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News Analysis: March 27, 2008

posted on March 27, 2008 at 3:03 PM

Yeager: Right now we turn to Kay Henderson who is currently a prisoner of the Iowa legislature. And Kay, we're coming almost to the final month here, just a couple of days away. Does it feel like you've been there a long time? But does it feel like you've seen any legislation done?

Henderson: I'm here to seek parole, please. Actually there have been a couple of key issues that have been in limbo for the past week.

One of them is the smoking ban which has been working its way through both the House and the Senate, a 10-member panel of legislators has been appointed to try to come to some resolution. Legislators faced an internal deadline this past week to advance policy legislation through a certain point in the process. So, that was sort of put on hold so that those pieces of legislation, other pieces of legislation could work their way through.

The other piece of legislation that has gotten a lot of attention at the statehouse is regards to labor policy. The House and the Senate have both approved a bill which would change the rules for collective bargaining for public employees for the state whereby as you negotiate the union contract for teachers or for police officers or for some government employee represented by a union there is a longer list of issues which now can be discussed during bargaining.

This bill cleared the House, it cleared the Senate but this past Monday Governor Culver issued a statement moments, eight minutes before the Senate was scheduled to take up the bill and said, hey wait, take a pause, have a public hearing.

I'm hearing a lot of complaints from Iowans about the school board members, city council members, county boards of supervisors contacting the Governor's office raising objections. Senators, however, were not terribly interested in the pause and they pushed it right through. Democrats, who hold a significant majority, 30 votes to 20 votes were determined to pass this on Monday which they did and they joked that Chet Culver would find it hard to veto this legislation if he hoped to run for governor in 2010 because to veto it would offend a chunk of the democratic base.

Let's remember, though, this is a chunk of the democratic base, AFSCME, which is the union which represents government workers and other unions by and large supported candidate Michael Blouin who many may remember challenged Chet Culver to run for governor in 2006. So, maybe Chet Culver doesn't have fond memories of his last election and of the verve with which union activists advanced his candidacy.

Yeager: But this was an issue that came up last week on Thursday into Friday, maybe they were going to have a Friday debate and they pushed it off. There was some late night hours there on Thursday then what was going to happen on Good Friday. But Monday the Governor then had another press conference earlier in the week to talk about this issue. Does it seem what he's going to do is pocket this thing? Is he going to sign it?

Henderson: Well, there's no real indication yet of what he will do. What happened today was House Republican leader Christopher Rants suggested that democrats have been disrespectful of Governor Culver earlier in the week by suggesting he hadn't read the bill yet and once he did he would realize it was a great piece of legislation and also suggesting that he wouldn't be re-elected.

Yeager: Maybe this is an issue where the two of them are almost on the same side of this issue.

Henderson: Indeed and so Culver finds himself in an odd situation. But clearly he wants to exhibit that there is an executive branch of government and the executive branch of government gets to run the boat sometimes.

Yeager: Right and there's a couple of other things. You mentioned the labor, we've also heard smoking. That's still stuck in a conference committee. The bottle bill, yes, it's dead, yes, it's alive. What do we make of what's going to happen with this one?

Henderson: It depends on what hour you ask each key individual involved in this process. But the house yesterday, on Wednesday, took the step of voting to create a task force which involves all the people who have been voicing opinions on the bottle bill, whether it should be expanded, whether it should be contracted and assembling 28 of those people on a task force to study the issue, not only the bottle bill but curbside recycling programs in Iowa and report back to legislators on January 1st, 2009.

Yeager: Sounds like something that maybe should have been done last year into this year instead of just bringing it up at the last minute.

Henderson: There are a lot of people who suggest that Governor Culver made a misstep when he sort of sprung this on legislators without a lot of advanced warning, without building up a coalition of supporters to start lobbying legislators to move in a direction. This has been in place for 34 years and every time legislators have tried to re-work it there's just been no agreement because it's very hard to get the two warring sides to agree.

Yeager: And we'll still keep talking about it next time. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa.

Henderson: Back to prison for me.

Yeager: Back to prison for you, your sentence has not been commuted.

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