One committee member today used the word “catfight” to describe this debate. Members of the House Government Oversight Committee are quarreling about the panel’s power to force Iowans to testify under oath in a statehouse hearing.
Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, is a lawyer. “The concept that any legislative committee has some sort of carte blanche to compel private people to come before them and answer questions about issues that are in no way related to government activity, I find that really concerning,” Wolfe said.
Republicans on the committee have been investigating complaints about X-rated material presented at a private conference for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students. The conference organizer is refusing to testify. Some school districts paid for transportation and registration fees at the conference and Republicans in the House say that’s why they’re investigating.
Representative Dawn Pettengill, a Republican from Mount Auburn, said using Wolfe’s rational, the panel shouldn’t be launching its separate investigation of a southeast Iowa boarding school that was shut down after allegations of abuse surfaced.
“In this case, as far as we know, there’s no taxpayer dollars that are involved in that,” Pettengill said, “so let’s just be cognizant that we can’t say it’s one thing out of one side of our mouth and something else out of the other side of our mouth.”
Representative Wolfe replied that state agencies need to answer why the alleged abuse was allowed to go on for years. It was at this point in the meeting that Representative Clel Baudler of Greenfield said the word “catfight” aloud to describe the verbal clash between the two women.
Representative Bobby Kaufmann — the committee’s chairman — also confronted a member of the public who was video taping the committee’s meeting.
“It would sure be nice if Mr. Monson would spend even a fraction of the amount of time answering our inquiries as all of you do following us around recording things,” Kaufmann said.
Nate Monson is executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, the organization that hosts the annual anti-bullying conference for homosexual kids.