An impromptu discussion broke out in the Iowa Senate this morning over the future of Iowa Department of Public Health director Tom Newton. Republicans have threatened to block his confirmation to the post after his department spent nearly 600-thousand dollars on anti-smoking ads.
Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, says he won’t support Newton because of what he considers a misuse of state funds. McKinley says, "While I think he’s a very nice individual and a fine man, the issue I have is one of governance and one of husbandry of the state’s resources."
But Joe Bolckom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says the state has a long-history of spending money on anti-tobacco initiatives and the flare-up over the amount spent on the recent advertising campaign shouldn’t prevent Newton from holding his job."The use of these public dollars has been going on for a number of years, " Bolckom says, " It’s effective. It’s driven down tobacco usage in Iowa. And I hope we can set aside concern about that issue and not take down this very qualified nominee to lead our Department of Public Health."
Governor Culver named Newton director of the department last April. But an official confirmation requires two-thirds vote of the Senate by the end of this legislative session. That means he would need at least 34 votes to keep the job. Democrats hold 30 Senate seats.