Governor Culver draws ire of Democrats in Iowa Senate

Governor Chet Culver issued a statement today, about eight minutes before the Iowa Senate was scheduled to begin debating a bill that would expand the scope of contract negotiations for union employees in state and local government in Iowa, including school teachers.  Here’s what the governor said in his written statement: "In January, in my Condition of the State Address, I challenged the legislature to try to find consensus, and to not be afraid to debate difficult labor-management issues. I said then that Iowa has always had a tradition of fairness in the workplace, and that Republicans and Democrats proved this when they joined together in a bipartisan effort to pass the state’s first collective bargaining law.

“Our predecessors showed great courage when they found consensus on this, and so many other important labor-management issues. I believe, if we try, we can too. Today I respectfully call upon members of the Senate to apply a little common sense to this important labor-management debate.  I believe it’s crystal clear more time is necessary for all Iowans to have a chance to better understand this proposed legislation and be more involved in the process.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think, to date, a genuine effort to find consensus and common ground through constructive dialogue and discussion has occurred. Important changes to government at every level are being considered here.  Upon review by my Administration, I continue to have concerns about making sure that members of the legislative and executive branches, as well as local governments and school boards, fully understand the substance of and potential fiscal impacts of this legislation. This is why more time is necessary for all involved to understand and consider this proposal, to weigh in, and to make necessary changes.

My Administration expressed this concern to legislative leadership last week and so, again today, I ask leaders in the Senate to pause and take all the time necessary to allow for an honest and thorough debate.   I call upon the Senate to allow a public hearing and the time for full consideration of any necessary changes before any final action is taken on this legislation. I believe there are important things we as a state should do to ensure we’re protecting the rights of workers, creating a healthy labor-management relationship, and practicing sound fiscal management.  My commitment to carrying out those principles remains strong.  However, I believe what is happening now is not the way to do it.  There is a different way, the Iowa common sense way, and I call upon all involved to pursue that path.”

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs said he has no intention of taking such a pause.  At about 12:15 p.m. this afternoon, Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston, was reading aloud from Governor Culver’s statement, getting to the phrase "and practicing sound fiscal management" when Gronstal yelled "point of order."

"A point of order’s been raised," Senate President Jack Kibbie said to the 50 senators.  "What’s your point?"

"Mr. President are we on press releases or are we on amendment 5190?" Gronstal asked. 

The upshot of this was that Republicans went into a closed-door "caucus" — it’s a private meeting in a room behind the senate chamber. 

As Democrats waited, Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, was more adamantt.  During a chat with a group of reporters, Kibbie suggested Culver would find it hard to win re-election if he were to veto teh bill.

A few moments later, a group of senators standing near the Senate press bench was joking among themselves.  One joked that after the vote is taken this evening on the labor bill, the Senate Ways and Means Committee will be meeting to pass a bill which would raise Iowa’s gas tax.  As you may recall, Governor Culver has said now is not the time to raise the gas tax.  Seems Democrats in the Senate aren’t very happy with their governor today.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. I don’t know what Chet’s game is here but I do know the proposed changes to the collective bargaining rules are bad for the state and bad for taxpayers.
    It is wrong to use taxpayer dollars to payback union favors for getting Chet and his buds elected. Anyone who votes for this will not get my vote. I didn’t vote for the unions to represent me in the statehouse or the school-board. My elected representatives need to grow a backbone and do their jobs. Just say NO.