Monday, May 9, 2011

Principles, pledges and posturing

As the Iowa Legislature starts another week of the 2011 session, it makes you wonder how much actual negotiating is going on. You'd think coming to agreement on each of the bills that still need to be passed and signed into law would be the top priority for the Republicans, Democrats and the governor. Instead, people are starting to wonder about  a shutdown and noting that Branstad was governor during the last time that was threatened, in 1992. The Legislature has piled up quite a stack of unresolved budget and spending bills, along with other contentious issues from abortion to secretly videotaping livestock operations. So, maybe the small groups of House and Senate leaders left at the Legislature would spend full days every day talking about what they need in these bills to reach that point and adjourn. Instead, everyone is still repeating their principles and pledges --- along with trashing their opponents. Branstad has to have two-year budgets and House Speaker Kraig Paulsen says they're just trying to reduce government costs. To Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal all their talk is just a "gut punch to the middle class." Everything is so stalled that lawmakers may only accomplish what they absolutely have to --- approving a budget. Is it all just posturing for the base with an eye on politics? There certainly are differences between the various parties to these negotiations and they're important. They indicate divergent philosophies that really do matter and can shape state government. But, again, politics is truely about compromise and real leadership means figuring out how to bridge those gaps. In the process, everyone has to give up something. That's what is going to allow the Legislature to adjourn.

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