The Iowa Senate has rejected two of Governor Branstad’s nominees for the board that governs the state universities, including the current Board of Regents president Craig Lang. Senator Herman Quirmback, a Democrat from Ames, faulted Lang for saying Iowa State University should “speak with one voice” on agriculture.
“One has to ask: what happens to all the other voices?” Quirmbach asked.
Lang fell four votes short of the 34 “yes” votes he needed from senators to be confirmed for a second term on the Board of Regents.
“We can do better,” Quirmbach said. “…It is time for a change.”
Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, praised Lang for leading successful searches for new presidents at ISU and UNI as well as taking steps for freeze tuition for next year.
“We can’t dispute this is successful leadership,” Ernst said. “This is a record Iowans can be proud of. This is a record that any Regent could stand upon. This is a record that we should support.”
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said Lang lost his vote when Lang admitted he hadn’t read a crucial memo about the Harkin Institute which was being planned at Iowa State University.
“Craig Lang’s experience bought partisanship, bickering, disputes, dismay and disgust,” McCoy said.
Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, countered that the Harkin Institute has turned into “a fiasco” because Senator Harkin now says the work papers from his 40 years in congress will not go to Iowa State.
“I can understand why Craig Lang would not read a memorandum and be concerned about it,” Chelgren said. “I personally think it’s inappropriate for us to have set up anything for a sitting senator.”
Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said Lang was falling victim to needless partisanship.
“Craig Lang has not been the partisan mud-racker some have accused him of being,” Dix said.
Robert Cramer, another Branstad pick for the Board of Regents, fell seven votes short of confirmation. Critics like Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids charge Cramer’s opposition to same-sex marriage and what Cramer has called the “homosexual agenda” would prevent Cramer from fostering a “welcoming” atmosphere for all students.
“I cannot vote for somebody who is going to go on the Board of Regents and vote for discrimination against gays and lesbians,” Hogg said. “Can’t do it.”
Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, said since Cramer is the executive of a construction company, Cramer could help guide the more than one-billion dollars worth of university construction projects planned for the next five years.
“We should make our decisions based on qualifications,” Zaun said. “…He’s a good man.”
Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, accused Democrats of targeting Cramer because of his religious views.
“It seems tolerance goes one way in the Democrat Party,” Feenstra said. “We will tolerate you — only if you believe our views.”
Senator McCoy cited concerns about Cramer’s effort, as a member of the Johnston School Board, to ban books.
“And I do not believe he promotes an agenda that will allow for academic freedom,” McCoy said.
Senator Daryl Beall, a Democrat from Fort Dodge, said Cramer has “a rather dismal record” on academic freedom and seems “hostile” to diversity.
“Mr. Governor, send us good nominees and we’ll approve ’em,” Beall said.
Dix, the Senate Republican Leader, said Cramer had been subjected to an unfair “litmus test.”
“I find it unfortunate when a personal of high moral character is chastized on these principles rather than celebrated,” Dix said.
Governor Branstad said he’s deeply disappointed most Senate Democrats voted against both Cramer and Lang.
AUDIO of Senate debate of Cramer’s nomination (mp3 runs 37 min.)
AUDIO of Senate debate of Lang’s nomination (mp3 runs 24 min.)