A top legislator says Governor Chet Culver was “active” behind the scenes in trying to get a union-backed bill passed in the Iowa House this weekend. 

“He did give 100 percent on this one,” House Speaker Pat Murphy of Dubuque said of fellow Democrat Chet Culver.

Murphy said Culver visited some of the bill’s supporters before votes were cast, and then Culver talked with some of the five Democrats who made the crucial “no” votes that helped kill a bill that would have required workers on taxpayer-funded construction projects be paid the “prevailing wage” in the country. “He worked with legislators on this bill. He was willing to work on compromises to see if we could get the bill passed,” Murphy said Monday afternoon. “His role was very active, much more active than it was a year ago.”

Last year, Culver drew the ire of unions when he vetoed a bill which would have expanded the topics government workers who are union members may bring up during contract negotiations. Murphy spoke with reporters earlier this afternoon, moments after he declared the “prevailing wage” bill had failed to pass the House by a 49-to-49 vote. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines switched his vote from yes to no, a parliamentary move that gives McCarthy the ability to bring the bill back up for debate if one of the legislators who voted “no” changes their mind.

Murphy was philosophical about the situation. “You’d better get used to winning and losing in politics,” Murphy said. “That’s part of the process here.”

But Murphy did admit his decision to keep the House voting machine open all weekend — just in case someone changed their mind — was a snap decision. “I really just had my Irish temper up and I wanted to pass the bill, so I decided I’d sit here all weekend,” Murphy said. “I’m not saying I’d do it again, but I don’t have any regrets about it.”

Murphy told reporters the bill’s defeat does not derail the bill permanently, nor does it mean Democrats will table three other labor-related bills that unions hope pass the legislature in 2009.