End-of-Session Remarks 2019
Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen
Thank you, Mr. President.
As we wind down the 2019 Legislative session, I want to thank my Democratic colleagues for the honor of serving as your Leader. It is an honor leading a team of senators who care deeply about our state and the Iowans we serve.
I want to give a special “thank you” to the new members of our caucus: Senators Claire Celsi, Eric Giddens, Jackie Smith, Todd Taylor and Zach Wahls. They have all brought new enthusiasm and ideas to the Iowa Senate and we’re all grateful for their service.
Thank you to our dedicated caucus staff and leadership team who put in countless hours and have their fingerprints on every piece of legislation that runs through this chamber. We are fortunate to have such smart, caring and talented people working for us, and more importantly, working for Iowans. A special thanks to the Republican caucus staff and leadership team as well.
Thank you to the Secretary of the Senate, your staff, and the Senate pages who keep this chamber running smoothly.
Thank you to everyone at the Legislative Services Agency, to our joint legislative employees, and the Legislative Ombudsman’s Office for your putting your gifts to work on behalf of Iowans.
Let’s give them all a round of applause!
Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader, Senate colleagues, and to all the Iowans we serve: On the opening day of the 2019 Legislative Session, I talked about how the Iowa Senate has called this chamber home for more than 130 years.
The laws and budgets we pass or don’t pass have the ability to impact the lives of every Generation living in our state today – and Generations who will be sitting in our chairs long after we are gone.
This session we did some good things for the people of this state.
One of the most significant pieces of legislation we passed was the guardianship bill, a cause championed by Josie Gitler of Iowa City and so many others who worked with her. That bill will help protect hundreds of lives.
We passed the Iowa CARE Act, and established a governance structure for a children’s mental health system in our state.
We finally passed a bill opening the door to hemp production in Iowa.
There were missed opportunities as well.
Once again, we saw Republicans “fixing” things that weren’t broken instead of fixing things that are broken…
Iowans want strong public schools. Instead of fully funding our public schools, we saw Republicans push for private school vouchers that would take resources away from thousands of Iowa’s children.
Iowans want legislators to work on initiatives to prevent crime; deal with substance abuse and mental health problems; make our neighborhoods, workplaces and schools safer; and reduce racial disparities in our criminal system. Instead of tackling many of those issues, we saw a bill to completely revamp Iowa’s highly respected judicial nominating system to politicize Iowa’s courts.
Iowans are innovative and making great strides in solar, wind and other renewable energy areas. Instead of supporting those efforts, Senate Republicans passed a bill that would give government-supported monopolies the power to squelch Iowa’s growing solar industry. They also put further restrictions on energy efficiency programs for homes and businesses. Democrats believe we should be working together on renewable energy policies that help our entire state thrive.
Instead of focusing on health prevention and wellness efforts, our state is still reeling from the Governor’s privatized Medicaid mess that has gone on for more than three years. More than 425,000 Iowans and hundreds of health care providers will soon find themselves navigating through a web of red tape of yet another for-profit Managed Care Organization. Democrats believe health care dollars should be going to health care, not helping out-of-state, for-profit companies with their bottom line.
Democrats pushed for automatic voter registration and improved cyber security oversight for elections. Instead of expanding voter rights in Iowa, we saw Senator Roby Smith and his Republican colleagues push for more voter suppression legislation that would have made it harder to vote for Iowa college kids, veterans, and those who don’t work a 9 to 5 job.
Speaking of elections, it’s a real shame that Senate Republicans dropped the ball on a proposal by Governor Reynolds to restore voting rights to felons who have served their time. The Governor’s proposal was approved on 95-2 vote in the House nearly a month ago and clearly had bipartisan support in the Iowa Senate. There’s no excuse for Senate Republicans turning their backs on Iowans who deserve a second chance.
Iowa lost another eight labor and delivery departments last year and our state’s maternal mortality rate has more than doubled in less than three years. Yet, several maternal and reproductive health care bills Democrats proposed did not get taken up. The Governor did not get her pharmacy access to birth control bill through the legislature nor did the Republicans restore access to health care providers again for the thousands of women who were banned seeing many of Iowans most highly qualified providers in 2017. And in the final hours of the session, Republicans voted for anti-Planned Parenthood legislation that will actually lead to more abortions in our state, not fewer. That’s shameful!
It’s also shameful that legislative Republicans decided at the 11th hour of this session to take away the civil rights of Iowans who are already marginalized in our society. Democrats believe in expanding and protecting the civil rights of ALL Iowans. That is how we help our state grow.
Democrats pushed for putting more money in the pockets of Iowans with fairer tax policies, better job and apprenticeship opportunities, and decent wage and benefit policies for Iowans who work hard every day to support themselves and the people they love. Senate Republicans pushed for more red tape and hurdles for Iowa families struggling to make ends meet.
Children and adult survivors of child sexual abuse also lost again this session. A bill that would finally give survivors a chance to seek justice against their perpetrators and the organizations that covered up the crime were kept in a desk drawer and only a small window of time was added to the criminal statute of limitation for child sexual abuse.
While I am disappointed, that we did not accomplish more good things for Iowans in 2019, I am hopeful we can work together to make bigger strides next session.
I truly believe there are more things that unite us than divide us and we must continue looking for ways to work together to make Iowa a state we can proud to call home.
Thank you Iowans for making your voices heard this session.
– end –