.  It is a time to look back and reflect, and it is a time to look forward to what we will do to make Iowa better for all Iowans.

So, as we’re driving down the newly paved highway, and looking in the rearview mirror, the 2015 interim brought about a few changes – the Senate will be working with new House leaders this session.

I’d like to congratulate Representative Linda Upmeyer and Representative Chris Hagenow in their new roles and thank Speaker Paulsen for his service and leadership.  Representative Upmeyer is the first woman to be elected Speaker of the Iowa House, and for the first time in Iowa history a woman is serving as the presiding officer in both the House and the Senate.

We also said good-bye to Representative Jack Drake after a battle with cancer.  Jack and I were elected to the Iowa House in the same year.  Representative Drake was always respectful to other members, even in disagreement.

On a more personal note, my family gave a final farewell to my father.  Dad passed on December 14th from congestive heart failure.  Last year at this time, he held the Bible for me as Chief Justice Cady swore me into office as President of the Senate.

The 2015 session went into overtime but on June 3rd, the House and Senate reached an agreement on funding education and passed a balanced budget.  Unfortunately, major pieces of that agreement were vetoed.

There were also an unprecedented number of unilateral decisions made behind closed doors that bypassed the legislative branch—decisions to privatize the entire Medicaid system, to close two mental health institutes, and to cut $48 million in taxes by administrative rule, to mention a few.

We can each decide if those ideas will improve the lives of Iowans.  Only time holds the answer.

The issues that linger are trust, transparency, the checks and balance of power, and the rule of law.  Trust is the lifeblood of our democracy.  It is the bond between the people and their government and it is the bond between all of us serving in government.

There’s unfinished business.

The 60-day delay of the Governor’s proposed Medicaid managed care plan by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was welcomed by thousands of Iowans.  However, the results of privatization in other States have not produced the promised results.

Therefore, I urge the House Republicans to pass SF 452 that provides for comprehensive oversight IF CMS gives its final approval.  Furthermore, we need to work together to ensure there are safeguards in place that will protect our most vulnerable citizens and our local providers if this moves forward.

This is a time to look forward.  The Iowa Presidential precinct caucuses are just around the corner.  Next year at this time, our nation will be swearing a new President into office as well as a new Congress and a new Iowa Legislature.  As hard as it may be to resist at times, let’s make a pledge to remain focused on governing for the next 100 days and leave the campaigning for the remaining 202 days.

It’s been said, “Politicians look to the next election.  Statesmen and Stateswomen look to the next generation.”  Let’s be the statesmen and women who do just that.  It is the next generation I want to focus on today.

  • There are 725,954 children in Iowa.
  • 108,888 Iowa children are poor—that means a family of four is living on less than $23,834 a year.
  • 1 in 15 children in Iowa live in extreme poverty, or living in a household with less than $11,917 a year.
  • Nearly 7,000 Iowa public school students were homeless in the 2012-13 school year.
  • Nearly 20 percent of our children lived in households that lacked access to adequate food.
  • On a brighter note, 89 percent of Iowa public high school students graduated on time in 2012, placing Iowa 1st among states.
  • 11,345 children were abused or neglected in 2013.
  • 15,897 children between the ages of 10-17 were arrested in Iowa in 2012.
  • Iowa spent 2.8 times as much per prisoner as per public school student in FY 2012.

These are the children of our next generation.  These are the children of our future.  We have to do better.  What is disturbing is that Iowa is faring better than most states.

As the statistics reveal, the rungs of the economic ladder have grown farther apart.  Poverty and income inequality can no longer be dismissed or ignored, nor can violence in homes and gun violence among our youth.  It is time for a “New War on Poverty and Inequality.”  It is time to focus on working families and expand the middle class.  It is time to make the promise of equality and opportunity for all a reality.

We cannot just cut our way to prosperity.  We must out-educate, out-innovate and out-build the world.  That requires an investment in our “human” capital.  It’s up to the States and local governments.  New federal policies to address these problems seem highly unlikely.

I urge the House Republicans to pass SF 269.  Let’s set a wage floor of $8.75, give 181,000 Iowans a raise, most of whom are women and children, and THEN we can focus on a living wage.  According to the Iowa Department of Economic Development, a family of four needs a minimum of $45,000 ($25 an hour) to be financially independent to meet its basic needs.  Let’s get to work on increasing the household income of Iowa’s working families.  And that begins with education – educating our young children, ensuring affordable higher education and expanding robust worker skills programs at our community colleges.

Education is the engine that moves us forward.  It is the hub of economic growth and opportunity.  We cannot afford to undercut education again this year.  I urge the House Republicans to pass our anti-bullying bill so that students have a secure and healthy educational environment in which to learn, AND to work with us to reach an agreement on adequate and equitable school funding by February 11th that ensures quality, meets the needs of students, and improves student learning. Every student, regardless of ZIP code, deserves a quality 21st century education.

In short, we need better-educated Iowans, we need more young Iowans, we need better-paid Iowans, we need an Iowa where there are “fields of opportunities”.

In the words of former U.S. Senator Paul Wellston, “We all do better when we all do better.”  Let’s work together so that next January when the 2017 session opens, we can look back and say, “All Iowans did better”.

Thank you.



Posted Jan. 11th, 2016 at 10:34 am by
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