For the past six years, Republicans have had the majority in the Iowa House while Democrats controlled the Senate’s debate agenda, but no more.
As of today and the start of the 2017 Iowa legislative session, GOP lawmakers hold a majority of seats in both the House and Senate.
Republicans like incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock are ready with a new agenda.
“As we prepare to start this legislative session, we’re doing so with a high level of optimism and determination that we are going to change the way we do business in Iowa,” Dix says.
Dix says “nothing should be off the table.”
“It’s an exciting time and a time where we’re looking at all of the options we have and making sure that we present Iowans with an opportunity to grow in the future.”
Dix and the 28 other Republican senators have four items in line for quick action. They want to cut off state funding to Planned Parenthood, enact tort reform and they’ll propose amendments to the state constitution that ensure gun rights and enact new restrictions on state spending.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake is entering her second year as the legislature’s top Republican.
“We’re excited about this opportunity,” Upmeyer says. “We’re excited about the energy in the building and look forward to getting started.”
Upmeyer says spending restraint is a top priority for House Republicans.
Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids is the new leader for minority Democrats in the state senate.
“Our number one goal is to make sure that we do everything we can to prevent the legislature from dismantling or damaging or destroying parts of state government and the way our state has operated for decades,” Hogg says.
Mark Smith of Marshalltown is returning as the leader for House Democrats.
“I like the saying about Iowans that we wear last year’s clothing and read next year’s books,” Smith says. “…Iowans will be watching everything that’s done in this legislative session.”
The four leaders made their comments last week during the Associated Press Legislative Seminar at the statehouse.
The last time Republicans held majority control of both the Iowa House and Senate — and governor’s office — was in 1997 and 1998. The GOP’s major action back then was a 10 percent across-the-board cut in state income taxes. Republican Governor Terry Branstad approved those cuts 20 years ago, but Branstad says the state had a surplus back then. He will not recommend tax cuts this year.