An interesting ITR decision

Iowans for Tax Relief has scheduled a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.  The timing is interesting, as many legislators will be in Cedar Rapids, attending the funeral of former state Senator Mary Lundby of Marion.  The funeral is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. It appears the leader of Iowans for Tax Relief has no plans to pay his respects to Lundby at her funeral, as according to the news release Iowans for Tax Relief president Ed Failor, Junior, will be in Des Moines leading the news conference.

Lundby was a Republican and in April of 2006 she took over as Republican leader of the Iowa Senate in what many considered a surprise move. Republicans in the senate met privately and ousted their leader, Stewart Iverson (a longtime friend of Iowans for Tax Relief), installing Lundby as Co-Majority Leader of the Iowa Senate. 

Kathleen Koberg, a spokewoman for Iowans for Tax Relief, responded to a question from me about the timing of the news conference. I asked whether it would, indeed, occur during the time Lundby's funeral would be held.  "Press conference is in Des Moines.  No conflict for attendees of either," Koberg wrote in an email.  "Didn't imagine a press conference in Des Moines could possibly be perceived negatively."

According to an ITR news release, the following legislators are scheduled to speak at the ITR news conference tomorrow: Representative Erik Helland (R- Grimes); Representative Doug Struyk (R- Council Bluffs); Representative Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner); Senator Shawn Hamerlinck (R- Davenport); Senator Kim Reynolds (R- Osceola). All but Struyk and Upmeyer are newcomers in the legislature, so Helland, Hamerlinck and Reynolds did not serve with Lundby — who was a state representative for eight years and a state senator for the past 14 years.  Upmeyer, who was elected to the Iowa House in 2002, is currently the top-ranking Republican woman in the Iowa House. She's the minority whip. According to campaign documents, the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC donated $5000 to Upmeyer in the 2008 election cycle.

UPDATE AT 8:50 P.M.:  I went out to eat this evening, as did Representative Upmeyer.  We were just able to talk, via phone.  "Mary (Lundby) would be pleased to see what we have happening (tomorrow)," Upmeyer said to conclude the conversation.  "It'll be good."

I opened with a question.  Why are you having this news conference in Des Moines during Lundby's funeral in Marion?  "Kraig did not want both of us to be gone," Upmeyer began, referencing House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen.  Upmeyer is the #2 Republican in the House this year.  "He really wanted one of us to be in (Des Moines).  As much as I wanted wanted to go and honor Mary, Kraig needs to go and wants to go very badly (to Lundby's funeral) and one of us needed to stay back and it needed to be me," Upmeyer said. Paulsen is from Hiawatha so he, like Lundby is/was a Linn County legislator. The primary reason for Upmeyer to stay in Des Moines tomorrow, however, is the on-call status of the House Rebuild Iowa Committee, according to Upmeyer.  While Democrats who control the legislature's debate agenda have suspended committee action in both the Senate and House tomorrow, Upmeyer says members of the Rebuild Iowa Committee in the House have been told to be ready to meet if the flood recovery bill is drafted and ready for consideration. 

"That's the only reason we did it differently. Honestly, we could have delayed this news conference a day and it would have been fine," Upmeyer said of the ITR news conference.  "…You know, Mary was a wonderful lady. She was somebody that was an inspiration to me really way, way back when I was involved in community colleges and came to the hill to talk to people about why we needed to fund community colleges. She was a woman who was a real inspiration and I definitely wanted to be there, but nonetheless it's the right thing for one of us (House Republican leaders) to stay in Des Moines and look after business. That's what we were elected to do."

"…Mary's gone and Mary knows that I would love to be there," Upmeyer says.  "That's OK.  Mary would be pleased to see what we have happening tomorrow (at the ITR news conference). It'll be good."

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About O.Kay Henderson

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