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Iowa House Democrats return to Statehouse after 6-hour walkout over 2 gun-rights bills
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ' Iowa Democrats ended a six-hour walkout Wednesday that stalled action in the state House after a disagreement over two gun-rights measures.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines said the chamber's 40 Democrats decided to return after deciding they'd made their displeasure clear regarding a lack of notice about the bills and concerns the proposals would gut the state's gun laws.
One bill would allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves and the other called for writing gun rights protections into the Iowa Constitution. The second measure would have to be approved by another legislative assembly next year and then be referred to voters.
McCarthy argued the proposed constitutional amendment would "eliminate all gun laws."
"This issue is very, very extreme," he said.
The House was expected to begin debate on the bills Wednesday night.
Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, maintained that he'd properly notified Democrats about the gun measures.
Although Republicans, who hold a 60-seat House majority, could have debated the bills without the Democrats in attendance, Paulsen said he opted to delay action through the day to give the minority party a chance to return. Ultimately, Paulsen said, he would have begun debate without them.
"I'm going to be respectful, but at some point in time you can't just let someone sit somewhere and delay things," Paulsen said several hours before the Democrats returned to the Statehouse.
The Iowa rules are different than in Wisconsin and Indiana, where similar Democrat walkouts stretched on for weeks. More than half the lawmakers must be on hand to conduct business in those states, though Wisconsin Republicans eventually used a procedural move to approve legislation opposed by Democrats.
While the Iowa Democrats were away, some GOP lawmakers seemed eager to resume their work immediately.
"I think it's appropriate to give them a call and say this is the time when we are going to debate and then just do it," said Rep. Stewart Iverson, R-Clarion.
Oddly, even if the House approves the gun measures, they likely will face trouble in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow majority.
Asked whether Senate Democrats would be skeptical about the bills, Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal of Council Bluffs responded, "I would say that's accurate."
Gronstal said he wasn't warned in advance of the walkout.
"I know nothing about what happened," he said.
Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, said the governor would have no comment.