Republicans in the Iowa Senate are pushing Senate Democrats to take up a bill that would make state personnel records open to the public, while Democrats say they’re focused on uncovering cronyism and questionable spending in Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s administration. Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said the Republican-led House passed a bill nine days ago that would let Iowans find out why nearly a thousand fired state employees have been blacklisted.
“So far and again today all we hear is talk, talk, talk. Iowans know talk is cheap and it is actions that resolve problems,” Dix said during a 50-minute period this morning when half a dozen different senators used their ability to make “points of personal privilege” speeches.
Democrats like Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids countered that legislators “have a duty” to determine if Branstad’s agencies are saving any money by changing hiring practices in state government and paying more private contractors to do work that used to be done by state employees.
“Governor Branstad — dodge. Oh, deflect,” Hogg said. “Even yesterday (Branstad said): oh, really, shouldn’t the legislature be doing something else? What’s he afraid of us seeing? That the new sheriff has no clothes.”
During budget battles with legislators in the spring of 2011, Branstad called himself the “new sheriff in town.”
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, suggested Republicans are trying to “sweep” the controversy “under the rug” to protect their Republican governor.
“If the tables were turned and this was a Democratic administration and these positions were being filled by political cronies…I can’t help but believe that people wouldn’t be squealing like castrated pigs,” McCoy said.
Republicans in the House have passed a bill that would put Governor Branstad’s executive order barring confidential settlements in state law, plus the bill would make documents related to state employee firings public records. Senator Sandy Greiner, a Republican from Washington, Iowa, said she’s “getting the feeling” Democrats don’t intend to pass any legislation to deal with those issues.
“I think we’d be making an incredibly serious mistake to not do anything,” Greiner said. “Something is always better than nothing.”
A meeting of the Legislature’s Oversight Committee to gather more testimony from two top Department of Administrative Services managers was cancelled this morning and it’s unclear when the panel may meet again to try to determine where the agency found the money to pay tens of thousands of dollars in exit settlements to laid off workers.