The top Democrat in the legislature says there could be an opening for a bipartisan deal that would end the stalemate with the Republican governor over the Iowa Juvenile Home.
“It may be a time for all of us to say: ‘O.K., maybe we don’t have to…take this all the way to the Supreme Court,” says Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs.
Gronstal’s comments come following a district court judge’s ruling that the Iowa Juvenile Home should be reopened. Governor Terry Branstad is considering filing an appeal to a higher court.
“I appreciate the governor exercising what he thought was his appropriate authority in terms of being able to close this. He’s now lost at least at one level in the court case,” Gronstal says. “Doesn’t it behoove us now — people of good faith, working together — to try and set aside those arguments and come up with a resolution?”
Gronstal points to last year’s big, bipartisan deals between Democrats and Republicans in the legislature and Republican Governor Terry Branstad on property tax cuts, education reform and health care expansion as a template for reaching an agreement on the issues surrounding the Juvenile Home. The legislature’s top Republican suggests it would be helpful for the handful of Democratic legislators who’ve sued the governor over the home’s closure to suspend their lawsuit. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says a “sue less” mentality would help.
“We always operate better when we sit around the table and try to work toward some sort of solution,” Paulsen says.
A group of senators are meeting this afternoon to try to craft new plan for teenage girls who have failed in foster care or juvenile court and need a “last stop” place like the Juvenile Home. Legislators who’ve filed the lawsuit, meanwhile, say they’ll “very shortly” post the bond required to make the district court judge’s decision calling on the governor to reopen the Juvenile Home go into effect. House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown — one of the four legislators who filed the lawsuit — says that legal action doesn’t stand in the way of efforts to come up with a plan.
“We think it’s time to move beyond that and work together in coming up with good legislation that helps Iowa’s troubled youth,” Smith says.
Republican legislators say they’re still “gathering data” about the problem and want to ensure the teenage girls in Iowa’s juvenile court system “are taken care of correctly.” Branstad ordered all the teenage girls in the Juvenile Home sent to private facilities or back home after concerns were raised that some girls were held in long-term isolation.