November 23, 2014

SE IA senator recovering from heart surgery

A senator from southeast Iowa has had heart bypass surgery and awaits a doctor’s clearance to return to work at the statehouse.

Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington who is 65 years old, had the surgery last Thursday at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

Courtney is one of 26 Democrats in the senate. A bill must have at least 26 votes to win passage in the Senate, so Courtney’s absence prevents the senate from passing bills that would clear on a 26-to-24, party-line vote. However, legislators are focused this week on committee work because of a Friday deadline. A policy bill must clear a committee this week or be ineligible for the rest of the year. Democrats have a one-vote “cushion” on the committees Courtney serves on, so his vote won’t doom any bill this week.

If Courtney’s absence stretches for a couple of additional weeks, however, that would create problems for Democrats. Another deadline for action on policy bills comes in three weeks. A bill must pass in the Senate and win approval in a House committee to remain eligible.

Courtney was the United Auto Workers production safety representative at the Case/New Holland plant in Burlington from 1988 until he retired in 1992. He has been serving in the Iowa Senate since 2003.