Condition of the State 2019

Jan 15, 2019  | 50 min  | Ep 2019

Funding for this program was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television Foundation.

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As legislators gather in Iowa's capital city of Des Moines, Governor Kim Reynolds lays out her vision for the 2019 legislative session amidst another year of full republican control at the Iowa Statehouse. It's the Governor's 2019 Condition of the State Address. From the House Chambers of the Iowa State Capitol, here is David Yepsen.

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Yepsen: Welcome to the Iowa Statehouse where a newly convened legislature is gathered to hear Governor Kim Reynolds assess the condition of our state and lay out a legislative agenda. This is Governor Kim Reynolds' second Condition of the State Address and it comes just days ahead of her inauguration to a full term at Terrace Hill.

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Yepsen: The Governor has entered the chamber, by her family and members of the legislature. They always have a committee that escorts them into the chamber.

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Yepsen: Senate President Charles Schneider and House Speaker Linda Upmeyer applauding. She's getting a nice, warm welcome. Always good feelings this stage of the session. The fights will come later.

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Yepsen: Here is Governor Reynolds.

It is my pleasure to introduce Governor Kim Reynolds for her Condition of the State message for the 2019 session of the General Assembly.

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Governor Reynolds: Thank you. Thank you.

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Governor Reynolds: Thank you.

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Governor Reynolds: Mr. Lieutenant Governor, Mr. President, Madam Speaker, legislative leaders, senators, representatives, justices, judges, elected officials, distinguished guests, family, friends and my fellow Iowans -- the job of government above all else is to provide for the health and safety of its citizens. So I want to begin today by thanking the people who are on the front lines of providing that protection. Our men and women who serve in the military, law enforcement and as first responders, who risk their lives for us and some pay the ultimate sacrifice. It was with great sadness last week we laid to rest Clinton Firefighter Lieutenant Hosette and it is with prayerful hope we watch Firefighter Cain recover from the same tragic event. For these men and women, service isn't just part of their job, it's who they are whether their uniform is on or off.

Governor Reynolds: Take Billy Fox. After graduating from Central College, he enlisted in the Army and joined the Special Forces. After almost eight years of active service and tours in the Middle East, Billy returned to civilian life. He began his job search through Home Base Iowa and eventually landed at Vermeer back home in Pella. He started on the production line and quickly became the head of security where his instincts to serve and protect would be put to use in ways that no one could imagine. On July 19th, a tornado ripped through Vermeer's campus, completely destroying one factory and heavily damaging others. It was devastating and I saw it first-hand the next day. Metal was everywhere, cars were piled on top of each other and brick walls had been leveled. Yet there was not a single fatality. Not one. Thanks to Bill's calm and experienced leadership the 3,000 employees and visitors attending Vermeer's customer appreciation day were safe. Despite an all clear issued by a paid weather service, Billy and his team kept everyone sheltered and in doing so saved their lives. Billy, please stand so that we can recognize your service, leadership and bravery.

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Governor Reynolds: Last year we saw the same thing play out again and again. On that same day separate tornadoes ripped through Bondurant, Marshalltown, destroying homes and businesses in their paths. In the days and weeks that followed, hundreds of volunteers showed up to clear debris and rebuild. Last year we saw the same thing play out again and again all across Iowa. And in times of need Iowans came together, neighbor helping neighbor, and often stranger helping stranger. Whether it was cleaning up after a tornado or a flood, looking for a missing loved one or bringing in a harvest after a tragedy, Iowans showed up. It's who we are and it's why I'm so proud to be your Governor. Join me in recognizing the Iowans who every day show acts of kindness and who truly make this the greatest state in the nation.

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Governor Reynolds: For those of us who have the honor to represent these Iowans, it is our job to live up to the example they set. And there's no better time than the Condition of the State and the days that follow to set aside our differences and forge a common vision. Iowans expect no less. Working across the aisle is an impossible task. We have done it. And by continuing to put Iowans first we honor four public servants whose belief in diplomacy, principles and bipartisanship made an incredible difference in millions of lives. In 2018, America lost a great leader with the passing of President George H.W. Bush, a man whose legacy is one of service, statesmanship, values and whose commemoration served as a reminder for all Americans of the nobility of public service. Iowa also mourned the passing of Governor Robert D. Ray, whose civility, courage and common sense style of leadership set the highest standard for those who followed. We grieved the passing of Congressman Boswell, a proud veteran and public servant who willingly reached across the aisle on so many issues to make Iowa a better place. And three weeks ago, we lost the legendary U.S. Senator John Culver, whose energy, passion for politics and timeless wit highlighted the best of Iowa.

