The 60 Republicans in the Iowa House are opposing the 50 Democrats and Republicans in the Iowa Senate and Republican Governor Branstad, refusing to provide more money to cover the state’s legal bills.
House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer of Garner says House Republicans believe the governor can transfer funds in the state budget to immediately cover the roughly $3 million in overdue payments due to lawyers appointed to represent clients who can’t afford an attorney.
“I hope he will review that and consider this as a viable option,” Upmeyer says.
But Governor Branstad has asked legislators just to vote to pass a bill that would provide more than $18 million to cover all indigent defense costs through the end of the current state budgeting year. And Branstad opposes the House G.O.P. plan that would give him authority to take funds from other state programs to make payments to lawyers who’re working for indigent clients.
“And, frankly, there’s not money to transfer to that,” Branstad said Monday.
Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says it’s not just attorneys who haven’t been paid.
“You’ve all heard from…not only the attorneys but the court reporters and the interpreters and the investigators who provide work for the State of Iowa in defending the accused who are indigent,” Hogg says.
The Senate voted 50 to zero to provide the money this morning, but early this afternoon House Republicans insisted on their stop-gap proposal. Interest is now being charged on about half a million dollars in unpaid legal bills because they’re more than a month past due.