The 2014 legislative session started Monday. Unlike last year, lawmakers aren't using the first day to talk about big, bold plans. Instead, they think this year could be more about passing a budget and several much smaller, bipartisan improvements.
House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer pledged to work with Democrats so Iowa's atmosphere doesn't become like the nation's capitol. She said, "There is increasing concern that gridlock has taken hold in Washington D.C. What was once an effective legislative process has instead devolved into crisis management unable to escape campaign mentality.”
Both sides say they accomplished big things last year like reforms in property tax, education and expanding Medicaid by working together. The newly chosen Democratic House Leader Mark Smith even offered the Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen a gift – a gavel made of hickory.
Smith said, "One of the founders of the Democratic Party was called 'Old Hickory' and we thought it was a fitting gift to you. From one woodworker to another and that when you're angry with the Democrats, your gavel can come down with gusto.”
There is early consensus on issues like expanding broadband access, freezing tuition and addressing the worker skills gap. The question will be how to reach final agreement.