A bill that would provide $56 million in state aid to victims of last year’s flooding and tornadoes had been moving through committees in the Iowa House, but has been tabled until next week.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says Governor Culver and his staff asked for the holding pattern. "They want until the end of the week to make sure that it doesn’t affect federal funding," Murphy says. "We ran into this problem last fall when we wanted to help out some of the communities that were affected by disasters so we want to make sure that we don’t do anything to hurt ourselves in the process, so we’re going to make sure everybody has a change to dot the I’s and cross the T’s on this before we move the bill on to the (House) floor for debate."
Murphy doesn’t expect the review to take long, and predicts the full, 100-member House will debate it next week. "Our goal is to make sure that we can get this bill done as quickly as possible, have it as our first bill (to pass the legislature)," Murphy says. "We were hoping to do it by the end of this week and, quite frankly, on the governor’s desk by Monday, but the important part is that we don’t do harm to the state or to any assistance (victims) can get from the federal government so we just want to make sure we’re doing it in an appropriate form."
Governor Culver asked that the Rebuild Iowa Office he established this summer get its operating funds from the state’s "rainy day" account, but Murphy says neither Democrats nor Republicans in the legislature want that to happen. "People don’t want to be using the economic emergency fund — they believe that that should be to help victims in Iowa of disasters and flood," Murphy says. "They really don’t want dollars out of those fund being used for the purpose of a bureaucracy."
Some legislators, including Murphy, are questioning the Rebuild Iowa Office decision to spend $77,000 hiring a statehouse lobbyist. "They’re going to have to sell that to 51 members of the House and 26 members of the Senate," Murphy says. "…We understand that there’s a need for them to have people to voice their concerns over here (at the legislature). We understand that, but at the same point, too, we want to make sure that the focus is on helping communities rebuild whether it’s Oakville, Columbus Junction, Cedar Rapids or Iowa City, or Waterloo or Charles City."
When questioned by reporters earlier today, Murphy refused to say he was unhappy about the move by Governor Culver’s Rebuild Iowa Office to hire a lobbyist, but Murphy said legislators have "legitimate concerns" and move will get "real close scrutiny."