Sen. Pam Jochum’s Opening Day Speech for the 2024 Legislative Session

Remarks as Delivered Thank you, Madam President.  Good morning, Madam President, good morning senators, staff, members of the press, and, of course, fellow Iowans: Welcome back to our Iowa Capitol and welcome to the 2024 Legislative Session.  Before I begin, I too also want to offer my deepest condolences to ...

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, Madam President. 

Good morning, Madam President, good morning senators, staff, members of the press, and, of course, fellow Iowans: Welcome back to our Iowa Capitol and welcome to the 2024 Legislative Session. 

Before I begin, I too also want to offer my deepest condolences to the community of Perry, the family of Ahmir Jolliff, and all the families whose lives will never be the same after the tragedy at Perry High School. There is no pain like the pain of losing a child. 

In our grief, though, we must also ask tough questions and acknowledge hard truths. How do we tame violence in our country – violence that touched East High School here in Des Moines less than two years ago and now Perry? The truth is, we must address gun safety. We must find a solution to gun violence. 

No child – no child – should go to school fearing for their lives, but today, millions do. Gun safety should not be a partisan issue. Protecting kids should not be a partisan issue. It’s time for us, senators, to come together with real solutions, including increased support for our public schools and a meaningful investment in youth brain health services.

We’re convening here from every corner of Iowa, and bringing with us the priorities and perspectives of the Iowans and the communities we represent. 

Our duty over the next few months is to shape those perspectives into law that improve Iowans’ lives and make our state an even better place to live. To do it right, we must lead with our shared values and always remember who we’re working for. 

I know who I’m working for: I see them up and down Jackson Street in Dubuque when I’m out gardening or getting the mail. I see them catching the bus for work in the morning, and coming at night home bone-tired. My neighbors on Jackson Street often stop and tell me how they’re doing – and how $13 bucks an hour just doesn’t go far enough anymore. They talk about how hard it is to find childcare in their community and, of course, they’re also concerned about Iowa schools and access to healthcare. 

That’s what I hear about in my neighborhood, and it’s what I hear all across the state, too. As the Senate Democratic leader, I’ve put 16,000 miles on my little Chevy over the last few months. I’ve been from Villisca to La Motte to Fort Madison and beyond, meeting with Iowans and listening – listening – to their needs and concerns. 

Whether it’s been on the sidewalks in Dubuque or in the union hall in Keokuk or the library in Osage, Iowans are all saying the same thing: they’re fed up with culture wars and special interest giveaways. They’re tired of small and mean politics that divide us and deny us our rights. They’re worried about the future – for themselves and for their children.

Iowans want a better deal from their state government, and that’s exactly what Senate Democrats are fighting for in 2024.

Today, on the opening day of the ’24 legislative session, Senate Democrats pledge to the people of Iowa to lead with our shared values. We pledge to advance an agenda that lifts all of us up together. 

And we’re challenging the governor and our colleagues across the aisle to join us in that effort. 

For every item that comes across our desks this session, we’re going to ask three questions:

  • Does it create more opportunity for Iowans?
  • Does it ensure freedom for Iowans?
  • Does it provide more accountability for Iowans?

If the answer is yes, Senate Democrats are ready to work with Republican colleagues to get it done. If the answer is no, we’re gonna fight like heck against it, and let the people of Iowa know why. 

In 2024, Senate Democrats are committed to expanding and ensuring opportunity for every family, every child, and every worker in our state.

Every family in every community deserves a fair shot at success, comfort, and opportunity to get ahead. That’s the Iowa we’re fighting for, and that’s what you’ll see reflected in the legislation that we support this year.

Every child should have access to a high-quality public education that prepares them for the life they want. That means adequate funding for our public schools, defending our Area Education Agencies against cuts to essential services for our children with special needs, and resisting the voucher law that favors the few over the many. 

Every worker deserves a chance to earn a paycheck that supports their family and respects their work. Costs are simply too high – especially for essentials like housing and childcare – and Iowans are looking to us for solutions. 

We have an opportunity to make life more affordable for Iowa families; to strengthen our public education while supporting students, teachers, parents and to protect and increase workers’ rights. We just need the will of a majority of senators in this chamber. 

In 2024, Senate Democrats will fight for the freedom of all Iowans to make their own choices and live their own lives without undue interference from their government. Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain. Iowans believe in our state motto, and Senate Democrats do, too.

We know that a strong majority of Iowans support safe, legal access to reproductive health, including abortion. Extreme bans like the one the Republican majority forced into law last year attack fundamental freedoms and endanger the health of Iowans. Senate Democrats have a plan to write reproductive freedom into our state constitution and expand access to birth control. We hope Republicans will listen to the majority of Iowans and join us in that effort. 

In 2024, Senate Democrats are going to stand up for the people of Iowa and make sure that politicians, government, and big business are held accountable to their needs.

Our state government belongs to the people. Our ancestors created this beautiful building as a monument to democracy. This capitol is not built for those of us on the inside of it – it was built for those on the outside of it. This government should work for middle-class and working Iowans – not self-serving politicians, influential interest groups, and out-of-state corporations. Senate Democrats will hold politicians accountable when they put donors and special interests ahead of regular folks. We will enforce checks and balances and resist efforts to silence the voices of Iowans in the operation of their government. We will fight back against corporate power and greed that comes at the expense of working Iowans.

We’ve heard a lot of talk about changes to the tax code – including potentially even eliminating the income tax altogether. Well, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the tax code already, and unfortunately, almost all of them have been giveaways to big corporations and the very wealthy. 

Our bottom line: we need middle-class tax relief that reaches Iowa families in Iowa communities – not more handouts and free passes for the wealthy and the powerful. And any tax cuts must be smart and sustainable and maintain our essential investments in the people of Iowa. 

Opportunity, freedom and accountability. That’s what Senate Democrats stand for, and that’s what we expect to see on our agenda in 2024. 

To my Republican colleagues, I sincerely look forward to working with you on that agenda. I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built across the aisle, and the compromises and progress that we have been able to make over the years. Together, we can govern in the best interest of every single Iowan. 

But let me end with this: if the majority chooses instead to go down the path of endless culture war, political grandstanding, and narrow special interest – we will hold you accountable – and so will the people of Iowa. The people of Iowa want a better deal. 

Thank you, Madam President.