Governor Reynolds: If we have learned anything from the passing of these devoted public servants , it's this -- working together with deep resolve we can achieve more than we ever dreamed possible.

Governor Reynolds: Last year was another year of significant accomplishments. Together we passed the largest income tax cut ever as part of a groundbreaking tax reform package, a record investment in K-12 schools, achieved collaborative water quality bill, my first bill signed as Governor. We protected the sanctity of life, provided affordable health care options to thousands of Iowans, and by unanimous vote enacted comprehensive mental health care reform and the Future Ready Iowa Act. Indeed it was an historic year.

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Governor Reynolds: As we begin the 88th General Assembly, I am proud to declare that the condition of our state is strong, our budget is balanced, our cash reserves are full, wages are going up, unemployment is at an all-time low. Because of the people and the power of their ingenuity Iowa is soaring.

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Governor Reynolds: I know, however, that not everyone feels that success. I know that in family rooms, workplaces and even in this chamber there are Iowans who are struggling, sometimes in silence. Today, I'm asking this legislature to work with me again to fight for those individuals, to make sure that Iowa's success is every Iowan's success. A year ago I stood at this podium and I told you that my vision for the future is an Iowa overflowing with opportunity, opportunity for our working families, young people and our communities, both urban and rural, a place where it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, young or old, male or female, where your last name or zip code aren't nearly as important as your ability to dream and your willingness to reach for it, a place where if life got in the way of those dreams you can make a new start and if you have made a mistake you can find a second chance. My vision for the future of Iowa hasn't changed. But the future I see, it's not around the corner or after the next election, the future is now, the time is now to deliver on the promises that we have made to Iowans looking for a way up.

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Governor Reynolds: It starts by taking the next step to prepare Iowans for dynamic careers and lifelong learning and really that is what Future Ready Iowa is about. At its core, it recognizes that there is dignity in meaningful work, that Iowans yearn for the opportunity to better themselves. And guess what, those opportunities are right here in Iowa. It directs resources where we need them most. It identifies high demand jobs like computer programmers and electricians. It educates Iowans about those opportunities and provides support for individuals seeking rewarding careers. We have already started putting the policy into action. Last fall, Future Ready Iowa Summits were hosted in 18 communities across our state. We brought together employers, educators and local leaders to discuss how communities could use Future Ready Iowa as a springboard to propel Iowans into new careers. In fact, at one of the summits the North Scott Superintendent decided to launch an apprenticeship program for advanced manufacturing, attracting the interest of employers like John Deere and Eagle Engineering and students like Myah Harrington. To encourage education and training beyond high school, Fareway has started a program to help employees pay down their student debt. And Ruan Transportation started a technology apprenticeship program for giving young Iowans yet another path. We will see this play out again and again and again over the next few years. Future Ready Iowa is a powerful tool to grow family incomes, meet employer needs and strengthen our communities. The time is now to invest in Iowans and their future and today I'm calling on the legislature to take the next step to appropriate $20 million to fund the plan that we put in place last session.

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Governor Reynolds: Of course, the road to success and to finding a rewarding career doesn't start after high school. A strong K-12 education system is the foundation of any state and Iowa has a solid foundation to build upon. Our schools are filled with innovative teachers that are making things happen. We have the most extensive teacher leadership and compensation system in the country, a nationally recognized STEM program and we're getting closer to our goal of making sure that all students are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. And that is really just a sample of the critical work that is underway in our state. But there's more that we have to do. Kids today are growing up immersed in a world of digital technology. The workforce is continually impacted by innovation and globalization. We need an education system that adapts to those changes. Because of our investment in STEM, apprenticeships, work-based learning and computer science, it is happening now across our state. In August, we launched a new program called Computer Science is Elementary and through STEM grants this public/private partnership will transform six high poverty elementary schools into models of computer science instruction by weaving computer coding into their class lessons. We're also seeing other elementary schools expanding or creating computer science programs. Clear Lake is expanding coding and other fundamentals for fourth and fifth graders. Kingsley-Pierson is training teachers to teach computer science. And Indianola is teaching coding to kindergartners, first and second graders.

