Reynolds touts Republican policy during Condition of the State address

Entering her sixth year as the Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds gave her annual Condition of the State speech in which she highlighted the work the state legislature has done to keep enacting fiscally responsible legislation.


Jerod Ringwald

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the 2023 Condition of the State at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

Gov. Kim Reynolds took the podium on Tuesday night in front of a packed Iowa House Chamber at the Iowa Statehouse for her sixth consecutive Condition of the State address. Using the state’s recent conservative history to tout Republican policies, Reynolds focused on education, abortion restrictions, and expanding rural healthcare. 

On the second day of the 2023 legislative session, Reynolds referenced Iowa’s previous fiscal responsibility and its recovery from the pandemic as a reason why Iowans have continued to elect Republicans to control the legislature. 

“In a world increasingly marked by chaos, Iowa’s strength and stability stand out. Our goal today, and throughout this legislative session, is to make sure it stays that way,” Reynolds said. 

Reynolds said fiscal responsibility and an emphasis on personal freedoms helped Iowa endure a pandemic, national disasters, and a recession during her tenure. She said legislation that has been implemented over the past six years makes her proud to be able to give the Condition of the State every year. 

“There’s always a sense of anticipation and energy; an awareness of the challenges ahead and the important work to be done. For me, there’s also a familiar feeling of pride. A feeling that comes from standing before you and being able to declare once again that the condition of our state is strong,” Reynolds said.   

This year Reynolds said she will be reintroducing her school voucher bill that went through the Senate last year, expanding the state’s maternal support program, and increasing penalties for fentanyl distribution. 

Reynolds emphasizes school choice 

Reynolds said she plans to focus on school choice and to provide a quality education for all students. She plans to achieve this goal by investing in the state’s apprenticeship program and early childhood literacy training across the state, and directing the Iowa Department of Education to directly coach struggling public schools, she said.  

During the last session, Reynolds introduced Senate File 2369, a bill that would give money to 10,000 Iowa K-12 students to transfer to a nonpublic school in their area. This bill made it through the Senate in March 2022 but did not make it further. Reynolds said on Tuesday that she is determined to follow through with the bill during this session.  

The bill, Reynolds said, is intended to provide an education that parents believe best suits their children’s needs. Democrats oppose the bill for, what many say, makes nonpublic schools unaccountable and disenfranchises public schools.  

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said during his opening remarks on the Senate floor on Monday, that the bill will worsen the teacher shortage in public education and increase inequality in the state. 

“The Governor and Republicans in the House and Senate are talking a lot about private school vouchers,” Wahls said. “This unpopular scheme will send public money — your taxpayer dollars — to unaccountable private schools.”  

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said to reporters after the speech that the newest proposal for the school voucher bill will focus on showing support for both public and private schools. He said it’s likely that the measure can pass through both chambers because of how many freshman delegates ran in support of the bill. 

“A lot of the new members that are in our caucus ran as this being part of their platform and that’s why I sense eagerness to get this thing moving and see where everyone stands,” Grassley said to reporters after the Condition of the State address Tuesday night. 

Reynolds to promote paternal involvement

This year, Reynolds said, she wants to expand the program to promote paternal involvement by providing nonprofit grants to support at-risk fathers and mentorship for school-age males. 

As of Jan. 10, abortion is still legal up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Previously, Reynolds attempted to pass a bill that would prohibit abortion past six weeks — but courts have prevented the legislation from taking effect. 

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Reynolds requested that the injunction on her 6-week ban be raised, however, the injunction remains in place. 

“That’s why I’ve fought so hard in the courts to make sure that this legislative body can do what it so clearly has the power to do — protect the unborn,” Reynolds said. 

Reynolds said education is just a foundation for a fulfilling life, but that task starts at the first sign of life — emphasizing her anti-abortion views. In June of 2022, Reynolds launched the More Options for Maternal Support program designed to discourage pregnant Iowans from getting abortions. 

Maizy Stilwell, Director of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa a non-profit focused on providing reproductive health care to Iowa communities, told reporters in a press conference Tuesday morning that these programs are harmful to Iowa women and promote religious views to women seeking an abortion. 

“These fake health centers are unlicensed and don’t provide actual medical care, instead they provide false, religiously-laced propaganda on vulnerable women to dissuade them from having an abortion. Iowans deserve better,” Stilwell said. 

Abortion isn’t the only healthcare-related priority Reynolds focused on during her Condition of the State address. 

Reynolds calls for increased fentanyl distribution penalties

While Iowa maintains one of the lowest overdose death rates in the country, Reynolds said, the state is still experiencing concerning trends. She announced that on Jan. 11, 2023, the state is launching a public-awareness campaign to inform Iowa parents about the dangers of fentanyl.

According to the Governor’s office, drug overdoses have gone up about 34 percent in Iowa since 2019 and of those deaths, 83 percent are due to fentanyl. Iowa had 350 drug overdose deaths in 2019, and 470 in 2021, According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Reynolds said she is calling on the legislature to increase penalties for manufacturing and distributing fentanyl in Iowa. The penalties will increase through longer sentences and higher fines. 

Additionally, Reynolds said she wants to decrease overdose deaths by making life-saving treatment more accessible to Iowans. 

Reynolds said currently naloxone, a treatment used to reverse overdoses, can only be distributed by pharmacists. While others can provide and have naloxone on-site, it can only be used in emergency scenarios at those locations. Meaning, Iowans who have an overdose at home can only receive treatment if they acquired the naloxone from a pharmacist. 

“The opioid crisis is a human tragedy taking place across this country, and fentanyl has taken center stage,” Reynolds said. 

Wahls said, in an interview with The Daily Iowan, addressing fentanyl overdoses was a bipartisan priority that most legislators would support because of the devastation it has caused communities, however, he said he did not support other things mentioned in her speech like the school voucher plan. 

Streamlining government duties

Reynolds announced her goal to streamline the state government operations by merging 37 cabinet agencies into 16. She also signed an executive order that puts a moratorium on any new rules while state agencies assess whether their existing rules are worth their cost. 

“That talent can’t meet its full potential when it’s hampered by a fractured organizational structure that’s run on autopilot for decades. We can do better for Iowans,” Reynolds said. 

Looking toward the next 108 days, Reynolds said she hopes the legislature enacts policies that put Iowans above bureaucratic systems and special interests. 

“Together, we have built a strong foundation upon which Iowa can continue to rise,” Reynolds said. “A place where families thrive, businesses grow, and government is responsive to the people.  Now, we have a chance to do it again.”