Members of the Iowa House Republican leadership team forgot that simple rule yesterday.
The video and transcript are after the jump.
Background: First-term State Representative Ron Jorgensen (district 55) is floor-managing the collective bargaining bill, which Iowa House Democrats are seeking to hold up with extended debate on more than a hundred amendments. This exchange occurred yesterday during a break in floor debate due to a “technical issue.”
Jeff Kaufmann (district 79) is House speaker pro tem. Erik Helland (district 69) is House majority whip. Steve Lukan (district 32) and Dave Deyoe (district 10) are assistant majority leaders.
The “Alaska bill” would eliminate all gun permit requirements in Iowa. It is one of the National Rifle Association’s legislative priorities for this session.
Here’s the conversation that occurred when Deyoe, Lukan, Helland and Kaufmann didn’t realize a nearby microphone was turned on:
Transcript, as published in the Des Moines Register:
Rep. Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, explains the problem.
Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton: I bet nobody’s told poor Jorgenson.
Rep. Steve Lukan, R-New Vienna: I told him this is all his own fault.
Kaufmann: Tell him it’s his fault and we don’t appreciate anything that he’s done up to this point.
Lukan: Damnit, Ron, we’re going to yank you off this bill.
Kaufmann: Ya, the hell with you. You haven’t been doing jack s-.
Rep. Erik Helland, R-Johnston: What?
Kaufmann: Jorgenson, we’re yanking him off the bill. The hell with him. He hasn’t been doing anything.
Lukan: He should have seen this coming.
Helland: You know what that means? It means I’m going to end up stuck with the bill?
Kaufmann: Sounds like you’re getting out of the Alaska bill.
Helland: Oh yeah, I’m getting out of it after I end up on a blog.
Lukan: The Alaska bill – what’s the Alaska bill?
Helland. I’m the dirty hatchet man for the caucus. Something nobody wants to do. Some dirty, nasty job. I’m the one who gets dropped in you know why, ’cause I’m expendable.
Kaufmann: The crazy, give-a-handgun-to-a-schizophrenic bill.
Off camera: His microphone is on.
Microphone goes dead.
UPDATE: Jason Clayworth followed up with Kaufmann:
“The poorly worded joke was pointing out the fact of what some people have said about the bill,” said Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, the House speaker pro tem. “I think in terms of what the bill does or doesn’t do, I think it’s an issue that we need to talk about.” […]
“I think the comment, although poorly worded, actually showed some sensitivity that people with mental health, that we need to take that into account in any bill we have,” Kaufmann said Friday.
He continued: “I think the fact that this is even newsworthy reflects a concern that we want to get it right when we’re talking about mental health issues.”
LATE UPDATE: In a March 16 editorial, the Quad-City Times slammed Helland’s handling of a subcommittee hearing the day before the microphone picked up this awkward conversation:
Helland last week abruptly shut down a meeting on House Study Bill 219, an outrageous measure that would eliminate any state permitting for guns. Iowa on Jan. 1 relaxed concealed carry permit regulations, leading to a virtual explosion in permits. We’ve not heard any groundswell to completely eliminate permitting. Yet Helland seemed ready to advance discussion of dropping permits entirely, until a Democratic staffer began capturing debate on a Flip video camera. Helland quickly stopped discussion and offered the strangest excuse we’ve ever heard: “I’m not going to have the subcommittee become campaign fodder.”
We believe substantive public discussions on public issues by publicly elected leaders in a public building should be the very foundation of “campaign fodder.”
If Helland was prepared to raise the issue in subcommittee, Iowa voters needed to hear what he and his subcommittee members had to say about it. […]
But we do flinch when a House leader stops public discussion of a bill because recorded excerpts might be heard by – of all people – the public.
And we flinch harder when publicly recorded mutterings in a public chamber seem to explain why.