Where's the Love, Guv?

Chet the Cupid is gone, so Cedar Rapids is spending Valentine’s Day with Tough Love Terry.

Instead of sending flowers or candy, Gov. Branstad wants to tie up city officials with an executive order barring the use of Project Labor Agreements, or PLAs, on publicly funded projects. Mayor Ron Corbett and most City Council members insist that the city’s convention complex project, which is covered by a PLA with local trade unions, isn’t subject to the governor’s coldhearted order.

Maybe they make up, or end up in court. Who knows?

Lost in the local intrigue is a broader issue. A governor who professes love for small government is actually shacking up with a big-government power grab.

Branstad’s office and the media portray Executive Order 69 as simply banning the use of pro-labor PLAs on state-funded projects. It goes much further than that.

In fact, Branstad’s order prohibits any government subdivision in the state, from state agencies to cities, counties, heck, even tribal councils, from using a PLA on any project that spends public money from virtually any source imaginable. Branstad even tries to revoke contracts forged before his order.

Check out these definitions from the order:

...I order and issue this Executive Order prohibiting the use of Project Labor Agreements by the State of Iowa and its Political Subdivisions on Public Works Projects effective immediately:

a. “State Funds” as used in this order includes any tax payer dollars or other funds of the State, including, but not limited to, general fund obligations, funds derived from the assessment of fines, fees of any sort, income taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, taxes on gaming revenues, funds derived from the proceeds on the issuance general purpose, appropriation and/or revenue bonds, projects funded from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, projects funded by road use tax funds, projects funded in whole or in part by state grants, financial assistance, loans, forgivable loans, loan guarantees, subsidies, tax exemptions and tax credits.

b. “Political Subdivision” as used in this Order includes a city, county, township, school district, area education agency, institutions under the control of the State Board of Regents, community colleges, or any other local board, commission, committee, council, association or tribal council that receives or uses any State Funds.

So the guy who ran on reducing the “size and scope” of state government is now seeking to dictate the terms of every public works project in Iowa. This is the sort of thing that drives conservatives crazy when it’s done by the big, bad federal government.

Branstad’s order repeals one issued by former Gov. Chet Culver, directing state agencies to “consider using” PLAs on projects larger than $25 million. It did not require PLAs. So we traded Culver’s request to state agencies for Branstad’s sweeping edict, covering everything from a state prison to a new swirly slide at your municipal pool.

Regardless of what you think of unions or PLAs, a governor exercising that much power with a stroke of a pen is truly troubling. I’m OK with directing executive branch officials to take certain actions. He’s the boss. If Branstad wants to ban PLAs on executive branch projects, such as a state office building, that’s within his power. But this seems like a remarkable overreach.

If Branstad, the Master Builders of Iowa and allies want to ban PLAs on all public projects, they need to push a bill through the General Assembly. That’s where statewide policy is made. Governors have broad powers in Iowa, but they are not a one-person Legislature.

It’s too bad that no GOP legislative lion, defender of his or her branch’s authority and integrity, has stood up to this. Remember your old flame, separation of powers? Where’s the love?Comments: (319) 398-8452;

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