Legislature begins 2020 session with new leadership
Iowa lawmakers dropped the gavel on the 2020 session Monday, pledging to address challenges that include a shortage of skilled workers and limited access to affordable child care for some across the state.
The biggest change at the State Capitol for the 2020 session is the new leadership in the House. Republican Rep. Pat Grassley of New Hartford, grandson of U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, took over as Speaker. He assumes the role from retiring Speaker Linda Upmeyer, the first woman in Iowa to serve in the position. In another leadership change, Rep. Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley is serving as the new House Majority Leader.
Speaker Pat Grassley was accompanied by his grandfather and family to mark the occasion. He previously served as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, setting budget policy for the state. In his opening address, he called on fellow House members to work together in a bipartisan fashion to reach common goals and show they are not like their counterparts in Washington D.C.
In their opening day remarks, Democratic leaders focused on making health care more accessible and affordable.
Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, highlighted needs for better maternal health care, saying the system was in “crisis” with maternal mortality rates increasing and labor and delivery units closing around the state.
Governor Reynolds lays out plan for sales tax increase in Condition of the State
In her annual Condition of the State speech, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds called for raising the state sales tax by one cent, with three-eighths of a penny going to fund natural resources. A large share of those dollars would be funneled to improving the state’s waterways through conservation efforts.
The sales tax increase would be offset by income tax and property tax cuts as part of overall tax package she is calling her “Invest in Iowa” program.
Part of the remaining 5/8 of the penny in her proposal would be used to pay for a stable source of funding for mental health services. Under her plan, the state would pick up a larger share of mental health expenses, which would lower local property tax levies that have been used to fund those services.
In other issues:
Officials pay tribute to former Chief Justice
Absent from the week’s ceremonial speeches was former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady, who died unexpectedly this fall. Gov. Kim Reynolds paid tribute to Cady in her Condition of the State address.
“He loved his state. And he loved the law,” Reynolds said. “To his family and colleagues in the Iowa Judicial Branch, our entire state shares your loss.”
Cady would have delivered the traditional Condition of the Judiciary this week. Instead, retiring Justice David Wiggins, the acting chief justice, addressed lawmakers.