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Kelley not expecting IWD office to reopen soon

Published: Monday, March 19, 2012 11:35 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 3:20 p.m. CST

The state legislature has not yet had time to react to Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court decision ruling that Gov. Terry Branstad’s line-item veto of a provision allowing the closure of the state’s local Workforce Development offices was unconstitutional. But at Saturday’s Legislative Coffee, hosted by the Jasper County League of Women Voters, Iowa House District 41 Rep. Dan Kelley, D-Newton, said he did not believe the decision would directly lead to the reopening of the Newton office any time soon.

“I suppose that’s why it’s not topic number one for me because ultimately I’d like to reopen that office,” Kelley said at the 9 a.m. constituent meeting in the Newton Hy-Vee Club Room. “I just don’t see the decision on Friday leading to that. I hope I’m wrong. I’m sure that Monday morning it will be a hot topic.”

Branstad v. Homan stems from the governor’s veto of language from a bill meant to make the closing of the workforce offices illegal. The legislation also budgeted $8.6 million to the Iowa Workforce Development’s local branches.

Kelley was asked about the decision by Newton resident Terry Rickers, who said he was looking for the general reaction of the legislature.

The supreme court made a unanimous decision Friday, stating that “the legislature appropriated funds to IWD with strings attached, and our constitution does not permit the governor to cut the strings and spend the money differently.”

The legal challenge to the veto was led by the state employee union AFSCME and its president, Danny Homan, who has stated publicly that he believes Branstad abused his power with the veto.

The offices, which were meant to provide job searching resources to unemployed Iowans, have been replaced since their 2011 closures with computer kiosks in public libraries throughout the state. Kelley told the crowd of approximately 20 that training for staff to assist the job seekers and extra funding were not allocated to the local libraries after the office closings.

“It’s unfair to everyone,” Kelley said. “I’m glad (the case) came out the way it did, but I still don’t think it’s going to lead to reopening the Newton office.”

Legislators now will try to work with Branstad on finding money in the coming state budget to reopen the offices, but it is still unclear if enough bipartisan support exists to come to a compromise on funding the offices.

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and thank you for coming out to see your Irish legislator,” Kelley concluded.

Mike Mendenhall can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at mmendenhall@newtondailynews.com.

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