David Heaton

David Heaton

A Republican lawmaker who negotiated an agreement with the governor to delay the closings of the Mental Health Institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda is defending the proposal. Representative Dave Heaton is getting push back from critics who say legislators should do more to fight the governor’s plan to close the two facilities.

“I’m trying to keep the lights on at the MHIs in those two communities,” Heaton says.

Heaton, who is from Mount Pleasant, says without his proposed compromise, the governor will use his veto power to reject any bid to keep the facilities open past June 30.

“All this legislation that they say, ‘Why didn’t you bring this bill to the floor, Representative Heaton?’ Well, because what good would it have done?” he says.

Critics say the public is behind the effort to keep the facilities open, as a recent poll found 68 percent of those surveyed opposed Governor Branstad’s plan to close the Mental Health Institutes in southern Iowa. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee endorsed Heaton’s alternative that would delay closure of the facilities ’til December 15, in hopes of landing private buyers during the extra five-and-a-half months. That alternative is tentatively attached to the budget bill that will outline the legislature’s spending for the Department of Human Services, which oversees the state’s four Mental Health Institutes. The entire budget bill is now eligible for debate in the 100-member Iowa House.