The Iowa Senate had a spirited and at times downright testy debate over a bill that would give some Iowa companies a second chance at winning state government business if the lowest bidder is an out-of-state company. Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Robbins, says giving Iowa companies a second chance to match the low bid from an out-of-state firm makes sense.

“Did Iowa departments really have to buy digital cameras and supplies from a Massachusetts company?” Mathis asked. “Did we really have to buy aprons and smocks from a Pennsylvania company…bread and bakery products from Missouri, cake brownie and muffin mix from California, marketing work to promote Iowa from New York?”

But many Republicans objected. Senator Bill Dix, a Republican from Shell Rock, suggested Iowa taxpayers will wind up paying more because out-of-state companies with low-cost products will quit bidding for Iowa government contracts if Iowa companies are given this preference.

“The taxpayers of Iowa want to know that their taxpayer dollars are being utilized wisely,” Dix said.

Earlier in the debate, Senator Mathis seemed to take offense at something Senator Dix said.

“I’ve got a few questions about this bill. Will the lady from Linn yield?” Bill Dix asked. The word “yield” is the way senators ask one another if they’ll answer questions during debate. The reference to Linn is the fact that Linn County is where Mathis lives.

“Yes, the senator from Linn, not the lady from Linn, will yield,” Liz Mathis replied.

Mathis is a Democrat who just won a seat in the senate last November in a special election. Senator Paul McKinley of Chariton used to be the Senate’s Republican Leader — but stepped down two days after the Republican candidate lost to Mathis in that special election. During today’s debate McKinley also referred to Mathis as the “lady senator” when he addressed her and the legislation she sponsored.

“Let’s get beyond superfluous legislation like this that may feel good, but really works in the opposite direction that it should,” McKinley said.

A few second later, Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, started yelling at Democrats in the Senate.

“Frankly, it boils down to one thing: what have we done for business this year?” Feenstra said, before tacking on this one-word question: “Huh?”

Senator Mathis closed the debate by saying the bill was about boosting Iowa businesses.

“You can feel good about voting for this bill because business people back home will see you standing with them, supporting them for building their business in Iowa,” Mathis said, “supporting them for hiring Iowans.”

All 26 Senate Democrats voted for the bill, as did nine Republican senators. Fifteen Republicans voted against it. The legislation is unlikely to become law, however, as it’s not a priority for Republicans who manage the debate in the Iowa House.