Culver Backing Away From Special Session

Posted today, at Radio Iowa:

Governor Chet Culver says it’s now less likely he’ll call a special legislative session to deal with flood repairs, now that the federal government has decided to pay a bigger share. Still, the governor says he’s keeping options open. FEMA will cover 90% of the costs to repair flood-damaged public buildings, beyond the traditional 75%.

Culver says that move saved the state more than one-hundred million dollars. The governor says: “If we wouldn’t have received that 90-10 distinction, in all likelihood, I would have had to ask the legislature to come up with 120-million dollars. That was one reason I was seriously considering a special session. That (FEMA announcement) was certainly a step in the right direction.”

Culver says he’s still waiting to hear from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the release of 85-million dollars earmarked for Iowa. Culver says, “If I don’t have a comfort level that we will have that money relatively soon to actually help communities like Cedar Rapids, New Hartford and others then we will probably have a special (session) to just move forward.”

Culver says we should know by the middle of this month how soon that money will be available and whether or not a special session will be necessary.

No surprise here.

This is playing out pretty much as I described it in my column Tuesday. I’d link to it, but it wasn’t posted it on Gazette online, so trust me.

I predicted that the feds would undoubtedly meet funding demands Culver laid out last week, giving him a clear special session escape route. The $85 million he’s talking about is a done deal,  U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said this morning during a conference call The Gazette’s edit board. 

All that’s left is for Culver to declare victory and tell lawmakers to stay home and put up campaign yard signs. Don’t get me wrong, the Big Lug deserves lots of credit for rattling the federal cage. But punting the session and waiting until January won’t sit well over here.

Eastern Iowans, most of their local leaders and area lawmakers want a special session to address a list of issues that go beyond the need for mountains of federal cash.

The trouble is, top Democratic legislative leaders don’t want a special session, fearing GOP shenanigans with an election looming. So in other words, the demands of folks on the front lines of this disaster are less important than a political chess game. That’s a shocker.

There is a good civics lesson in all of this, however. When governors want something done, they can call a special session. When legislative leaders want something done, they can call themselves back for a special session. But when the people want a special session, forget it.


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