Under the Gold Dome, Too – Madam Speaker

UTGD

This week was very special for me.  As the second session of the 86th General Assembly gaveled in on Monday, my colleagues gave me the distinct honor of electing me as the first woman Speaker of the Iowa House.  I am humbled to be given this opportunity to lead the Iowa House and thank all who have sent me your kind words and well wishes.

As many of you know, my father was the Speaker of the Iowa House in the early 1980s.  Following my father into the Speaker’s chair is a very special moment for me, and I know that he will be watching down on me during this session.

Below are the remarks that I gave to members of the Iowa House on the first day of the 2016 legislative session:

To my colleagues, our friends and families, and to all Iowans here or watching at home, welcome back to the Iowa House of Representatives.

To my husband Doug, our children, and grandchildren; you sacrifice the most. Thank you for understanding when I am away, thank you for supporting me when things get bumpy.

This is such a special personal moment for our family. I think it will really take some time for me to fully appreciate following my father’s footsteps into this chair. I am so thankful for the way my mother, who is here today, partnered with my father to instill us kids with good values.

Many have remarked to me over the years how good my father was at working with anyone in this building. That has always stuck with me and I know that while times have changed, the value of working together has not.

It is humbling to be the first woman to preside over this prestigious chamber. It is exciting that we are making history, in a room that has experienced so much of it.

I want to thank my caucus for selecting me to lead this chamber and thank you all for your support today.

I hope my election as Speaker shows all young women, and Iowans who come from diverse backgrounds, that opportunities abound. For a long time, we have told children they can be whatever they want when they grow up. Today, better than ever, we are showing them that is a reality.

Like many of you, I left here last session with certain expectations for how this session would start. Expectations however, rarely predict future realities.

Settling for what is expected would be a very disappointing habit for this body to get into. If we settled for expectations, how many of our greatest achievements would have been left on the shelf, unrealized?

The press and pundits have low expectations for this session. These are not the expectations we should concern ourselves with. Instead, we should focus on the expectations of the Iowans we have been elected to represent.

Our constituents expect us to listen to them. To bring their ideas and concerns into this building, share them, and use them to do what is right for the future of this state.

Those who arrived here today intending to use disagreements between us to drive us further apart are doing so to the detriment of the people we serve. The perpetual campaign and gridlock are the failures of Washington, D.C.  It is a miscalculation to think using that disastrous approach will be an advantage inside this building.

We have chosen a different approach in the past and I am optimistic we will do so again.

In each of the last five years, we have found agreement on budgets that fund priorities without spending more than we take in. Iowans have come to expect this kind of common sense budgeting. This has served us well and with available revenue anticipated to grow by $153 million this year, we should welcome the opportunity to once again pass a sustainable budget.

In each of the last five years, we have found a way to increase funding for schools. We will increase funding for schools again this year. However, we should recognize that the needs of our schools and students extend beyond the amount we increase their funding each year.

If we are to improve the opportunities provided by an education in Iowa’s public schools, the expectation should be that we can broaden the conversation to ways to provide for flexibility and innovation while retaining a focus on the students.

In three weeks, Iowa will host the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. You might have noticed that those hoping to be our next president are currently spending even more of their time in Iowa. A common message Iowans are sharing with candidates is that they are unhappy with the status quo and they do not believe there is the will to change it. I share their concern.

With confidence at an all-time low, we need leadership. I am not only talking about our next president. I am talking about us. Iowans should expect the state to showcase how government, for the people, by the people, is supposed to work.

The founders of this nation feared an overreaching and stifling federal government. They trusted the states to be the laboratories of innovation who could prevent the realities we now face.

It is not our job to protect the status quo. In a fast-moving and ever-changing world, the status quo means being left behind. We should strive for better. We should welcome disruptive ideas. We should pursue policies that increase opportunities, use technology to remove barriers, help us make this the best state in the nation to grow a business and raise a family.

My expectations are high because I believe in the good will and the talent of the people in this room and of Iowans. I look forward to what lies ahead for the Iowa House of Representatives and the great State of Iowa.

May God bless our work.

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Dansette