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. …
High court asked to overturn Branstad’s closures of mental health institutes
Source: William Petroski, Des Moines Register, September 14, 2016
The Iowa Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to decide if Gov. Terry Branstad violated state law last year by using his line-item veto authority to close two state mental health institutes. … The dispute dates to July 2015, when the Republican governor vetoed a bipartisan compromise plan that would have reversed his closure of the mental institution at Mount Pleasant and would have temporarily kept open a similar facility at Clarinda. Twenty-five state legislators and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sued Branstad. They contended his veto of more than $6 million in spending broke a law requiring the state to operate four mental hospitals, including the two that he closed. They have asked the high court to overturn a Polk County District Court ruling last November by Polk County District Judge Douglas Staskal, who sided with Branstad. The Supreme Court did not issue a ruling Wednesday and the justices didn’t say when the case will be decided.
Judge dismisses lawsuit over closing of Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda MHI’s
Source: Pat Curtis, Radio Iowa, November 4, 2015
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Governor Terry Branstad by the state’s largest public employees union and 20 legislative Democrats. The lawsuit was filed after Branstad vetoed funding approved by the legislature that would have kept two of the state’s Mental Health Institutes open. … Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, said the action the governor took to close the two MHIs was illegal. But, a Polk County judge has ruled Branstad had the authority to veto financial support for such facilities and backed a request by state attorneys to throw out the lawsuit. The attorney representing AFSCME and the lawmakers plans to appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Branstad’s mental-hospital closures debated in court
Source: Tony Leys, The Des Moines Register, October 8, 2015
Lawyers for Gov. Terry Branstad and his critics argued in court Thursday over whether he broke the law by using his line item veto authority to effectively shutter two state mental hospitals. … Branstad’s lawyers earlier asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the legislators and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lacked grounds to sue. The judge disagreed, ruling last month that the lawsuit could proceed. However, he dismissed Department of Human Services Director Charles Palmer as a defendant, saying Palmer had no say in Branstad’s veto. There will be no trial, because the two sides agree on the facts of the case. Staskal said Thursday that he would rule on the legal questions within 30 days. Whoever loses the case then could appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Editorial: Is Branstad behaving like an autocrat?
Source: The Des Moines Register, September 27, 2015
Gov. Terry Branstad has established a pattern of governing that ignores the existence of 150 state lawmakers. When legislators complain, lawsuits allege an abuse of power, or Iowans die after being moved from a state home he closed, the governor is already focused on his next agenda item. … Though Iowa law specifies the state shall operate mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, the governor unilaterally shut down those facilities, too. At least three former residents have died while a lawsuit against Branstad makes its way through the courts. Now he is seeking to privatize Iowa’s $4 billion Medicaid program by handing over its operations to managed care companies. Without evidence this would improve the health of Iowans or details about how exactly it would save money, his administration has moved forward to transform the government health insurance program for 560,000 Iowans. It sought bids from companies and sent out a press release announcing the “winners.”
Judge: Branstad can be sued for mental-hospital closure
Source: Tony Leys, The Des Moines Register, September 21, 2015
Democratic legislators and the leader of the state workers’ union have the right to sue Gov. Terry Branstad over his closure of two state mental hospitals, a judge has ruled. … The Iowa attorney general’s office, representing the governor, countered the lawsuit by contending the union leader and the legislators could not show he exceeded his authority by vetoing money that would have kept them running. The state lawyers also contended the plaintiffs didn’t have grounds to sue because they couldn’t show they were directly harmed by the hospital closures. Judge Douglas Staskal disagreed with the governor. In a ruling filed last week, the Polk County district judge ruled that Homan and the legislators have “standing” to file the lawsuit. In other words, they showed that Branstad’s action harmed them specifically. The judge wrote that Homan had the right to sue because several dozen of his union’s members worked at the hospitals.
Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit over Branstad closing mental health facilities
Source: Bleeding Heartland, September 17, 2015
Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal ruled yesterday that a lawsuit challenging Governor Terry Branstad’s line-item vetoes of mental health facility funding can move forward. … But in a thirteen-page ruling, Judge Staskal rejected the state’s arguments that “the plaintiffs lack standing, have failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and that the case presents a nonjusticiable political question.” He found that AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan has standing because he represents the interests of state workers who were laid off when the state government closed in-patient mental health facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. The judge also noted that state legislators “have standing to challenge the propriety of the Governor’s exercise of his veto authority.” Judge Staskal found plaintiffs had stated a claim: “a challenge to the Governor’s exercise of his line-item veto authority.” As for the political question, the ruling noted, “Whether to close Clarinda and Mount Pleasant is a policy matter for the other branches of government. Whether the Governor’s particular use of his line-item veto power is constitutional is a matter for the courts.”
Jails Struggling with Mental Health Placement Following MHI Closure
Source: Rob Sussman, KBUR, August 19, 2015
The transition coordinator for Des Moines and Lee County Jails says that the closure of the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute is already putting a strain on the area’s correctional system. … In Des Moines and Lee Counties, they’ve changed the process for booking inmates in the jail to better screen for mental illness. … Kramer says that the closure of the Mount Pleasant MHI has created excess strain on the correctional system, making it more difficult to assist inmates with their mental health needs. “We’ve seen a lot of struggles with placement. Some people who would have formerly been able to get in a placement situation can’t because those beds are being taken up by former MHI patients,” Kramer explained. The MHI was closed last month after Governor Branstad opted not to approve funding for either the MHI in Mount Pleasant or the one in Clarinda.
Iowa Lawmaker Tours Cherokee Mental Health Facility
Source: Rachael Kraus, SiouxlandMatters.com, August 17, 2015
… Since then, three patients have died after being moved from the Clarinda facility over to private care, adding attention to the issue. The Governor’s decision to close facilities was met with praise and harsh criticism, even a lawsuit. Iowa union members and some lawmakers filed a lawsuit over what they call the Governor’s ‘overreach’ of the law. … He says the facility isn’t the problem, it’s that it can house just 36 people and now it’s one of two facilities in the state after Gov. Branstad’s veto of funding for the facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. Cherokee’s facility could be expanded to house at least 12 more patients, but that would require state approval. The last time lawmakers put forward a bill that would fund mental health programs, it was vetoed. … Within weeks of closing down Clarinda, three patients died after being transferred to a new facility. Hogg says lawmakers can’t keep letting the system fail the patients. He says there needs to be a hard conversation about the mental health system in the state, and see changes made. But that starts, he says, with making sure facilities that are already helping Iowans stay open.