Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller on Tuesday said “stronger legal arguments” support the city of Cedar Rapids and not Gov. Terry Branstad in their dispute over the city’s use of a project labor agreement on the city’s Convention Complex project.
Miller, though, said his comments stop short of a legal opinion because it is not appropriate for his office to issue opinions in a matter in which litigation is pending.
At the same time, too, the comments come from a Democratic attorney general, which were requested by three Democratic state lawmakers, in a dispute involving a Republican governor.
Just in January, Miller and Branstad went their separate ways in filing legal briefs, with Miller arguing that the new federal health care reform act is constitutional and Branstad arguing that it is not.
Tim Albrecht, the governor’s spokesman, on Tuesday dismissed Miller’s comments on the governor’s executive order on project labor agreements and he said, in any event, the governor is not bound by them.
“The bottom line is, the attorney general has declined to issue any opinion on this matter,” Albrecht said. “The governor’s office remains committed to ensuring the enforcement of Executive Order 69 moving forward and is confident it will witihstand any legal challenges.”
Miller’s comments on the Cedar Rapids project labor agreement came Tuesday in letters addressed to Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, and Sen. Robert Dvorsky, D-Coralville, who asked Miller to weigh in on the controversy over the city’s project labor agreement.
The City Council put the agreement in place in December 2010, a month after Branstad won election and a month before Branstad took office. Once in office, Branstad issued Executive Order 69 which states that the state is prohibited from spending state dollars on public works projects with project labor agreements.
Branstad’s predecessor, Chet Culver, encouraged such agreements and, in fact, the Linn County Board of Supervisors have five such agreements in place on five disaster recovery projects.
In his letter to Rep. Taylor, Miller notes that the Iowa Supreme Court has upheld project labor agreements that do not discriminate between union and non-union workers.
In addition, Miller notes that the Convention Complex project is receiving $35 million in federal help, adding that federal projects are subject to a presidential executive order that he says specifically authorizes the uses of project labor agreements.
“Courts expect government to live up to its contractual obligations,” Miller states. “The Governor should resolve the dispute with the City, or live up to the State’s grant agreement and allow the city to live up to the project labor agreement.”