DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad had a busy schedule Friday morning when he signed legislation making sweeping changes to Iowa’s 43-year-old collective bargaining law, but not so busy that he couldn’t accommodate a representative of one of the very few groups that publicly backed the changes.
Branstad defended the presence of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Iowa State Director Drew Klein in his formal office when he signed House File 291 into law. Branstad also posed for pictures with Klein, who was one of just a handful of people who spoke in favor of the legislation at public comment sessions before bill was passed largely along party lines Feb. 16.
“We had a few people who made a specific request to be able to witness the bill signing including a lot of staff people who worked on it, so we accommodated that,” Branstad said. However, media requests to be present for the signing were not accommodated.
“It wasn’t a public bill signing. It wasn’t a formal bill signing,” Branstad said at his weekly news conference Monday. “It wasn’t a big thing as far as that goes.”
It was a big deal for Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Local 61 that represents nearly 20,000 state employees.
“When was the last time you’ve seen this governor sign a bill without doing it in front of the press?” Homan said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “Who was in the room? The Iowa chairman of the AFP. That said volumes to me as to who was behind and pulling the strings for the passage of this law.”
Homan said he had seen Klein sitting in the House and Senate galleries during debate on HF 291 “watching over the people who have been bought and paid for by AFP and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the Koch brothers making sure they did what they were supposed to do.
“I hope they got their money’s worth,” Homan said.
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Those hard feelings, Branstad said, stem from the fact that the groups that spent the most money on the HF 291 debate were on the losing side.
“They’re not happy,” he said. “They’ve had their way for decades. We had an archaic law that needed to be amended to be more fair and balanced.”
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