In recent years, control of the Iowa Legislature has been split. Neither political party controlled both chambers and the governorship simultaneously. The result has been much legislation proposed that couldn't achieve sufficient consensus to make it into law.
As a result of major Republican victories across the Hawkeye State last November, the story was quite different this year. The GOP not only had significant majorities in both the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives, but the governor's chair was occupied by a seasoned Republican chief executive — Terry Branstad.
It's been nearly two decades since Republicans have been in so dominant a position and the record of the session that ended late last month demonstrates that they were determined to take full advantage of that opportunity. Major changes in policy have been enacted.
"When you look at the volume and diversity of policy issues that were addressed this year, I am proud to say this has been one of the most significant and productive sessions in our history," Branstad said in a statement issued as the lawmakers adjourned. "We have given Iowa taxpayers and families a balanced budget under difficult circumstances, prioritized K-12 education funding while building a computer science foundation for our schools, provided money for family planning clinics that don't provide abortions, protected the ballot box, strengthened our traffic safety laws, protected victims of domestic abuse and violence, solidified Iowans' Constitutional 2nd Amendment rights, and most importantly, made Iowa more competitive for attracting business and industry."
Some Iowans may disagree with the governor that all the measures he cited represent desirable policy choices. Even so, for the first time since the 1990s it has been possible for one of our two major political policies to show what it could accomplish if given the power to enact most of its agenda. Voters will be clear on where the praise or blame should be directed.
Since Branstad will soon be stepping down to become our nation's ambassador to China, he will leave office having been able to preside over a final legislative session that was able to respond favorably to many of his policy recommendations. That will allow him to undertake this new assignment with the knowledge that much of what he sought to bring about has been achieved.
The Messenger congratulates the governor and lawmakers on the perseverance and hard work that resulted in a productive legislative session.
This editorial appeared in the May 3 edition of the Fort Dodge Messenger.