Back when I first covered the Statehouse, old timers referred to the Senate as the County Country Club and the House as the Zoo. The House has always been a little wilder, a little less predictable.
Last night, it went from being the zoo to the circus.
Everybody carries news of last night’s public hearing on the elimination of federal deductibility in the House chambers that came unglued. Opponents of the tax change showed up in the hundreds. They cheered and booed and hissed, according to all reports, despite warnings to cease. Then, halfway through the 3-hour hearing, House Speaker Pat Murphy ordered the House galleries cleared by state troopers.
And The BeanWalker runs the very real risk of running out of red type and sirens.
O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa turns in the best narrative of climactic drama when Iowans For Tax Relief head honcho Ed Failor Jr. is removed on Murphy’s orders:
“The people who are paying their salaries, they’re throwing them out of the building they pay for,” Failor said, jabbing his index finger into the wood border of the House press bench to punctuate his remarks. “This is the most atrocious thing I’ve seen in the history of the 15 years I’ve been a lobbyist. Pat Murphy acted like a jack-booted Nazi in the way he behaved today.”
After that comment, Speaker Murphy then ordered a doorkeeper to escort Failor from the House, too. “Six-hundred Iowans, he took their voice away and threw them out of the building; 600 people thrown out the building tonight and Pat Murphy’s going to send me with them because he’s wrong and he knows he’s wrong,” Failor said.
The doorkeeper grabbed Failor’s arm and said, “Come on, come on.” Failor tried to shrug off his escort. “I’ll go out this way,” Failor said, adding a few seconds later — after he’d accused Murphy of running a totalitarian state, “I’m going.”
About five minutes later, Murphy spoke to reporters.
“The bottom line is the House has very clear rules,” Murphy said. “There (are) no demonstrations. The idea behind the public hearing is to give public input and give people the ability to speak for and against the bill. This is not an athletic event where you cheer for the home team and you jeer and boo against people that you don’t agree with. If you want to do that, you do rallies outside the building. You don’t do that inside the building and it was inappropriate. Quite frankly, I should have acted sooner and it was my mistake.”
Henderson, bless her heart, has audio.
The Register says obscenities and gum were thrown as the crowd dispersed. Republican legislative leaders said Murphy overreacted. Ya think? It was overreaction night. Free hyperbole with every case of hypertension.
If you’ve just joined us, this is about getting rid of a tax deduction. A significant one, sure, but a tax deduction. We’re not seceding from the union. This isn’t the death penalty or ban on all guns or a plan to raise revenue by selling every third baby born. This is a tax debate, and people are being hauled out by troopers and those people are calling other people Nazis and saying this the Soviet Union. Un-freakin’-believable.
Has our politics come to a place where we can’t sit in a room and talk about a policy issue, even an emotional one, without all hell breaking loose? Guess not.
I happen to think getting rid of deductibility is a bad idea right now. Still, this is an embarrassing spectacle.
But, damn, I wish I had been there. All the boring public hearings I covered over the years…
I fully expect leaders to try to get this deductibility thing passed, at least in the House, before the end of the week, and before squishy House members go home and get their minds changed. Opponents may not have the votes to stop it, but they now have a perfect villain in Murphy and an election issue, and hopefully more gum.
I just love endings.