Democrats are driving to adjourn the 2009 legislative session this weekend.
Democrats control the debate agenda in the House and Senate. Governor Chet Culver, a fellow Democrat, has been meeting and talking privately with legislative leaders, crafting a final version of next year’s state budget as well as a package that will see the state borrow over $600 million for infrastructure projects.
"It’ll probably be a couple more long days, but I really feel good about where we are today and I’ll stay very engaged here to see it all the way through," Culver said just before noon on Friday.
Culver suggested at some point, leaders need to make a final decision on which bills can pass and which can’t. Culver tried last week to round up the key 51st vote to get a bill passed in the House that would rewrite the state’s income tax system, but Culver told reporters on Friday that he’s not done nothing on that front this week.
"You know, people feel very strongly about any number of issues that remain and the process allows them to make their best case for why that particular piece of legislation should make the cut," Culver said, "so I’m more focused on the bigger picture in terms of getting the budget issues resolved, making sure the I-JOBS initiative gets to my desk."
Culver initially proposed that the state borrow $750 million to finance a series of infrastructure projects over the next three years, but legislators pared down the proposal by $150 million.
On Friday afternoon, the Iowa House gave final legislative approval to a bill that places additional restrictions on sex offenders and Culver has said he’ll sign the bill into law. In a rare move later Friday afternoon, Culver met with legislators in the House speaker’s office on the second floor of the capitol rather than hosted a meeting in his own office on the capitol’s main floor.
"I am here, on-call, 24/7 — all the way to the end," Culver told reporters.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs expects to reach resolution on a host of bills this weekend.
"I’m pretty confident we can go to conclusion this week. How far that might take us into the weekend is at this point not a function of lack of agreement. It’s a funciton of who quickly we can move those agreements into (bill) draft form and get them introduced and passed," Gronstal told reporters. "So we’re pretty confident we’re going to get done here pretty soon."
Republicans like House G.O.P. Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha are expressing frustration with a lack of access to details of the deals being struck by Democratic legislators and the governor.
"So that doesn’t give Republicans much piece, but obviously we’ll keep up the fight on behalf of the taxpayer," Paulsen told reporters this week.
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton is predictably less than charitable about the Democratically-led legislature.
"We’re ending the session precisely where we started," McKinley told reporters Thursday. "We have really not accomplished anything."