Governor Reynolds: Iowa students are getting amazing real world learning experiences. Like Central Campus in Des Moines where this week high school students will start a semester long program called NeuroSMART. Through partnerships with Kemin, Des Moines University and the STEM Council, these students will get hands-on experience in the fields of neuroscience and business. In the gallery, we have students from the Central Campus with us today. Please stand so we can recognize you. And we look forward to seeing what the future holds for you.

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Governor Reynolds: The budget I'm submitting today proposes over $93 million in additional funding for pre-K-12 education, which includes a 2.3% increase in per pupil funding. I'm also requesting $11.2 million to reduce higher transportation costs per pupil and $1 million in new money for STEM funding. In total that would bring our pre-K-12 investment to almost $3.4 billion this year, an investment that we can be proud of.

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Governor Reynolds: But Iowans also know that the quality of education can't be reduced to a dollar figure or a percent increase. It's about one thing and one thing only, how we prepare our children to succeed.

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Governor Reynolds: Over the last eight years I have been so blessed to travel the nation and the world on behalf of Iowa. These trips have provided ideas on what we can do better, but also they have given me perspective on what makes Iowa so unique. From river to river and border to border, Iowa is speckled with vibrant communities, each with its own character and story to tell. Every 10, 15 or 20 miles there is another town, another school brimming with pride and another Main Street filled with excitement and hope. These unique communities motivate thousands to ride their bikes from the Missouri to the Mississippi each year. They are what gives Iowa its character. Unfortunately, in some places, that character is fading and we cannot let that happen. Our communities and Main Streets tell a story to the outside world. So my question to each of you is this, how do we want our story to read? That we have given up or that we're full of hope for the future? That we're tired or full of energy? That we have lost our vision or we're innovative and creative? That we're fading or growing? As I travel our 99 counties I've seen the story that many Iowans are writing and I've seen the potential to do more and that is what led me to create the Governor's Empower Rural Iowa Initiative, a partnership between my office and the Iowa Rural Development Council. Led by Lieutenant Governor Gregg and Sandy Ehrig, the initiative focused on connecting, investing and growing rural communities. I want to thank the Lieutenant Governor and Sandy for their leadership, the Iowa Rural Development Council for their partnership and the members of the Empower Rural Iowa Initiative for their ideas in developing the initial recommendations. I think the executive committee is with us today. So if you'll stand so we can recognize you I would appreciate it.

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Governor Reynolds: It's no secret we need to keep our communities connected if we hope to keep and attract young people. Over a century ago, our town's proximity to the railroad was key. Over the last 100 years our focus has been on highways and interstates. And, by the way, it's that focus that finally gave us a completed four-lane US Highway 20.

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Governor Reynolds: Now, it's virtual connectivity that has become a necessity. Businesses, schools, hospitals and even our combines rely on high speed Internet. U.S. News & World Report says, and I quote, "the Hawkeye state leads the nation in efforts to bring ultra-fast access to every city block and every rural acre." But I know and we know there's more to do. To ensure that every part of Iowa has the same opportunity, I'm requesting $20 million, split over two years, for broadband infrastructure. This funding will accelerate expansion and leverage an additional $120 million in private investment for high-speed Internet.

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Governor Reynolds: Rural communities also can't thrive without access to housing. Businesses in rural Iowa are growing and hiring, but the employees that they need won't make the move if there's no place for them to call home. I'm therefore requesting that we double the amount of the workforce housing tax credits that are set aside for rural communities, bringing the total to $10 million. These tax credits should also be competitive, meaning that they will go to projects that are well-planned and not just first in line.

Governor Reynolds: When it comes to building strong communities, the talent is there, the drive is there, and often the programs are, but the connectivity isn't. And that is why today I'm announcing the creation of a Center for Rural Revitalization within the Iowa Economic Development Authority. This center will focus on making rural Iowa an even greater priority and give our Main Streets a road map for success.

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Governor Reynolds: In places like Jefferson, Iowans are already showing that with ingenuity and drive, our small towns can be as vibrant as they have ever been. Since 2012, over 100 Greene County residents volunteered over 29,000 hours to raise funds, write grants and work on committees. They have transformed downtown Jefferson attracting 14 businesses and rehabbing dozens of buildings. And just recently voters overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum that will build a new high school, that will house a career academy, that will feed to a new downtown business called the Forge. The Forge, owned by Pillar Technologies, will employ 30 technology consultants, many of them just out of high school. Pillar has successfully brought that same concept to the Silicon Valley, Columbus, Ohio, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Des Moines, and now it's coming to downtown Jefferson.

