Friday was the 166th day of the this year’s Iowa legislative session and there were fits of temper and finger-pointing as senators began their day.
Republicans complained about the way Democrats had scuttled the GOP’s bid to stage a sort of sleep-in at the statehouse until the state budget stalemate gets resolved. Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, also complained about inaction on issues like gay marriage and abortion.
“We, as a senate, after weeks of delay, still have important issues that we have not dealt with besides the budget,” Chelgren said.
Democrats like Senator Matt McCoy of Des Moines accused Chelgren and the other Republicans of grandstanding. “What a joke,” McCoy said. “Self-promoting, sanctimonious crap is what we’re hearing today.”
Senator Merlin Bartz, a Republican from Grafton, suggested Democrats had improperly steamrolled the Republican bid this past Wednesday to keep the senate in session indefinitely.
“I’d like to call this a teaching moment…that sometimes in the heat of the moment…we get caught up…and we make decisions, we do things, we say things that may not be in the best interest of us personally or us as senators,” Bartz said.
McCoy countered that Republicans had failed to achieve their goal of keeping the senate going indefinitely because most of the Senate Republicans left the capitol Wednesday night.
“You stay around and do the people’s business, you put your butt in the chair — simple as that. We were here. You weren’t. That’s what happened, make no mistake about it,” McCoy said. “Everything else that I’ve heard today is a bunch of whining.”
The senate, as is the custom, started its Friday session with a prayer. Senator Gene Fraise, a Democrat from Fort Madison, prayed for clarity.
“Give us renewed resolve to do our level best for the state of Iowa, even when that means making difficult, if not impossible, decisions,” Fraise said.
A Republican senator approached Fraise after his prayer and thanked Fraise for those sentiments.
The main sticking point for legislators is a deal on property tax reform. Democrats propose a state tax credit for Iowans who own business property while Republicans favor a 25 percent cut in commercial property tax rates.