116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So a federal judge has dismissed a union lawsuit seeking to overturn Gov. Terry Branstad's executive order banning the use of Project Labor Agreements, or PLAs on public projects in Iowa. Congrats, TB.
U.S. District Court Judge John Jarvey issued the order Wednesday, ruling that Branstad's order does not run afoul of the federal National Labor Relations Act. The trade unions sued over the order's application on a pair of state projects, a University of Iowa medical clinic in Coralville and an expansion of the Iowa Veterans Home. It did not involve the now-settled PLA controversy over the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex.
You can read Jarvey's order here.
Jarvey spends most of his 17-page order shooting down the hopelessly thin argument that the NLRA precludes the state of Iowa from banning PLAs on state-funded projects. Basically, Jarvey rules that because the PLA policy is proprietary and not regulatory, it's federally kosher. States, according to loads of precedent, have this power.
But after settling that main federal question, he blew off the unions' contention that Branstad's order amounts to an executive overreach under Iowa's Constitution.
I guess that would be best left to a state court to decide, although that's not going to happen. Too bad.
Clearly, the state has the power to regulate PLAs on public projects. But in this case, is that power being properly and lawfully wielded through an executive order, or should it actually be expressed through a statute passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. Is Branstad improperly exercising legislative authority? We'll never know.
My issue from the beginning was not that I think the state can't ban PLAs. It can. My prolems is with a sweeping order that looks and reads like legislation, applies to scores of local, not just state, projects, and really should have been debated and passed like legislation, not issued by gubernatorial edict. Republicans applauding today will feel differently when this precedent is someday in the hands of a Democratic governor.
A challenge on those grounds in state court never came. Instead, we get a federal lawsuit that was doomed from the start.
And we get a dubious state lawsuit over Branstad's line-item veto of funding for workforce development offices, which will probably be dismissed a lot like this one. Branstad's veto within the scope of a budget bill was clearly within his powers, but I guess Dem s think it's good politics to sue and keep the issue alive, at considerable state expense.
But on the truly meaty separation of powers question posed by the PLA order, we'll have to live with silence.