Saturday, February 5, 2011

House GOP 'management' irks Democrats

A Culver/Judge I-JOBS sign sits on the back side of Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Des Moines.
A Culver/Judge I-JOBS sign sits on the back side of Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Des Moines. / Mary Chind/The Register
Freedom has arrived at the Capitol: Iowa representatives can again use plastic foam cups at their desks.

Don't expect many Democrats to raise such a cup to good cheer.

They see the return of plastic foam cups as a slap in the face by House Republicans bent on removing every trace of Democratic control from Iowa government.

Exhibit No. 2: a bill to order removal of I-JOBS signs, which bear Gov. Chet Culver's name.

And No. 3: A bill is progressing to lift a requirement that state agencies consider using environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Yes, that bill is more policy-oriented, but some see it as a move to erase even the scent of Democrats' work.
There's no conspiracy at play, Republicans protest.

The return of the cups is just part of "internal House management," said Speaker Kraig Paulsen.

As far as the I-JOBS signs: "I thought they were ridiculous when they went up," Paulsen said. "That was nothing more than a campaign sign, and why in the world should Iowans be out there paying for signs to promote the former governor and lieutenant governor?"

Donovan Olson, a Boone Democrat who lost his House seat in November's election, sponsored numerous environmental efforts at the Capitol, including removal of the cups from the cafeteria.
"I do think they just want to take the Democratic fingerprints off of the place," he said.

Each of the moves has its serious side, Republicans insist:

- The plastic foam ban in the House has been in place for years, well before Democrats controlled the House between 2007 and 2010.

But the rule has been the subject of ridicule, and it made sense to lift it rather than continue to disrupt the legislative process, said Rep. Renee Schulte, R-Cedar Rapids, chairwoman of the House Administration and Rules Committee.
At one point last year, lawmakers ordered assistants to each desk to remove a foam plastic plate attached to a Frisbee that was a promotional item delivered to each House lawmaker.

"I think it's kind of sad," Schulte said of her Democratic peers' belief that the rule change is a dig toward their party.

- The I-JOBS bill, House Joint Resolution 2, would not prohibit putting up the signs, but would lift the requirement that they be displayed at each site. The resolution passed the House Commerce Committee Wednesday.
Most of the program's roughly 1,500 projects are under way, so the signs are already up. Most signs were constructed with prison labor and cost roughly $240, according to the Iowa Finance Authority, for a total tab of $360,000 if all signs were placed.

- House File 131, to lift the requirement about considering environmentally friendly cleaning products, is about cutting red tape, supporters say.

"I don't think this is necessarily about Democratic fingerprints. I think it's just about being reasonably responsible and responding to the agencies," said Rep. Steve Olson, R-De Witt, chairman of the House Environmental Protection Committee.
The moves got a tongue-in-cheek toast from House Democratic leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, who has accused Republicans of spending too much time on social issues instead of focusing on job creation and the economy.

Lifting a foam cup, he said: "We altered House rules to lift the ban on foam cups, so foam cups are now allowed again on the House floor. So in honor of the first substantive thing we've done on the House floor, I say, 'Cheers.' "