The 2006 Legislative session is history, with a tax cut for seniors and pay hikes for teachers as lawmakers’ top accomplishments.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says the record also includes more state money set aside to convert nursing home space to assisted living. “I think we sent a very strong message to Iowa seniors how valued they are in our state and we continue to work to try to improve their quality of life,” Rants says. “Clearly, a lot people will look at what we did in terms of education and say that’s the hallmark of the session.”
Rants says Iowa’s heading in the right direction on teacher pay but more importantly, passing legislation that calls for more rigorous coursework in high school. Senate Democrat Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says average Iowa teacher pay should jump from 41st to 31st in the country within three years. “I think we walk out of here with our heads held high,” Gronstal says. “I think we are able to look teachers in the eye and say we are on a course to get to the national average on teacher salaries.”
Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby of Marion says legislators made “phenomenal” progress on key issues like teacher pay because raises will start to be linked with classroom performance. “I’m amazed at how well it turned out,” Lundby says. She entered the session this past January with “grave concerns” because the Senate’s split evenly with 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats, and it’s an election year. “I had grave concerns that this would be a year that we did nothing, carped at each other, complained about a lot of things, pouted and went home,” Lundby says.
House Democratic Leader Pat Murphy of Dubuque says one of the things he’ll remember about 2006 is Representative Mark Kuhn’s temporary disability that was caused by a farm accident last November. “As everyone remembers, he was in a wheelchair and from time to time, he had difficulty getting out of the building when there was a rush,” Murphy says. Kuhn repeatedly raised concerns about statehouse evacuation plans after he found himself stranded in his wheelchair during a false fire alarm. Kuhn, who moved on to crutches, then two canes, is now walking with the aid of just one cane.
The Senate concluded at 11:45 Wednesday night. The House adjourned 45 minutes later, at 12:30 this (Thursday) morning.