Iowa Supreme Court Throws Out AFSCME Lawsuit Against Governor Branstad

Nov 10, 2016

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled Governor Branstad had the authority to close the state-run Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant last year.      

Court: The citizens of Iowa granted the governor item-veto power

The court threw out a complaint by two dozen Democrats in the state legislature and the president of the union that represented many of the workers at the two facilities.  

The Mental Health Institutes were closed on June 30th of last year, putting members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees out of work.

Two days later, Branstad used his item veto authority to reject funds to keep them open. 

AFSCME President Danny Homan
Credit Learfield

AFSCME argued state law requires four mental health institutes so the vetoes were unconstitutional.  

The governor’s lawyers argued the case is now moot since the institutes received no funding this year. 

In their unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled the case is not moot. But they concluded past general assemblies never intended the perpetual operation of the facilities and the governor did not overstep his bounds with his veto.  

The ruling upholds a district court decision to dismiss AFSCME’s complaint.

Last year, the Supreme Court also dismissed an AFSCME lawsuit challenging the closing of the Iowa Juvenile home in Toledo.

Critics of the closings argued the health and safety of vulnerable Iowans were at stake. In a statement, a spokesman for the governor said the court’s ruling affirms the governor’s action.