A State Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday could impact which state-funded programs get funded at budget time.
The case pits AFSCME President Danny Homan and over 20 lawmakers against Governor Branstad. It comes from a veto issued by Gov. Branstad last July which effectively shut down two state-run mental hospitals.
The heart of the prosecution’s argument came from a statute in Iowa's code identifying four mental health hospitals; one in Mount Pleasant, Independence, Clarinda and Cherokee.
The prosecution argues shutting down two of them violates code.
“The simplest argument is the best, which is the fact that the state has the statute that’s been enacted by the legislature and proved by the governor and has been on the books for years having facilities providing mental health services to people who need them in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant” said prosecuting attorney Nate Boulton.
The justices challenged the notion; Justice David Wiggins arguing perhaps there isn't a requirement to keep them open.
“If you look through the history of these statutes they seem to be naming statutes, not statutes mandating where and when a facility should be,” he said during oral arguments.
Justice Wiggins also questioned if this could set a precedent.
“Does that mean that any citizen, when there’s an unfunded mandate in the code can bring an action against either the governor or the legislature to fund that mandate?” said Wiggins.
“I think that’s a possibility” rebutted another prosecuting attorney, Mark Hedberg.
“The defense argued the veto is a constitutional right, and as such, outweighs any mandate; and that the governor has a more important responsibility.
“Well he also has the duty to execute his budgeting responsibilities under the statutory framework of Iowa and the constitutional framework; so no, I don’t think there’s a conflict,” said defense attorney Jeffery Thompson.
Justice Wiggins also questioned the defense.
“Can the governor go veto the appropriation to your office?” asked Wiggins. “Yes” said Thompson. “And your office goes out of existence?” asked Wiggins. “No” replied Thompson. “Well then how does that work?” asked Wiggins.
The Governor’s office believes they will win the case, and that this is a crucial part of their healthcare plan.