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Lawmaker proposes, then tables bid to dramatically cut pay for justices

(Courtesy Iowa Radio News’ O. Kay Henderson) – For the second time in five years, a northwest Iowa legislator has proposed docking the pay of Iowa Supreme Court justices, then tabled his plan before a vote could be taken.

Representative Dwayne Alons, a Republican from Hull, is a critic of the court’s 2009 ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage in Iowa.  Alons suggests the justices pay should be significantly lowered, to match the salaries for legislators.

“We are standing on the sideline allowing the rule of law to be, basically, ignored and we’re allowing an oligarchy type of situation to rule and to reign in this state,” Alons said.

Representative Tom Shaw, a Republican from Laurens, said the legislature has failed to keep the court “in check” after that 2009 same-sex marriage ruling.

“What we have here, when we have failed to maintain the checks and balances, we have almost a constitutional crisis here,” Shaw said. “We have a court that says we have the power to do this because we say we have the power.”

Shaw said legislators have an “obligation” to act, but Alons voluntarily tabled his proposal to dock the justice’s pay before the House could vote on it Thursday afternoon.

“I believe this vehicle to do this is not exactly the right way to attack it,” Alons said. Alons did not say what avenue he might pursue in the future.

Alons and Shaw, both of whom called for impeaching the justices two years ago,  made their comments during House debate of a bill that outlines spending plans for the judicial branch of state government. The House approved the bill by an overwhelming 91 to three vote.

Three of the justices who signed onto the court’s unanimous 2009 same-sex marriage ruling were voted off the bench in 2010.  The justice who wrote the opinion remains on the court and is the chief justice.