The chief justice of Iowa’s Supreme Court put lawmakers and the governor on notice this morning (Wednesday) that the courts need more money — and the state’s political leaders say they heard the message. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, says the chief justice “dropped the gavel” on legislators today, but it’s too soon to say how lawmakers will respond. Chief Justice Louis Lavorato delivered his annual “Condition of the Judiciary” message this morning (Wednesday). “Now if you’re not inclined to provide the level of funding we recommend, then I must caution you — we cannot, we cannot continue on this downward path,” Lavorato said. Rants says the courts have the power to act to get the money they request, if the governor and legislators don’t provide it. Rants says the chief justice backed his case up with facts, but Rants says other parts of state government have seen budget cuts, too. Lavorato says he and other top state court officials probably wouldn’t use their authority to override the legislature and seize the amount of money the court wants for its budget. “That’s not the way to go, in my mind,” Lavorato says. “That’s not my style.” Lavorato says it doesn’t help anybody if he were to order the State Treasurer to provide the courts with the amount of money they want. “That just makes people mad. The public doesn’t understand and it’s just not the right way to go,” Lavorato says. But Governor Tom Vilsack says Lavorato would be within his rights to make such a dramatic move if the legislature doesn’t vote to provide the courts enough money. Vilsack says the budget situation in the courts is “sobering” and the courts have the power to fix things. Courts in other states have taken matters into their own hands when other state legislatures failed — in those courts opinion — to provide enough cash for the courts to operate.
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