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The Greiner Report — January 16, 2014

By Sen. Sandra Greiner

The Iowa Legislature is back in session.  Every year, the first week of session is primarily pomp and circumstance, with speeches by the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  In the past 20 years, I’ve heard a lot of speeches.
Governor Branstad’s 2014 State of the State address was the BEST I heard in 20 years.  I’ve racked my brain trying to describe what I heard and saw during that speech.  Because of his enthusiasm, many journalists have described Governor Branstad as Iowa’s Cheerleader.  I couldn’t agree more.   But it’s more than that!  I think the best way to describe Terry Branstad is:  “Iowa’s Grandfather.”
Governor Branstad began his speech by listing the accomplishments of the 2013 Legislature; point by point, and made remarks about each accomplishment.  Legislators, being what we are, stood and gave a standing ovation for each point made.   Like a grandfather, reminding his little ones of their good behavior, he reminded the Legislators that by working together we have restored wrestling as an Olympic sport, reduced unemployment, gotten our fiscal house in order, created the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan rather than depend on out of touch bureaucrats from the East Coast to do it for us.  The accomplishments went on and on.   I counted at least 20 standing ovations throughout the speech.
Many are predicting that this year’s session will be short and primarily focused on the budget after all the heavy policy issues we handled last year.  Nonetheless, Branstad had some important policy items for the Legislature to consider.  He is recommending a second year of Tuition Freeze at Iowa’s Regent’s Institutions and tripling the budget support for the Apprenticeship program, allowing students to earn while they learn.
Some Iowans still do not have internet access available to them.  For the last several years, a committee of Legislators has been investigating the sale of the Iowa Communications Network (ICN), and having found no suitable purchaser, they are now turning to explore new ways to utilize the use of this existing technology.  Governor Branstad is recommending these underserved communities be connected to the Internet via the ICN.  It will be interesting to see how this is received.
Also on the Governor’s “Wish List” is a proposal to create tax incentives to encourage Iowans to revive and repurpose abandoned buildings.  He specifically mentioned school buildings and “other buildings” in his speech.  I suspect the details of this proposal have not been ironed out, yet, but it is good news for those of us who are interested in revitalizing our communities.
The Governor’s speech had several good ideas to assist Iowa’s Military Veterans.  He announced the Home Based Iowa program to recruit retired military.  A retraining program will be developed to assist vets with polishing their skills as they reenter the workforce.  Academic Credit for military service will be explored and in order to attract veterans who aren’t currently residents of our state, it is proposed to give automatic in-state tuition to our Regents institutions to veterans and to eliminate the state income taxes on military pensions.
The theme of Governor Branstad’s speech was “Iowa is Working.”  It’s obvious he intends to put the Iowa General Assembly ‘to work’ ironing out the details of his proposals.  I’m looking forward to helping make these things become reality.
If you wish to contact me during this Legislative season, the Capitol Switchboard phone number is 515-281-3371, mail addressed to me here at the Capitol should carry the zip code 50319 and my email address is: sandra.greiner@legis.iowa.gov