by Patricia Guadalupe | December 13, 2011
In a victory for unemployed Iowans and the state employees helping them get back to work, a district court judge ruled that Gov. Terry Branstad (R) cannot shut down 36 unemployment offices throughout the state.
Polk County Judge Brad McCall said Branstad’s veto in July of portions of the budget bill that led to the shuttering of the offices was unconstitutional because he would have to veto the whole thing – including funding – or nothing at all. Branstad struck down the policy to keep the offices open, but not the $3.5 million the state legislature allocated to keep them open.
AFSCME and several Democratic legislators sued in August, arguing that it is up to the legislature and not the governor to redirect the funds to another program. Judge McCall agreed.
“I believe the voice of Iowa citizens spoke when the Iowa legislature, elected by those citizens, voted to keep the office open,” said Iowa AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan. “Terry Branstad must believe he is above the law and above the voices of Iowa when he went ahead and closed the offices anyway.”
When the offices closed over the summer, the state installed hundreds of computer stations in libraries and other locations where Iowans looking for work were supposed to access the programs, but AFSCME activists and other critics counter that in many cases the kiosks are difficult to access – especially for those outside of major areas – and do not have the one-on-one assistance that the fully-staffed unemployment offices offered.
Governor Branstad, whom opponents say has fallen short of his promise last year to create 200,000 jobs within five years, says he will appeal the judicial decision.