Tick tock, tick tock.
A stack of budget bills passed from the Iowa Legislature this session remain sitting on Governor Terry Branstad’s desk, probably collecting dust at this point. It’s been nearly a month since the Legislature adjourned on April 30th, but the Governor still hasn’t acted on many important pieces of legislation.
So we’re waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more.
What’s Branstad himself waiting on?
Many are starting to worry that we’re about to see a repeat of last year, when Branstad issued vetoes on the K-12 funding, keeping the two mental health facilities open and higher education funds. That happened at 4:45 on the Friday right before the Fourth of July weekend. The fallout from those actions poisoned the well of bipartisanship and sent several House Republicans to decisions to retire this year.
Now the long Memorial Day weekend looms and we’re back in the same spot. Branstad has 30 days after session adjourns to act on bills. His office believes that makes this upcoming Tuesday the deadline day (the law says Sundays are excluded from the time limit).
So is Branstad and his team hoping to bury another round of unpopular vetoes during a holiday news cycle when voters are heading off on vacation? And if so, what could he target that would be so controversial that they would feel the need to hide it?
The biggest concern revolves around the oversight program for Branstad’s Medicaid privatization scheme. Problems plagued the Governor’s unilateral move to upend Iowa’s Medicaid system from the start, and this oversight would at least provide important checks to discover issues and keep it honest. But with the practically authoritarian manner in which Branstad has remade Iowa healthcare, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he killed this measure with his veto pen.
And then there’s key funding measures that advocates worry might come under Branstad’s chopping block. The Legislature allocated an additional $40 million for an important job training apprenticeship program at Iowa community colleges. They also passed $8 million for a literacy program in grades K-3. Plus some funds for correctional facilities could emerge as a target. He hasn’t acted on a measure that would increase protections for victims of domestic violence, as well.
If Iowans don’t want to get blindsided by another last-minute veto spree by Governor Branstad that hurts schools and patients, they should pay attention now. Branstad may try to hide more unpopular, unilateral vetoes during a holiday weekend, but that doesn’t mean he has to get away with it.
by Pat Rynard