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The 2017 General Assembly began work on January 9. On Monday re-elected and newly elected Representatives and Senators took the oath of office, pledging to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and State of Iowa. It is an honor to begin my second term serving the residents of Senate District 40, which includes all of Mahaska, Monroe, and Appanoose counties, along with seven townships in northwest Wapello county and one township in Marion county, including the city of Pella.
My committee assignments for the next two years include Agriculture, Appropriations, Education, as the Chair of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee and the Vice Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee. For the first time in 20 years, Republicans will be a majority in both the 100-member House of Representatives and the 50-member Senate while also holding the governorship with Governor Branstad and soon-to-be Governor Reynolds.
Senate Republicans have selected Bill Dix as our Majority Leader and Jack Whitver as Senate President, and Rob Hogg heading the Senate Democrats as Minority Leader. House Leadership remains unchanged with Linda Upmeyer serving as Speaker of the House, Chris Hagenow as House Majority Leader and Mark Smith as House Minority Leader.
Of course, budget considerations will dominate the debate and the media coverage as they always do. The December 2016 Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) report projected that revenues for the current fiscal year, FY2017, to be $110 million lower than originally expected, meaning budget cuts are in our immediate future.
That is why as one of our first orders of business, Senate Republicans are seeking to pass an amendment to Iowa’s constitution that limits spending to 99% of what the state takes in. Adding a 99% expenditure limitation to the constitution will provide confidence to Iowa families and job creators that the state will live within its means, will prevent the use of budget gimmicks to get around the current expenditure limitation law, and hold senators accountable to their oath of office when they promise to protect and defend the constitutions.
We believe that a strong economy requires us to make it easier and more attractive for employers to do business in Iowa. That is why one of our first actions will be to require a “jobs impact statement” for all new administrative rules. While the governor requires jobs impact statements on rules through executive order, our bill would make it permanent law, so that Iowans can be confident of a diligent review of proposed regulations and their possible impact on jobs. Regulations can have serious impacts on the job climate and ensuring rigorous evaluation of administrative rules will help protect Iowa families and job creators.
Too often job creators must spend more time and money fending off frivolous lawsuits than they do creating job opportunities, which is why we are committed to Tort Reform. This common sense proposal would force the loser of frivolous lawsuits to pay the legal fee which result from those lawsuits, making nuisance lawsuits much less likely because people know they bear the cost of those lawsuits. A person should be entitled to defend themselves against without fear of damaging costs and not forced to settle because the cost of defense is too high to bear.
Also on our agenda will be passing a constitutional amendment to protect Iowa’s second amendment rights. An amendment enshrining the right of Iowans to keep and bear arms will protect Iowans against the increasingly active courts who seek to eliminate 2nd Amendment rights by judicial fiat.
Funding for family planning services will also be reviewed this year. Currently all that money goes to the thirteen providers in the urban centers that also feature abortion services. Senate Republicans believe that those state and federal funds should be distributed to the more than 200 health care clinics around the state so all Iowans can access those services, and so that Iowans who are opposed to abortion are not forced to support the abortion industry with their tax dollars.
My first forum is scheduled for January 28 at Smokey Row in Oskaloosa from 8:30 – 9:30. I hope to see you there.
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