Shooting the wounded

House debate on the "prevailing wage" bill was to begin at one o'clock this afternoon.  It's just after seven o'clock now, and debate has not yet started — formally — but there was just a brief verbal dust-up to chronicle. (UPDATEthe debate never started.  It's scheduled to start, now, at noon Friday.)

As House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha was given a chance to speak at about 7 p.m. Thursday night, and formally signal his intent to hold a closed-door meeting with his GOP colleagues — something these legisaltors call a caucus – Paulsen used the moment to quiz House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines.

"So, if I understand what's going on here, it's still your intention to start House File 333 tonight," Paulsen said.

"At this point, yes," McCarthy replied.

"OK. I mean, last year, you wrote a bill in the middle of the night and you tried to run it in the middle of the night and it was a bad idea then and it's a bad idea now," Paulsen said. (That's a reference to the union-backed bill which would have expanded the subjects union members may bring up during contract negotiations, a bill which sped through the Democratically-controlled House and Senate last year, only to be vetoed by Governor Culver, a fellow Democrat.)

"I believe we started…," McCarthy interjected.

Paulsen continued: "Why do we have to start tonight?"

"Last year I believe we started at nine in the morning and through caucus and debate and things of that nature we ended up doing something at four in the morning.  We started at nine and ended at four, came to an agreement with both caucuses, came back the next morning at nine, finished it at about 1:30," McCarthy said.

"OK," Paulsen said.

"And we're open to discussion…," McCarthy started, but Paulsen again continued: 

"Maybe I mentioned too many items there," Paulsen said.  "You think it's a good idea to run this bill through the middle of the night?"

"I don't know about the length of the debate," McCarty said.  "We've been very open and upfront and we've given you everything that the (Legislative Services Agency) drafters have been working on this morning, so you know everything that we know at this stage. We've been very open and transparent and we've gone through all the appropriate rules in subcommittees and committees.  We delayed committee action last week and now we're ready for caucus, to go in an analyze it and open to further discussion and continue to be open and transparent to any concerns that you may have moving forward. It's my understanding that we're going to go to caucus and go through the amendments and I'm awaiting your phone call to talk about any agreements that may be reached regarding the order of amendments or us deferring to you on the order of amendments and continue to try to work in the agreeable way that we've done so far."

"Well, thank you," Paulsen replied.  "I don't think I heard a 'yes' or a 'no' in there so I'm going to take that as a 'no, it's not a good idea' but that's what you have in mind anyway, so seeings as how we're going to shoot the wounded tonight and attack some of the disaster victims and property taxpayers, Republicans will caucus immediately in the Legislative Dining Room."

Democrats, by the way, are caucusing/meeting privately in the Supreme Court Chambers in the statehouse.  I plan to use some of this time caucusing my reporter colleagues who are stuck here as long as the legislators are here.  A delegation may be dispatched to the vending machine to obtain refreshing beverages.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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