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Governor Reynolds: Why? Because even people in our nation's largest cities can see what rural Iowa has to offer. People like Kevin Scott, the chief technology officer of Microsoft and a group of technology investors who visited Jefferson last month. Now, not every Iowa town will be home to a technology consulting firm. But we should help ignite every community with the passion of the people in Greene County, some of whom are with us today. Thank you for being that spark, showing us what is possible. Please stand so that we can recognize the great work that you're doing.

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Governor Reynolds: Since taking the oath of office, one of my priorities has been to create an integrated and coordinated health care system. We made great strides on that effort last year. We passed legislation that gave Iowans affordable health care options. We worked diligently and still are to ensure that our Medicaid program is sustainable and focused on patient outcomes. We unanimously passed mental health reform which built on the changes we began in 2013. And we're seeing results. In a recent report, Mental Health America declared that Iowa's overall mental health system is the 7th best in the nation and 3rd when it comes to the adult system. And that is before the legislation from last year has been fully implemented. This year the mental health regions are continuing to develop new services and to help sustain them I have set aside an additional $11 million in my two-year Medicaid budget. I'm also calling on the legislature to extend the time the Regents have to spend down their capital balances and to increase the percent of their operating budgets that may be carried over from one year to the next. But there is more to do. I'm asking everyone in this chamber to work with me to ensure that we have sustainable funding that keeps our mental health system strong.

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Governor Reynolds: Another essential piece of a strong mental health system is having adequate behavioral health providers. To build on the existing and successful psychiatric residency program, my budget also proposes to fund four additional psychiatric residencies at the University of Iowa for doctors who will practice in rural Iowa.

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Governor Reynolds: I have also asked for new funding to train nurse practitioners and physician assistants on mental health also through the University of Iowa. Our efforts aren't over yet. But by working together we will have the best adult mental health system in the country.

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Governor Reynolds: When it comes to our children and their changing mental health needs we're not as far along. That is not for a lack of talking and working on it. We've been doing that for more than 20 years. It's time to move past the talking phase. There is no worse pain than that of a child who is suffering in silence and there is no greater agony than that of a parent who watches helplessly, not knowing where or whom they can turn to. Diagnosing and healing illness is never guaranteed. But when it comes to physical pain, parents know the path to get there. The doctor will see you now is usually just a few minutes or hours away. When it comes to mental health, however, part of the fear and the pain is not knowing where to begin, in being told that no one provides the right services or that your child is on a wait list and can't be seen for two to three months. We must create a children's mental health system where the path to healing is clearly marked, a system that lets parents know where to start and that their child can begin immediately. That is why I created a children's mental health board last year. I asked a group of educators, mental health professionals, parents, legislators and children's advocates to devise a plan and create a structure for a children's mental health system.

Governor Reynolds: The board has completed its initial task and based on its recommendation I will be introducing a bill that finally creates a children's mental health system.

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Governor Reynolds: I'm also calling on the legislature to appropriate additional money for home and community based children's mental health services so that we can eliminate the waiting list that currently exists. And I'm also requesting $3 million in new money to help train our educators to better recognize early signs of mental illness.

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Governor Reynolds: Creating a comprehensive children's mental health system will take time. But we can and we must take action. The days of merely talking are over.

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Governor Reynolds: Three years ago we began to offer apprenticeship programs to our state prisons. The concept isn't hard to understand. Most of our inmates aren't inmates for life, they will re-enter society and when they do we want them to be successful. Those who can't find a job often find their way back to crime and then back to prison. So from a public safety perspective, training our inmates is the right thing to do. But there's really more to it than that. As I said earlier, there is dignity in work and there is also beauty in grace. Talk with someone who by their own actions hit rock bottom, but decided to turn their life around, watch their face light up when they tell you about the person who offered them a helping hand, a family member, a friend or a stranger. There are few things as powerful as the joy of someone who got a second chance and found their purpose.

