Iowa Senate approves subpoena resolution, adjourns

DES MOINES – The Iowa Senate adjourned for the year Friday after granting a committee power to subpoena witnesses to continue investigating alleged scandals in the administration of Gov. Terry Branstad over the summer.

Half the Senate and all 100 House seats will be on ballots this year and a handful of state legislators are seeking higher office including Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, who is running for governor against Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.

Sen. Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, is a candidate for U.S. Senate and Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale is running for Congress as are Reps. Anesa Kajtazovic, D-Waterloo; Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque.

The end-of-session conflict that caused the Senate to remain a day longer than the House, which adjourned early Thursday morning, centered on a resolution to authorize the Government Oversight Committee to subpoena witnesses and place them under oath with penalties for perjury.

“When government isn’t working, the job of legislators is to find out what’s gone wrong and propose policy that will fix it,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. “It’s obvious things have gone wrong in the Branstad administration.”

Branstad’s spokesman said the governor has responded at every turn to the committee’s requests for information.

“The administration has provided thousands of documents and answered all the Senate Democrats’ questions during committee meetings,” said Jimmy Centers. “Our office, as we’ve done all along, will continue to provide information relevant to their requests.”

It provides for fines and a potential jail sentence for those declining to testify or tell the truth. The authority provided in the resolution ends Dec. 31.

The resolution confines the investigation to confidential settlement agreements; hiring and employment practices; and bidding, purchasing, and contracting policies. It also allows investigation of allegations that administrative law judges in the Unemployment Insurance Services Division have been pressured by a Branstad appointee to more often rule in favor of employers in unemployment hearings.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix said the last-minute subpoena resolution was underhanded. The oversight committee, after weeks of investigation, has found nothing illegal, he said.

“Senate Democrats want full subpoena power for the Oversight Committee for one glaring political reason: to throw a lot of mud against the wall and see what sticks,” he said.