One of the frustrations I hear from the people of western Iowa is the feeling their government, both federal and state, do not seem to work on their behalf, but play games with the issues that impact their lives. I share that frustration, and see it happen on occasion at a level that makes me angry.
It happened again this week. Schools are waiting on the Legislature to give them information. They need to know what the amount of State Supplemental Aid will be so they can set their budgets and schools need to know what the start date will be in state law.
On Wednesday, the Iowa Senate Democrats took the School Start Date bill hostage. The House and Senate had both passed bills to overturn the Governor’s enforcement of September start dates. It was understood the Governor would oppose the bills, but he was open to a compromise date. The compromise school start date became August 23. This was known throughout the state, and superintendents and school boards have started pressuring us to get the date into law so they can finalize their school calendars.
House Republicans took the Senate bill we had sent them, amended it to reflect the new compromise and bounced it back to the Senate. That’s where the problems started.
The Senate took up the bill. The procedure is to call up the House amendment, concur (or agree) to accept the language as the new bill, and then pass the changed bill, sending it to the Governor to be signed.
That all happened, but it wasn’t supposed to. The bill accidentally passed when almost all Senate Republicans and six Senate Democrats supported the bill. It turns out the Senate Democrats meant to refuse the bill, holding it for end of session negotiations. We realized this when Democratic Majority Leader Gronstal filed a Motion to Reconsider, enabling him to corral the votes in the Democratic caucus, recall the bill and turn it down for political reasons.
Our schools deserve better. This stalling is also why schools do not have the budget numbers they need to finish local budgets. Iowans deserve a legislature that tries to finish business, not hold it hostage for political points down the road.