The 2021 legislative session began on January 11 with some changes in protocol, but with the purpose of serving Iowans in a meaningful and transparent way. As I write this first newsletter of the session, I want to share with you the sense of purpose and hope that I encounter in the Capitol building.
During the first week of session we adopt the rules we will use to govern our actions in the Senate and we swear in senators who have been selected by the citizens of Iowa. This year we have eight new members, seven of whom are Republicans. As I get to know them and see the new perspectives and talents that they bring, I am encouraged that the problems facing us will be met with perseverance and commitment to the truth.
On Tuesday Governor Reynolds gave the annual Condition of the State address. She spoke of the determination of Iowans to meet every challenge that was thrown at them with a spirit of determination. We started 2020 in a very strong economy and low unemployment. Everything changed in an instant when we were faced with a worldwide health crisis. Then the devastation of derecho struck much of central Iowa. While we are gaining in the battle to protect people’s health and rebuilding damaged infrastructure, our economy and unemployment rate remain the envy of the nation.
I was especially impressed when the governor told us about a conversation she had with out of state utility workers who came to Iowa to help make repairs after the derecho storm destroyed so many power lines. They told her they had helped in recovery from hurricanes in the south that were not as destructive as the derecho was, yet were more impressed with Iowans’ attitude. Iowans are resilient and care for their neighbors. The utility workers saw a sense of hope for the future that I think is one of Iowa’s biggest assets.
Governor Reynolds laid out initiatives for the legislature to work on including: improving access to high-speed broadband, education that trains Iowans for the jobs needed in Iowa, and more educational choice for Iowa students. The governor emphasized that we must focus on the future of Iowa children and committed to giving them the option of being back in the classroom full time.
The Senate Majority Leader also delivered a speech on his priorities for the year. Leader Jack Whitver said:
“This year we are focused on putting our state back on a path of success and prosperity after all these challenges. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: the best recovery plan is a job. This recovery plan means sticking to those same principles guiding us for the last four years. It means freedom to work. It means continuing our work on tax reform, and putting more money back into the pockets of Iowans. It means ensuring the best education for Iowa students, in the classroom, where they learn best.”
Finally, I’d like to share with you my impressions of the new Chief Justice on the Iowa Supreme Court. Justice Susan Christensen delivered her State of the Judiciary report on Wednesday and told us a bit of her career leading up to her appointment to this court. I was impressed that she always put family before career, moving to four different colleges in four years for their benefit. That emphasis shows in her work as well. She shared a touching story of a young man that appeared before her over five years ago. He was struggling with a meth addiction and lost custody of his kids. He would try, but failed many times. Judge Christensen kept challenging him. Finally he got a good job with a large company and became active in a church. Today he has been clean for almost 3 years and has his family back. His company, with over 3,000 employees, has honored him for his faithful service and dedication to excellence. An amazing story! I look forward to seeing Iowa’s judicial system thrive under Chief Justice Christensen.
With all the unsettling things going on in our country and world today, I encourage Iowans to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6&7