Senator Majority Leader Mike Gronstal’s 2015 Closing Statement
This year, common ground was hard to find, especially on two issues that matter most to Iowans—the education of our children and the future of our economy.
Senate Democrats argued that, after several lean years for local schools, Iowa’s improving economy makes it possible to reinvest in Iowa’s next generation.
Republicans said the state of Iowa couldn’t afford to do more. Next fall, there will be hundreds of fewer teachers in Iowa’s local schools as a result.
That issue is not going away.
During the next several months, Iowa parents, educators, community leaders and students will make their case for doing more for education. I hope next session’s results will be different.
People need to know that the prolonged stalemate over education funding is NOT how most issues are addressed at the statehouse.
Here’s an example of how the Legislature works best: the “Safe at Home” program.
This is an effort to better protect victims of domestic violence by preserving their confidentiality when they are dealing with government agencies.
This idea was first proposed by Brad Anderson, the 2014 Democratic candidate for Secretary of State.
Brad’s Republican opponent, Paul Pate, embraced the idea after the election and worked with Democratic and Republican legislators on legislation to enact it.
“Safe at Home” was approved by large, bipartisan majorities in the Iowa House and Senate, and then signed into law by Governor Branstad.
A good idea was proposed and Iowa’s leaders worked together to make it a reality.
Here’s another example: Thanks to the cooperative work by members of both chambers and the Board of Regents, the tuition freeze for Iowa students at our public universities will continue.
Finally, I want to draw attention to the agreement worked out to keep the Mental Health Institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda available to serve Iowa families dealing with several mental health issues.
Two Henry County legislators — State Senator Rich Taylor, a Democrat, and State Representative David Heaton, a Republican — worked with Senator Amanda Ragan throughout the session to craft a bipartisan response to Governor Branstad’s abrupt announcement that he intended to close these two important institutions, both of which serve crucial roles in our state’s mental health and public safety networks.
I urge Governor Branstad to support this bipartisan compromise.
There were a number of overwhelmingly bipartisan ideas approved by the Senate which did not receive a vote in the Iowa House.
These ideas will be there next January, waiting for the House to consider them. They include:
The anti-bullying initiative: All students have a right to a safe and supportive place to learn. Iowa law currently requires schools to have anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies, help for bullied children, and the collection of data on bullying incidents.
Senate File 345, which takes steps to make sure those existing protections will actually make a day-to-day difference for our students, was approved by a vote of 43 to 7. I hope it will be approved by the House early in the 2016 session.
Senate File 447, approved by the Senate on a vote of 50 to 0, extends the statute of limitations on the sexual abuse of children.
If it is passed by the Iowa House and signed by the Governor, no one who sexually abuses a child in Iowa will ever have the security of knowing they got away with it.
It is shocking to think that between 2001 and 2013, Iowa drivers distracted by a phone or other device, caused more than 8,600 crashes. That’s why the Senate voted 44 to 6 for Senate File 391, which would make texting while driving a primary offense.
That legislation will also be on the House’s calendar in 2016.
In almost every Iowa murder involving domestic violence, the victim was previously stalked by their assailant.
The Iowa Senate voted unanimously for Senate Files 395 and 416. They expand the definition of stalking to include conduct that causes reasonable people to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated or threatened.
Human trafficking is the buying and selling of human beings, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate File 450. It would make human trafficking a forcible felony, sending persons convicted of human trafficking, straight to prison. There would be no deferred judgments, no deferred sentences and no suspended sentences.
All this legislation will be there, waiting for the House to take up next session.
The Democratic and Republican members of the Senate have many reasons to be proud of our work this session, and to look forward to a productive session next year.
Posted Jun. 5th, 2015 at 11:16 am by Senate Intern
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