Speaker of the House Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford) delivered opening remarks to the Iowa House of Representatives today. The following are his remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Ladies and gentlemen of the Iowa House of Representatives, it is a pleasure to be back in this historic chamber with all of you. And it is an honor to begin my second session serving as Speaker of the Iowa House.
First, I can go no further until I say a big thank you to my family here with me today. Especially my mom and dad and my three kids Indee, Reagan, and Chance. I could not stand up here today, ready to do my duty for the people of Iowa and House District 50 without your sacrifices and your support.
Second, it’s important to me that I thank the Republican House Majority for putting your faith in me once again to lead this caucus. We are coming off a successful election where Iowans made it known clearly and definitively that they want more of the commonsense leadership the Republican-led House has provided over the last 10 years.
With House Republicans now representing 97 out of Iowa’s 99 counties, we know — now more than ever — we are ready to represent Iowans in every corner of this state. To our 14 new members, welcome. I look forward to hearing the fresh ideas and new perspectives you will bring to the table.
Majority Leader Windschitl, I’m honored to serve with you for another session. I look forward to all we will accomplish together for the people of Iowa.
Minority Leader Pritchard and all of my Democratic colleagues, before all the inevitable disagreements that are sure to come this session, let’s start by remembering all that we have in common. Like, for starters, our agreement that Iowa is the greatest state in the greatest nation in the world.
While it’s the disagreements that will grab the headlines and the controversies that will captivate social media, we know that much of the work we do in this building is bipartisan. That we can work together for the people of Iowa. This session, let’s show Iowans and the rest of the country that we can express our disagreements passionately and unequivocally without resorting to violence, aggression, or contempt.
All of us have just spent time on the campaign trail connecting with our constituents, hearing their concerns, frustrations, and priorities. Now it’s time to act. In everything that we do this session, we must remember that we work for Iowans, not the other way around.
Last session was unprecedented. Nobody had a perfect playbook for all the challenges and uncertainty we faced. Despite that, we were still able to pass a responsible budget, accomplish historic criminal justice reform that served as an example for Washington DC and other Legislatures across the country, and provide essential protections for churches, schools, and small businesses so they can remain open during this pandemic. And lastly, the actions this Legislature has taken ensured that our state was able to hold a safe and secure election with record turnout.
We are entering this session more prepared. Iowans expect us to be here to do the job we’ve promised to do. And ensuring transparency in the process was top of mind as we prepared to begin the 2021 session. We are able to build on what worked when we gaveled in last June while introducing new technology and better utilizing our largest spaces to ensure that we can do the jobs Iowans elected us to do safely and responsibly.
In a time of so much uncertainty, Iowans know that they can trust the same consistent, responsible leadership they’ve come to expect from House Republicans. Because of that leadership, Iowa was ranked the most fiscally sound, and most resilient state in the country in terms of our budget’s ability to handle the pandemic. Our reserve accounts are full, we have a healthy ending balance, and our commitments were fulfilled. For that reason, we are bouncing back quicker than other states.
As we address the budget for Fiscal Year ‘21, we must continue to provide the same level of disciplined budgeting that set us up for success in years past. We will fund Iowans’ priorities, meet our commitments to the taxpayer, and we will do it in a responsible way. It will be an even bigger task than ever before. But it is our responsibility to use the same common-sense approach everyday Iowans use when they maintain their own budgets back home.
As I’ve prepared for session, I can tell you almost every meeting I’ve had, regardless of what part of the state they were from or what political party they may affiliate with, the need to increase access to safe and affordable child care is a priority. Any sense of normalcy for our state during and after this pandemic depends on it.
But on this issue, we can’t just return to the status quo. Our state was facing a child care crisis before COVID-19 even began. Often times, families are hesitant or outright reject a pay raise because it could result in the loss of their child care assistance. This is the cliff effect, and it must be addressed because it is holding our workforce and our families back. It is incumbent upon the Legislature to provide an off-ramp from government assistance when it comes to child care.
One final thing I know many of our members heard as they talked with constituents was the absolute necessity to get our children back in the classroom. Some schools have taken every effort to provide in-person learning. But in some areas of the state, parents, and students who wanted to be back in school were met with at best a lack of responsiveness and at worst outright contempt.
Students are being trapped in situations that aren’t what’s best for them. It’s time for parents to take back control in deciding what’s best for their child. Let’s be clear, getting our kids back in the classroom is critical to their mental health and wellbeing. This should be one of this legislature’s top priorities – to ensure that every family that wants 100% in-person learning has access to it.
I’m eager to get back to work with all of you. Time doesn’t stand still during COVID-19. Just like the people we serve, we have a job to do.
So I say to both the Republican and Democratic members… Let’s get to work.