Iowa Legislature begins its work - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Legislature begins its work

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The 85th General Assembly convened Monday morning at the capitol in Des Moines.

While the primary focus will be on the budget, issues from job growth to raising the minimum wage to raising the gas tax may dominate the headlines from this year's session.

The one constant we heard on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the capitol today was working together.

Lawmakers say last year's session showed Iowa's Republicans and Democrats can avoid partisan gridlock.

The gavel dropped on the opening day of this year's session.

Lawmakers expect the 100-day session to be primarily focused on the state budget.

A budget 900 million dollars in the black.

"Every family knows that you balance the budget by spending less than you take in. Over the course of the last couple of years, we've put the state back on solid financial footing," said Sen. Bill Dix, (R) Shell Rock.

"My hope is we invest it back in Iowans through education, job creation, and Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. I don't want this to be a do-nothing session," said Sen. Jeff Danielson, (D) Cedar Falls.

Some Democrats are pushing for a minimum wage of more than $10/hour..

"You need to work from the bottom up. Once people on the bottom rise up, everyone does and benefits from it. We need a serious discussion on ways to make sure families live independently of any kind of public assistance," said Sen. Pam Jochum, (D) Senate President.

Republicans say that's not a priority - but not off the table.

"We want to send a message it's good to do business in Iowa. We think that makes it harder but we voted for it last time it came through," said Rep. Kraig Paulsen, (R) House Speaker.

With a Republican-controlled House and a Democrat-controlled Senate, bipartisan agreements will need to be reached for anything to pass.

Rep. Linda Upmeyer/(R) House Majority Leader: "We have opportunities to work together. The work this year we accomplished last year. While there are things members want to do, it takes more than one session. We'll see what happens," said Rep. Linda Upmeyer, (R) House Majority Leader.

"I'm really looking forward to it. The chamber really showed you can work together across the aisle and come up with good legislation that benefits the citizens of Iowa," said Rep. Sally Stutsman, (D) Riverside.

While the budget is the top priority, some lawmakers are also pushing to raise the gas tax to pay for roads and bridges, keep tuition freezes in place at Iowa's three state universities, and improving the job market in Iowa.

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