Tax cuts, curtailing some union bargaining rights and ending state funding for Planned Parenthood are topics GOP lawmakers are itching to tackle as the 2017 legislative session begins today. Republicans hold significant majorities in both the Iowa House and Senate. Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann was enthusiastic as he opened a party fundraiser at 7 a.m. this morning.
“Let me start out with one phrase: how ’bout that 2016?” Kaufmann said, to applause.
Governor Terry Branstad thanked his fellow Republicans for sticking together during a sometimes challenging campaign. Branstad said the “media…Democrats…and the establishment” tried to get Republicans to denounce Donald Trump.
“I’m excited with the new leadership in D.C. and with what you’re going to do here, that Iowa’s going to come roaring back and good times are on their way,” Branstad said.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake, quoted President-elect Donald Trump.
“Things have changed here ‘bigly,'” Upmeyer said, drawing laughter from her colleagues by using ‘bigly’ — Trump-speak for “big league.”
Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said Republicans are “ready to lead.”
“When we all put our minds together and when we all set our minds on a path, there’s no turning back,” Dix said.
Senate President Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, said the GOP’s “big dreams” are closer to reality.
“I know the voters of Iowa are expecting us to do big things and we will,” Whitver said.
House Republican Leader Chris Hagenow of Windsor Heights called the GOP’s legislative agenda “ambitious.”
“Make no mistake,” Hagenow said this morning at the GOP breakfast. “Our time is now.”
AUDIO of Iowa GOP’s breakfast, 54:00
Democrats held a private fundraiser Sunday night.
“Many of us feel bad about how the elections turned out, but all that means is it’s more important now to be a good, active citizen,” Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids, the new leader of the 19 Democrats in the state senate, told Radio Iowa Sunday.
Representatives of unions, Planned Parenthood and other groups lining up in opposition to G-O-P initiatives will hold a statehouse news conference at noon today. Hogg said if there is a “groundswell” of opposition to some of their ideas, Republicans may “back off.”
“It really requires people to step up and speak up,” Hogg said. “…There are no guarantees in this business.”
Hogg cited the public outcry that successfully derailed a proposal Republicans in Washington had hoped to pass which would have weakened an ethics watchdog agency. Hogg said Democrats should push Republicans in Iowa to be pragmatic rather than ideological.
House Democratic Leader Mark Smith said many Iowans will be watching “anxiously” and Democrats will stick to priorities.
“We will advance issues such as making sure that public education is funded adequately,” Smith said last week at the Associated Press Legislative Seminar.
Smith said Democrats will press to “fix” the state’s Medicaid system which was shifted to private “managed care” last April.
Republicans hold 59 of the 100 seats in the Iowa House. There are 50 seats in the state senate and Republicans hold 29 of them.