Branstad sentimental as 33rd Statehouse session draws to close

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DES MOINES — He’s not getting teary eyed, but Gov. Terry Branstad is a bit emotional in the final days of what likely will be his last legislative session as governor.

“Well, after 33 years involved with the Iowa General Assembly as a state representative, as lieutenant governor and, of course, 23 years of those as chief executive as governor, yeah, I am somewhat sentimental,” Branstad, 70, said Thursday between bill signing ceremonies in his formal office. Upstairs, lawmakers were making plans to wrap up the session before the end of the week.

He called it an honor to serve in and alongside the citizen Legislature.

“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people I’ve served with throughout the years and the people who have come to advocate for different matters,” said Branstad, who is awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation as ambassador to China. “I feel good about that. It’s kind of nostalgic.”

This is Branstad’s second run as governor. He served six years in the House from 1973-79 before being elected lieutenant governor, serving with Republican Gov. Bob Ray.

He was elected Iowa’s 39th governor in 1982 — the state’s youngest at 36 — and served 16 years. After a 12-year hiatus working in business and serving as president of Des Moines University, Branstad returned to his Statehouse office in 2011.

It also has been satisfying, the Republican governor said, to serve through the 2017 session. There was speculation earlier he’d turn over the reins to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds in mid-session.

The satisfaction comes, in part, because he has a GOP-controlled House and Senate to work with.

“We worked very hard to get a Republican majority in the Senate,” he said, explaining that “we had a lot of bills that had been blocked” when Democrats controlled the Senate for the past six years he was governor.

Branstad wouldn’t say this has been the best session during his time as governor, but said it ranks near the top as one of the most productive and significant.

“You know, there’s big things that have been done previously,” he said. “There have been a lot of other things done over the years. But when you look at the sheer volume and diversity of policy issues that have been addressed this year, it’s got to go down as one of the most productive.”

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