The 2011 session is in its second week of overtime and the top Republican in the Iowa House says the process of striking agreements on a variety of issues has been “lengthened” because rank-and-file legislators have been sent home for most of the past three weeks.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, says having all 150 legislators inside the statehouse builds “internal pressure” for action.
“In the past there was often a strategy of wearing people out and I think often that resulted in late night sessions and, sometimes, bad decisions,” Paulsen says. “And we chose a strategy of, ‘We need to not wear people out and when there’s work to do, we’ll be here and when there’s not, we’ll turn ’em loose.'”
According to Paulsen, there’s always a “bit of lethargy” built into the bill-drafting and deal-making process.
“This has been a little bit more lethargic than the average session,” Paulsen says. “Every session has its own personality.”
Republicans in the House and Republican Governor Terry Branstad have agreed on an overall spending level for next year’s budget, but Democrats in the Senate say it’s not enough. And there’s no agreement on the budget plan for the following year, even though Governor Branstad has said a two-year budget plan is a “non-negotiable” item for him.
“I know that we’re working towards trying to find a solution,” Paulsen says, “And I’d still prefer to find a solution in a month that begins with the letter M.”
Paulsen says he’s not intereted in a so-called “government shutdown.” However, Paulsen sees a bill that would provide funding for state government operations as a temporary option if legislators and the governor cannot agree by July 1st, when the new state budgeting year starts.
All 100 members of the Iowa House met one day this week, on Tuesday. The 50 members of the Iowa Senate are scheduled to meet once this week — today, starting at 11 o’clock.