Sunday, January 30, 2011

Iowa: The True Role of the Senate

       I have written over the past few months extensively about the state of Iowa and the role of the judiciary/legislature in that state. Today is not any different, but instead of portraying the situation in Iowa in a negative light, I find it appropriate to use Iowa in the positive sense, to show an example of WHY we have certain branches of government.

       For the past few months, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has refused to allow a vote on a marriage amendment in his chamber of the legislature. A few days ago, the Senate  voted against a proposed rule change that would eliminate the ability of the majority leader to decide what bills come before the body failed in part because of the stubbornness of the Majority Leader. His resoluteness gives us a good example of how a Senate is supposed to work.

        You see, a Senate in the general sense, is supposed to provide for a check against the whims of the popularly elected House of Representatives. Though the Senate is also popularly elected, the difference between the two is their terms. A Senate normally has terms that are twice or three times as long as those in the House. In Iowa for example, Senators terms are 4 years compared to their House counterparts' 2 years. The reason for this is because the whims of the populace can change at any time, unpopular legislation might be passed, or, as we have seen in Iowa, an unpopular judicial decision could be handed down. The role of the Senate is to provide a place where "cooler heads" can prevail. Where it is not always about wining the next election (like it is in the House) and instead committees and Senators can evaluate policies with a more open mind.

         Though a Senate does not always follow the reasons for its original design, it is a breath of fresh air to see Gronstal using Iowa's Senate to controlling the emotional - and ill thought out - whims of the majority. It is by him doing this that the "cooler heads" of those who support marriage equality will prevail - for the more time that logic and reason are able to be used, the more people we will win to our side.

    What do you all think? Is what Gronstal doing in Iowa an expression of what a Senate should be about? Or should there instead be more of a deference to the people of a political jurisdiction?


  1. I'm not always a fan of the larger Democratic party for various reasons, but the Iowa Democratic party (and Gronstal in particular) have completely impressed me with their unwavering support of all married Iowans.

  2. Very true Jon, I remember a few months ago when I was watching an interview with the former governor, and I was greatly pleased by his position regarding marriage equality. I for one am grateful that Senate Democrats are not backing down and are instead fighting on, in the midst of what does seem to be a very divisive issue in Iowa.


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