Governor Reynolds: If you talk to Michael Willoughby or Steve Shewry you'll see it. Both of them completed an apprenticeship program in prison. Michael prepared to be a computer programmer, Steve prepared for a career in welding. Both men committed serious crimes. Today, both men are star employees at jobs that they landed before leaving prison. They were offered a second chance, they took it, and they succeeded. Frontier Co-op in Norway and Winger in Ottumwa are the other half of this story. Those are the employers who saw something in Michael and Steve. They looked beyond the rap sheet and found high quality employees for hard-to-fill jobs. Too often, employers overlook these skilled workers because of the fear of lawsuits. So let's take that off the table. Our correctional system and parole board are the judge of whether an inmate is ready to be released. Let's not punish employers for offering an offender a second chance. I'm calling on the legislature to send me a bill that protects employers like Frontier and Winger who hire Iowans with criminal records. Michael and Steve are with us today and so are Megan from Frontier and Jim Keck from Winger. Please stand so we can thank you for showing us all the value of second chances.

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Governor Reynolds: We have a skilled worker shortage and a prison full of inmates so let's get them the skills that they need and place them with the Frontier's and Winger's of the state. To that end, I'm announcing today that we are establishing a new home building program at the Newton Correctional Facility. In partnership with the nonprofit Homes for Iowa, this program will provide housing that is needed throughout Iowa and it will provide training for jobs that are in high demand. A win-win.

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Governor Reynolds: There are other programs across the state working to ensure criminal offenders are finding a new purpose, like a pilot program with the Iowa Department of Corrections, offered by Iowa Central Community College, that offers Pell Grants to prison inmates. This program is one of the most successful in the country, with more than 420 inmates participating earning an average GPA of 3.5. I also recently met with a group of Iowans led by Tim Krueger, who are working to bring a nonprofit organization called The Other Side Academy to Des Moines. It's a two year residential rehabilitation program that is an alternative to prison or jail. And it operates without government funding.

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Governor Reynolds: It sustains the program through the businesses run by its participants. And those are just two examples. Together, I believe there is even more we can do and we can start with felon voting.

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Governor Reynolds: Our constitution takes away the voting rights of anyone convicted of a felony forever. Only two other state constitutions have a similar provision. And last November, the people of Florida voted to remove their ban. Through the power of clemency, the Governor can restore those rights and I have done that 88 times since taking office. But I don't believe that voting rights should be forever stripped and I don't believe restoration should be in the hands of a single person. After the election, an Iowan stopped me at my grandson's basketball game. I had restored his rights and he wanted to tell me in person how much that meant to him, how when he stepped into the voting booth he felt a dignity that had been missing even after leaving prison. I don't think this man and others like him who have completed their sentences should have to wait for my say or any future Governor's say before they get that dignity back.

Governor Reynolds: Our founders gave us a process to amend the constitution should the passage of time change our view. So let's begin that process now. I believe Iowans recognize the power of redemption. So let's put this issue in their hands.

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Governor Reynolds: That's not the only constitutional amendment we should consider. As it should, our constitution deals extensively with the rights of the accused and convicted. But it never mentions victims. In all the focus on second chances and forgiveness, we should never forget about the victims. I know each of you in this room believe that. So let's show it. This year let's start the process of enshrining victim's rights into the Iowa Constitution like 36 other states have done. Let's send victims a loud and clear message, we will protect you.

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Governor Reynolds: Over the next few months, I look forward to working with all of you to enact these priorities and yours, whether it is looking for ways to further reform or tax code and help Iowans keep more of their hard-earned money or passing legislation that strengthens our health care system or working together on criminal justice reform. I am so excited for what the future holds. There is so much capacity and opportunity that exists within this state. We have laid the foundation for a bright future. Let's build on it. The time is now to finish what we started. The time is now to cement Iowa's status as the best state in the nation. And the time is now to deliver on the promises we've made to Iowans looking for a way up. Thank you. God bless you. God bless this great state of Iowa. Thank you.

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Yepsen: I'm joined now by State Representative Todd Prichard, the House Minority Leader for the democrats. Welcome, Representative, it's good to have you with us.

Prichard: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Yepsen: And congratulations, you've just been elected to your position.

Prichard: Thank you for that, it's a big job.

Yepsen: We appreciate you taking time to be here. Give us your view and the view of democrats as to what did you think of this speech today?

Prichard: I think there's opportunities for us to work with the Governor on many of these priorities that she has laid out. Important to democrats would be health care and education, those are our two top priorities. It will be a relief if we don't have to go backwards with deappropriations like we have the last few years for education, particularly for the Regent universities. So we're here to remind the Governor and our colleagues in the Senate and the House that we're here to work together but we want to move the state forward. So we're pleased with some of the priorities, particularly with mental health and education.

