Interpreting Gronstal, Vilsack

Governor Tom Vilsack is not using the "bully pulpit" to try to stop the veto override that appears will be the outcome of this Friday’s special session.  Vilsack’s public schedule, released Friday, proclaims that the governor has "no public events the week of Monday, July 10."  Mrs. Vilsack’s schedule has one public event — a Thursday morning tour of the Boston Public Library — so I think it’s safe to guess that Mr. Vilsack will be somewhere in the vicinity.  Perhaps nearby New Hampshire?  There is nothing on his Heartland PAC website to indicate where Vilsack might be this week.

Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) was on IPTV’s Iowa Press this weekend along with House Speaker Christopher Rants (R-Sioux City) and it provided a good bit of political theater.  I thought I’d share with you some of the Q&A after the show with reporters (Rod Boshard of CR Gazette, Todd Dorman of Lee, Jon Roos of DMR & me):

Q:  Do you have sense of what’s going to happen next Friday?

Mike Gronstal:  "Oh, please.  Of course I have a sense of what’s going to happen next Friday."

Q:  What is it?

MG:  "I didn’t tell you I’m going to tell you what that sense is, but oh, please, after 24 years to suggest I don’t have a sense of what’s going to happen.  I know exactly what’s going to happen."

Q:  Okay then, you came across on that show as saying anything, the sky’s-the-limit, anything’s possible.

MG:  "I think anything is possible, but I’m not the sole arbiter of what is possible and in order to accomplish anything in the Senate I need the cooperation of at least one Republican.  In order to accomplish anything in the Hosue I need the cooperation of the majority party (Republicans) in the House, so I’m going to continue to press for what I think is the best way — the best, safest, strongest way — to protect private property and not have it threatened in court.  I’m going to continue to advocate for that."

Q:  What happens when they come in, call up the bill, vote to over-ride, and then vote to adjourn.  It comes to you (Gronstal and questioner talk over one another here)…

MG:  "Then we have a series of choices…(Gronstal offers a list that’s quite long — which he acknowledged in the middle by saying: ‘You asked me what’s possible.  I’ve got too many scenarios.’)

Q:  What is the most likely scenario?

MG:  "Opinions vary."

Q:  What’s you opinion?

MG:  "Kept to myself."

Q:  Why?

MG:  "Because I want to advocate for passing the strongest possible protections for private property rights.  I’m going to continue doing that in the most-responsible way that ends up getting enacted, that ends up not getting a court case that throws this law out so I’m going to continue working to get the best result possible so I’m not going to predict results.  It may not be, it may not end up being my ideal solution."

Q:  Is it fair to say that public and political pressure has made it more likely that as each day passes that the Senate will vote to override?

MG:  "It may be fair for you to say that."

Q:  Is that what’s happening?

MG:  "Look, I think it’s abundantly clear, abundantly clear that the Republicans’ refusal to even sit down and talk, to even sit down and talk with the governor about an alternative, I think it’s clear their course is political.  Ours has been policy from day one on this issue."

Q:  What’s the downside on saying ‘Okay, we vote to override, we put this law into effect and then we come back next year and improve on what the new law is?

MG: "What’s the down side on passing a moratorium?"

Q:  Let’s start with my question first.  (laughter)

MG:  "Well, the downside is there is still a legal cloud over whether the override is valid.  That’s the downside, so you may end up with no law.  That’s the biggest downside.  So what’s the biggest downside of passing a moratorium for nine months until we can come back and pass new legislation?  What’s the downside of that?"

Q:  Is there also a concern — under current law, the way things have been operating this hasn’t been a huge problem in Iowa — is there something on the horizon that makes it appear that it will become a problem and something major has to be put in place?

MG:  "I think the Supreme Court decision a couple years ago surprised a lot of people.  I think that made it a very real concern that the legislature took up and dealt with fairly and I certainly appreciate people’s frustration with the governor’s veto and I think it’s a hot issue politically in people’s minds but it’s also a real issue as it relates to people in Iowa, you know, on the lake stuff.  There’s a thousand places in this state where you could build a lake and every place you build a lake you impact probably at a minimum a hundred farmers in that vicinity.  You have a pretty dramatic impact on them by condemning their property, so yea, I think there are some folks out there who are legitimately fearful of how this can be used."

Q:  So is the only section of the bill that you’d like to fix immediately the slum & blighted section?

MG:  "I"ve made that abundantly clear.  I made it clear at the end of last session.  I made it clear during the session that my biggest concern was about slum and blight."

Q:  Because there’s the other side on the lakes issue, that some argue southern Iowa needs lakes for water supply, for economic development.

MG:  "And I don’t think there’s a likely scenario where the legislature’s going to move to make changes there."

Q:  So, it’s like trails where the legislature passed the bill a few years ago that said trails aren’t a public purpose and that ended up making it more difficult to complete trails.

MG:  "Yep.  Yep."

Q:  Is it your expectation that this is going to be a one-day session?

MG:  "Um, in all likelihood, yes, but not guaranteed."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.