WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Iowa State Senator Proud of Lawsuit against Governor

Jul 16, 2015

Iowa Terry Branstad announced more than six months ago that he wanted to close the mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. He kept his word because on July 1, they did not open, leaving dozens of employees without a job.

Lawmakers tried to prevent that, even including money in the current budget to keep both facilities open for a short period of time. That plan failed when the Republican governor took out his veto pen and removed that funding.

This prompted 20 state lawmakers and Danny Homan, the head of Iowa's statewide AFSCME chapter, to file a lawsuit against Gov. Branstad and Chuck Palmer, who heads the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services. State Senator Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant) is one of the 20 state lawmakers.  He said v. Branstad acted against Iowa Code.

"Any normal-thinking human being (who) understands the English language knows the intent of the (Iowa) legislature several years ago," said Taylor. "When (lawmakers) put 'shall' operate these four (mental health) institutes in this state, (lawmakers) meant shall operate, not if the Governor feels like doing it."

Taylor said it should be up to the legislature to decide what to do with those facilities, which Branstad has described as out-of-date.

The Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute remains closed following Governor Terry Branstad's decision to cut the funding to keep it open from the current budget.

Taylor said the feedback he has received has been overwhelming.

"I have had so many people contact me and thank me," said Taylor.  "First of all for fighting all year long to keep the institutions operating but then to thank me for going another step further and filing a lawsuit against the governor.  People believe he is just wrong.  (They say) he is no different than anyone else, he is not above the law."

Taylor hoped a judge will rule that the facilities must remain open.  He said Mount Pleasant would remain open indefinitely while Clarinda would remain open long enough to find a private business to take over operations.

The case was filed in Polk County District Court this month.  It's unclear how long it will take to move through the legal system.

Taylor said many people in Iowa have severe mental health conditions and need institutionalized care.  He said the state should not play games with their lives.