Reining in Culver? Too Late

O. Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa brings news of Democratic state lawmakers rebuffing Gov. Chet Culver’s push for a bill to make it easier for him to spend money from the state’s reserves in the event of a natural disaster. He wants to give the Executive Council, which he chairs, the power to spend up to a third of the economic emergency account.

Dems are balking:

Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, says the bill’s dead for the year. “I think it raises a lot of concerns on separation of powers. The legislature is supposed to have the power to appropriate money and funds,” Dvorsky says. “And I think that bill essentially would have taken away — well, clearly, would have taken away that power and given it to the executive branch not the legislative branch.”

 Of course, this argument would be more convincing if Democratic legislative leaders hadn’t already let Culver smash the boundaries of his budgetary powers last fall, just so they could avoid a politically touchy special legislative session.

Where were these separation of power concerns while leadership stood by and watched Culver make $40 million in transfers without any legislative authorization? It’s a little late to now to start worrying about diminishing the Legislature’s stature.

Nope, that was diminished plenty when, despite the largest natural disaster in the state’s history, with thousands left homeless and the state’s second-largest city stricken, the Legislature decided to stay on the sidelines. They gladly transferred their responsibilities to Culver, so they would have plenty of time to work on their fall campaigns.

Now, lawmakers want to protect authority that they were unwilling to use at a critical moment. Why bother?

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