The Iowa Senate has narrowly confirmed Governor Branstad’s nominee for an opening on the Iowa Utilities Board.
Former State Representative Nick Wagner of Marion needed 34 votes to win confirmation to the post. He got 35. Fifteen Democratic senators voted against Wagner who had been a point-man for House Republicans on budget matters until he lost his bid for reelection in 2012. Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said it was difficult to work with Wagner.
“I found Nick was a person that was not wililng to listen,” McCoy said. “He took very difficult and very hard-line positions.”
Senator Dan Zumbach, a Republican from Ryan, suggested those traits as positives, not negatives.
“In any of these appointed positions we want people that think clearly and see things clearly and make clear decisions and so for some of the very reasons you may have some level of frustration with Nick Wagner, I see as qualities,” Zumbach said.
Branstad wanted to appoint Wagner to the board last year, but Democrats in the senate balked, so Branstad withdrew Wagner’s nomination, then used his authority as governor a few weeks later to put Wagner on the board as an interim appointment while legislators weren’t in session. Wagner is an electrical engineer by training. As one of three full-time state utility regulators, he could earn an annual salary of between $84,000 and $128,000.
In other decisions today, the senate confirmed another state legislator to a job on the Public Employment Relations Board. Michael Cormack, a Republican who used to live in Fort Dodge, had been working for the Branstad Administration, in the Iowa Department of Education. He has been confirmed by the senate to be the chairman Public Employment Relations Board.