Yepsen: What are some of the specific things you want to see in the field of mental health and education?

Prichard: Anything, Iowa has a mental health crisis, we have a health care crisis generally. The Medicaid system is not working. Last year we heard from Governor Reynolds in her first State of the State that the Medicaid system needed work. I didn't hear today that there was going to be what I would call an appropriate fix to deal with the Medicaid privatization fiasco that has been created in this state. So we'd like to see something going forward that takes care of Iowa citizens.

Yepsen: And what about some of the issues that she didn't mention today? Are there things specifically that you can think of that legislators will want to be talking about? I'm thinking of the proposal that some lawmakers are floating to deal with the way we change selection of Supreme Court Judges. How do democrats feel about that?

Prichard: Iowa has a merit based system for selecting Supreme Court Justices. It's a model for the rest of the nation. Changing that, inserting politics into the selection of our Supreme Court Justices is not a good idea. It doesn't serve anybody, it doesn't serve the state.

Yepsen: She did not mention that issue today. Are there other things you can think of that may be sitting out there that cause concern to democrats that she didn't talk about today?

Prichard: Well, we heard a lot of republicans talking about property tax reform or income tax reform. I didn't hear her speak to that. We're curious as to the budget process, what the republicans, what they want to do on the revenue side. As she mentioned, we did pass a historic tax bill last year. I think we've got to give it some time to see how that impacts the state revenues. But that was one thing I've heard a lot of her colleagues talk about on the republican side of the aisle but I didn't hear her speak of that.

Yepsen: So are you optimistic about this session? Or do you think we're going to see a lot of wrangling? We live in partisan times, Representative, as you know.

Prichard: I'm always optimistic. This is an opportunity. It's an opportunity to move this state forward, to do good things for Iowans and I always start the session optimistic. I hope, traditionally we have always done well working to find ways where we can work together and I hope that continues. There are going to be differences, absolutely. But we're here to move the state forward.

Yepsen: Representative Todd Prichard, thank you for joining us today. Good luck in your new role as Minority Leader of the House democrats. We appreciate you taking time to be with us.

Prichard: The pleasure is mine, thank you.

Yepsen: We're convening a trio of reporters in just a moment to discuss the Governor's speech and look ahead at the 2019 legislative session. But first, let's take a look back at a key moment from today's Condition of the State Address.

Governor Reynolds: After the election an Iowan stopped me at my grandson's basketball game. I had restored his rights and he wanted to tell me in person how much that meant to him, how when he stepped into the voting booth he felt a dignity that had been missing even after leaving prison. I don't think this man and others like him who have completed their sentences should have to wait for my say or any future Governor's say before they get that dignity back. Our founders gave us a process to amend the Constitution should the passage of time change our view. So let's begin that process now. I believe Iowans recognize the power of redemption. So let's put this issue in their hands.

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Yepsen: Joining us now are three reporters tasked with covering this upcoming session. Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson, the Gazette's James Lynch and Erin Murphy of Lee Enterprises. Very quickly, let's just go down the line and I'd like to ask each one of you what sort of impressions do you have? What sort of reaction are you getting on the floor from members of the legislature? Kay?

Henderson: One impression I had was a name that was not mentioned in this speech was Terry Branstad. I found that interesting, number one. Number two, after the speech republicans I believe are expressing a little bit of sort of angst about this idea of passing a constitutional amendment on felon voting rights. There are a group of republicans who are worried that felons won't pay their restitution after their voting rights are restored and they think the current process works. So I think the Governor will get universal support for that constitutional amendment from democrats. It may be more difficult among republicans.

Yepsen: James?

Lynch: I'm hearing mostly good things about her speech. Republicans like all the initiatives that she talked about, workforce development, mental health, things that are bipartisan. Democrats have some concern about how they will be implemented. They'd like to see more funding for education. 2.3% they said is good compared to what they've seen in the past years. But they would like to see more. And yes, talking to the Chairman of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees these constitutional amendments face a tough road ahead of them.

Yepsen: Erin Murphy, what impressions do you have?

Murphy: Yeah, and to continue on that, she may also get some pushback from democrats on the constitutional amendment. They support the idea but they had hoped for a more rapid plan, that she would maybe issue an executive order versus a constitutional amendment which can take up to five or six years because it needs to pass multiple general assemblies and then go to vote of the people. I think in the speech in general I'm hearing a lot of support for her. She touched on mostly bipartisan issues I think in the speech and then that was reflected in the talks that I had with legislators both republican and democrat. They said we can support a lot of what she talked about. I don't expect a perfectly kumbaya session. There will be issues that will drive the partisan wedges. But what she focused on here in the speech there is largely bipartisan support for.

