Time is running out on the 2009 legislative session. May 1st will mark the 110th day of the session. That is also the day when legislators will stop receiving their daily per diem. Many expected the legislators to be gone long before then, but if that’s going to be the case, they need to get moving.
For months, we have heard various legislators say that they want to finish up and get home early, but week after week, Democrats have failed to bring key pieces of legislation to the floor for a vote. Many capitol observers have never seen such an unorganized, unorthodox session as this one.
As we enter into the final days of the legislative session, there are a number of big issues that are still stuck in limbo. Democrats have been going to vote on the elimination of federal deductibility for more than three weeks now. Last Friday, they let it be known that they only have 50 “yes” votes in the House, one less than is required for it to pass. Similarly, there are a host of labor bills that many thought were dead, but could be resurrected.
All of this uncertainty has caused groups like Iowans for Tax Relief to continue running their TV and radio ads against the repeal of federal deductibility. It has also caused the Iowa Association of Business and Industry to go back up on the air with radio ads against the various pro-union bills. Many people believe that both groups are wise not let up on their efforts.
Also lurking in the shadows is Governor Culver’s $750 million bonding proposal, his signature piece of legislation that he has campaigned for across the state. House and Senate Democrats are in agreement with the Governor about borrowing the money, but there has been a lot of disagreement about what the money will be used for and how the state will pay it back.
If the Democrats are going to pass any of these major pieces of legislation, they are going to need to start moving forward with them this week. That may be difficult given that the legislature is already set to debate a proposal to alter Iowa’s sex offender law. There will be a public hearing on the matter later tonight.
The Democrats’ procrastination and inability to get their own members to agree on their legislative agenda might force them to throw in the towel on a few of these issues and wait until next year. With each passing day, it seems more and more likely that the Democrats will pass their budget, will probably pass Culver’s bonding proposal, and call it good and go home. If that indeed happens, this legislative session will have been a disaster for legislative Democrats and Culver.
Speaker Murphy and Majority Leader Gronstal walked into the Capitol in January with larger majorities than they have ever had before. They were cocky and arrogant, but it seems like they will leave Des Moines this spring not having accomplished much at all. Their major accomplishment has nothing to do with legislation at all. But, the Democrats have done one thing that Republicans have been trying to do for the past decade: find a way to unite the fiscal and social conservatives, while also attracting independents to the conservative cause.
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