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BRANSTAD LAWSUIT: The courtroom was packed to hear oral arguments on a case against the governor

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A year ago, Governor Terry Branstad vetoed parts of a bill that would have kept nearly 40 unemployment offices open.

Now, a lawsuit against the governor claims he violated the Iowa constitution.

Tuesday night, the Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments from both sides of the case.

The lawsuit was filed by union leader Danny Homan.

It claims the government cannot redirect money through a line-item veto.

Now, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not Brandstad’s action was constitutional.

Richard Sapp, the attorney representing Governor Branstad said, “The Iowa veto power given to our governor under our constitution is an important role for state spending to be controlled and for the governor to streamlined and that’s certainly Governor Branstad’s purpose in using the line item vetoes in this case”.”

Mark Hedberg, who is representing Homan said, “The governor is limited in his power to legislate. I think that the legislature is the one that appropriated money and decides what to do with it and that the governor has a limited capacity to change that.”

Each side only had 20 minutes to first explain their case, and that’s including all the questions and answers.

Since the Supreme Court justices can interject at any time, it was more of a discussion between them and the attorneys.

A lot of the focus and questions centered on what power the governor does and should have on legislation and specifically spending, and how new language could change that.

Sapp argued if the plaintiff won the case it would take Iowa back years and would undoubtedly mean another hearing like this in the courtroom.

Hedberg says it would do the exact opposite; it would prevent Iowa’s governors from abusing their veto power.

Sapp says, “It’s not a standard at all to guide future governors as to what they can veto and what they can’t. The turner test is clear- what the plaintiff is proposing is vague and we think it would lead to the governor having to guess at what the legislature had to say instead of being able to read something that’s clearly expensed.”

Hedburg says, “Turner was the beginning not the end. Since then we’ve had 3 or 4 cases saying you have to look at the whole context, not just magic words or phraseologies. If that’s the case, one specific one that did withstand the veto under the district court says restrictions on appropriations, apparently that wasn’t good enough.”

The Supreme Court’s chambers were packed Tuesday night. 

The hearing was scheduled specifically for the evening so more people — including the public — could attend.