New Senate Leader Looks Forward to New Duties

State Rep. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, speaks during debate on a bill that would provide tax incentives for the Wells Dairy Inc. and prevent the Le Mars, Iowa, based company from moving its corporate headquarters out of the state, Tuesday, March 16, 2004, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. The bill was put on a fast track after state economic development officials said competition from Nebraska and South Dakota was intense. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


By Liz Blood

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — A number of contentious issues will require the attention of the 2013 Iowa Legislature when it convenes in January.

Presiding over the Iowa Senate during that critical time will be Dubuque Democratic Sen. Pam Jochum.

"It's a very exciting time," Jochum said.

Jochum spoke with the Telegraph Herald this past week, just hours after her Democratic colleagues in the Senate elected her as Iowa Senate president.

Jochum will preside over the Senate during a legislative session in which reform measures addressing education, commercial property taxes and public employee compensation figure to be on the agenda.

Those largely partisan issues will attract a lot of attention from inside and outside the Capitol building in Des Moines.

"Eighty-five percent of everything we do, there's agreement on. And those are the issues that never make the news. And I get that," Jochum said. "It's those handful of issues that can really change the course of an economy or the livelihood of a large group of people that get the attention, of course.

"It's a matter of sitting down and making your case, and then figuring out — you have to talk to one another to find where you can reach agreement. If you cut off all forms of communication and you decide it's my way or the highway, you never make any progress. So ideology has to be set aside to some extent."

Jochum was re-elected recently to her second four-year term in the Iowa Senate after serving eight two-year terms in the Iowa House, from 1993 through 2008. Her two-year term as Senate president officially begins when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 14, after her selection is confirmed by a vote of the entire Senate that day.

Jochum's presidency received the approval of another Dubuque Democratic legislator: Rep. Pat Murphy, who was speaker of the House in 2009 and 2010.

"It's great for her and it's great for the Dubuque area," said Murphy.

Murphy said part of whether Jochum is successful in her new role will be based on development of her leadership style. He said some leaders are laid back, others are more aggressive. He noted Jochum has spent nearly two decades watching and learning from other chamber leaders.

"The big part for (Jochum), though, is to be herself," Murphy said. "Pam has always been a person who is very authentic, so I don't think Pam will have a problem with that."

Sen. Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, was recently voted Senate minority leader. Jochum's and Dix's leadership of their respective parties could have a great impact on any contentious legislation produced in the Senate. Democrats control the Senate with a 26-23 advantage, with one race still to be decided.

"I'll be looking forward to continuing my work with Sen. Jochum," Dix said. "I've come to respect her the last couple of years. ... I'll be doing what I can to find common ground on the issues important to our state."

Jochum said she is ready and eager to tackle the significant challenges ahead.

"It's not easy. It never has been," Jochum said. "We reflect society as a whole, and there's a lot of differences of opinion within society. So our job is to try and find how to resolve those differences of opinion."

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