DES MOINES — Newly elected and returning majority Republicans in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate stuck with their same leadership teams with plans to build on the “big and bold” agendas that propelled them through a tough election cycle to control the Statehouse for another two years.
”They’re happy, a little bittersweet that some of their friends aren’t back, but they’re very excited about continuing to do the work that we’ve been doing,” House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, said after Friday’s closed-door leadership caucus.
House Republicans, who saw their majority slip from 59 to 54 in this week’s general election, voted to keep House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, and Hagenow in the top leadership positions for the 88th General Assembly.
They named Reps. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, as House Speaker Pro Tempore and John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, as House Majority Whip.
Across the rotunda, 32 GOP senators re-elected Ankeny Sen. Jack Whitver as Senate majority leader and West Des Moines Sen. Charles Schneider as Senate president.
They named Sens. Jerry Behn of Boone as president pro tempore, Amy Sinclair of Allerton as majority whip, and Randy Feenstra of Hull, Jake Chapman of Adel, Waylon Brown of St. Ansgar and Dan Zumbach of Ryan as assistant majority leaders.
Inclement weather in western Iowa kept 10 House Republicans from attending Friday’s caucus, so Upmeyer said the election of assistant House majority leaders was postponed until next month’s policy caucus.
Voters on Tuesday elected 12 new Republicans to the House. Senate Republicans picked up five new members.
“We have a caucus that is very energetic and very excited to get to work to continue the policies we have laid out over the last two years that have taken us to No. 1 in the country,” Whitver said.
“Over the last two years, we had big ideas and we took bold action and we’re getting results for the state of Iowa,” Whitver said.
Tuesday’s outcome, he said, was “a validation from the voters that they appreciate what we’ve done to get us to No. 1, and they want more of it, and we’re going to continue to think big and act bold.”
Upmeyer was hesitant to discuss specific policy plans until legislators have their discussions next month and hear from Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds what her 2019 priorities will be.
Reynolds made history Tuesday by becoming the first woman elected as governor in Iowa.
“I think there’s still work to be done, and if we got done a little earlier or on time because we got our budgets finished up, we’d all be OK with that,” Upmeyer said.
Whitver said he expected Republicans to continue with a pro-growth agenda that included being fiscally conservative with the state budget, looking at ways to make Iowa’s tax system more competitive, developing a skilled workforce to fill vacant jobs, expanding health care options where possible at the state level, improving mental health services for children and adults, and improving education.
“We’ve created an economy that wants to grow. We need to continue to get the skills to fill those positions,” he said in stressing the need for Iowa to address its skilled workforce shortage.
Upmeyer said undoubtedly there will be other issues that surface next session, such as legalizing sports betting in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave states that authority.
“My guess is we’ll have some discussions surrounding those sports betting issues,” she said. “We’ll have discussions, I don’t know where it will go, but I’m sure that will be part of the agenda this year.”
Minority Democrats, who have 46 House members and 18 senators, have not held their leadership elections yet.
The 2019 legislative session is slated to convene Jan. 14.