Lawyers made opening arguments in a case that will determine whether Governor Branstad had the authority to close offices around the state that provided services to out-of-work Iowans.
ark Hedberg, a lawyer for the state employees union that filed the lawsuit, argues it was unconstitutional for the governor to item veto language that would have kept the Workforce Development offices open, while using the money legislators set aside to run those offices for another purpose.
“In this case he could take the money that was appropriated to keep offices open and turn around and use it to shut them down, just the opposite of what the legislature intended,” Hedberg told reporters.
Richard Sapp, who is Branstad’s attorney, said a governor’s authority to use his or her item veto authority is at stake in this case.
“And certainly the governor’s right to have control of expenditures, which is the purpose of the item veto,” Sapp said.
Sapp also argues the decision on this spending was made in the waning hours of the 2011 legislative session, when lawmakers sometimes don’t even know what’s in a bill.
“That’s what, in part, the item veto is designed to guard against is not allowing policy provisions that have less than full support from nevertheless getting enacted,” Sapp said.
But the union’s attorney sharply disagrees. He said lawmakers made it very clear they wanted to keep those offices open.
“It was broad support and bipartisan,” Hedberg said. “Democrats and Republicans both voted for it.”
The judge promised a timely ruling in the case, as many of the offices have been closed in the past few months. State officials have instead established computer access in nearly 400 different sites — libraries, schools, National Guard armories — to provide job search services to the unemployed via a computer program. Workforce Development staff is available by phone from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays to answer questions.