DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he expects to appoint two new members to the Iowa Board of Regents in the next couple of weeks in response to the Iowa Senate declining to confirm his nominees.
The Senate in April didn't give the appointments of Craig Lang and Robert Cramer the two-thirds majority required for their approval to the Board of Regents, a nine-member board that oversees Iowa's three public universities.
Branstad said at his weekly news conference that he'll begin interviews for the positions in the very near future and hopes to make a decision "in the next couple of weeks."
"I'm looking for people with backgrounds similar to the people that unfortunately the Senate did not confirm," he said.
Lang was appointed to the board in 2007, and had served as president since 2011. The Brooklyn dairy farmer and former president of the Iowa Farm Bureau was criticized for supporting rules implemented by Iowa State University President Steven Leath that would have limited the ability of a proposed institute in honor of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin to research agriculture.
Harkin withdrew plans to donate his papers to ISU, blaming "partisans on the Board of Regents" for meddling. The institute will instead be at Drake University in Des Moines.
Senators also took issue with Lang's criticism of University of Iowa President Sally Mason. The board last year took the unusual step of declining to renew her contract and ordered her to improve the university's public relations.
Lang acknowledged mistakes but asked senators for continued support. He received 30 votes in the Senate, short of the 34 required for approval.
Cramer, a Grimes businessman who owns a bridge construction company, was questioned about his conservative social views on issues such as stem cell research, gay rights and academic freedom. Some lawmakers questioned whether those positions could compromise the academic values of the public universities. Cramer received 27 votes in the Senate.
Branstad highlighted Lang's leadership experience and successes on the board, including helping to implement the first tuition freeze for university students in Iowa in 30 years and pushing for more transparency in the way universities function.
He said Cramer's construction experience could have been helpful especially in the next few years with numerous construction projects under way at the University of Iowa, which is rebuilding from significant flood damage in 2008.