Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iowa House Speaker Paulsen (R) Not Planning on Addressing Gay Marriage in 2012

Earlier this month, Liz Mathis won the special election over in Iowa's Senate District 18 and helped Iowa Democratic Party maintain a one-person majority in the Iowa Senate.  That was all over the news.  What wasn't so much in the news was the power struggle that unseated the Iowa Senate Minority Leader (mainly over concerns that he wasn't putting enough Republican strength behind the SD 18 election, nor was he pushing enough on social issues).  He was replaced by another more moderate Senate Republican, which created more tension for social conservatives who really want to go gangbusters over issues like marriage equality and abortion.

Gronstal and Paulsen
Now today, Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen communicated that he has no real interest in rallying House Republicans over social issues again this session:
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said he has no plans to revisit volatile social issues like gay marriage and abortion when lawmakers convene Jan. 9. Republicans who control the House approved tough restrictions on abortion and a resolution calling for a statewide vote on banning gay marriage last time around, but the Senate's Democratic leader blocked debate on both measures.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, has indicated he would do the same again, and given that, Paulsen said there's little incentive to revisit the issues.

"We're not afraid to address those issues, but we're also not interested in squandering Iowans' time," he said. "We have a job to do and we're going to do it."

Gronstal said he also expected to focus on economic issues and avoid drawn-out arguments of social issues. "Iowans would prefer that we all work on things that would get 100,000 Iowans back to work," he said. "Kraig and I have talked and he seems to be in agreement that this session is going to be much shorter than last session..."

With the session scheduled to end April 17, both leaders said they also want to avoid the kind of gridlock that kept lawmakers in session this year until the end of June. But they conceded that's always a challenge when each party controls one chamber.
I will be extremely glad if these two stick to their guns.  Obviously, another year where Iowans get to see gay and lesbian Iowans raise our families and witness the lack of problems caused by our families is a good thing.

But, speaking as someone who works for the public using state funding, it was awful this year when the Iowa Legislature couldn't come up with a budget by July (i.e., the end of the fiscal year).  Government services were delayed and wait lists for certain services (including non-emergency services for disabled Iowans) because of budgetary inaction.  I mean, they had time to debate the worthiness of my marriage and to pass a dove-hunting bill into law, but they couldn't figure out how to do their primary job: approve the state budget.

The question remains whether or not we will truly go a session without debating the worthiness of my marriage and others like it.  My guess is that there will be pressure from social conservatives to debate the issue.  But hopefully, there will be greater pressure from responsible fiscal conservatives and marriage advocates to avoid the debate and keep our state government running smoothly and efficiently all year long.

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