Henderson: I do think it was interesting that she spent some time talking about rural Iowa. Of course she did well in rural Iowa in her election bid. She won 88 of 99 counties. And that is something that republican leaders reacted strongly to in a positive way, especially House Speaker Linda Upmeyer. They're trying to figure out ways to help increase the housing stock in rural Iowa. There's some belief that not only these workforce issues, which she talked about expansively in the speech, holding back businesses from hiring. The other reason businesses can't hire is there's nowhere for prospective employees to live in some of these communities.

Yepsen: James, is part of the momentum behind this restoration of felon voting rights is this labor shortage? Iowa does need to get more people in the workforce. Could this be part of what's going on?

Lynch: It's a labor shortage. It's a budget issue. Holding people in prison is very expensive so getting them out, getting them a trade, getting them a job, they're less likely to come back to prison. Restoring voting rights helps them be a member of the community.

Yepsen: Erin, is part of this politics? You look at the people who are in prison and convicted felons, demographically many of them are minorities, many of them are lower income. Are republicans worried about adding a lot of democrats to the electorate?

Murphy: There may be some of that and maybe that's part of the reason you're getting some push back from some of the legislators. But it makes it all the more interesting that Governor Reynolds has chosen to take up the mantle on this issue and push it. And, speaking of Governor Branstad, separate herself from her predecessor on that.

Lynch: It's interesting that three times in this speech she talked about second chances with the felons and giving people second changes. It's a big part of her personality.

Yepsen: Explain the background on that.

Henderson: It's part of her biography. She has chosen a life of sobriety after having a second OWI arrest quite some time ago and talks about it openly and got a second chance and has turned her life around and now she's the Governor of Iowa. And so she thinks that is a powerful message that resonated with Iowa voters and it also connects her to people who don't have their voting rights. In fact, she told this moving story about a felon who approached her after having his voting rights restored.

Yepsen: One of Iowa's great Governors, Harold Hughes, had a similar background, had a similar bout with alcoholism and it shaped his attitude toward politics and life. What do you think, James?

Lynch: I think overall she gets good marks on this. She touched on a lot of issues, that it's implementation of what they approved before, unanimous approval of Future Ready Iowa, unanimous approval of the mental health plan. So there's a lot here that both democrats and republicans can work on. Of course, the devil is in the details, plenty to fight about.

Murphy: And I'll just maybe highlight two things that we didn't hear about that also do have bipartisan support. One is water quality. And that may be a signal that we're not going to get any new funding streams on water quality this year. They did a fairly big bill last year. Some people said it still didn't go far enough. But it looks like they may be content to see how that works rather than introducing new measures. And we didn't hear, despite its presence on the campaign trail, anything about Medicaid management in this speech either.

Yepsen: Those are not pleasant things for the Governor to bring up. But the tone, Kay, was very uplifting and positive. So she didn't want to get into some of this stuff.

Henderson: Right, she told me before she gave this speech that she wants to be known as the opportunity Governor. And I think to that end she was talking about opportunities for people of all walks of life and lifting everybody up. The old raise all the boats, not just some of them, and she put it in her own words and I think it was well received by folks. It struck me that among Governors she did a fairly admirable job in delivering one of these addresses. Sometimes we've seen folks struggle with this and she did not seem to struggle.

Lynch: The Governor was not shy about telling us ahead of time that oh, I don't want to say anything about that until my Condition of the State speech, a lot of things. What struck me though is there was no big new idea in this speech. Sometimes Governors, even in their prepared text that they release ahead of the speech, will leave something out so that there's something fresh, a big new idea in the speech. We really didn't hear that today. She really stuck to meat and potatoes.

Yepsen: Thank you all for coming up here and doing this. We'll be discussing the upcoming session this Friday on Iowa Press. Joining us are two democratic leaders, House Minority Leader Todd Prichard and Senate Minority Leader Janet Peterson. That's Iowa Press Friday night at 7:30 and Sunday at Noon. For our entire Iowa Public Television crew here at the State Capitol in Des Moines, I'm David Yepsen. Thanks for joining us today.

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