Members of the Iowa Bankers Association invaded the State Capitol's chambers during last month's legislative recess, declared themselves representatives, split along party lines, and passed a bill that would allow banks to surcharge ATM customers.

No, it wasn't a coup. It was a half-day mock legislative session led by Iowa's real-life speaker of the house -- Brent Siegrist, a Republican from Council Bluffs-- to better acquaint bankers with the inner workings of the legislative process.

The session featured mock debates, party caucuses, and lobbyists. Some bankers even played reporters broadcasting a live television show, occasionally yanking representatives from the floor for sound bites.

"I learned how frustrating it is to be in the minority party and how difficult it is to oppose a majority-sponsored bill," said Josef Vich, president and chief executive officer of Community National Bank of Waterloo and Cedar Falls.

As a "Democratic" leader in the exercise, Mr. Vich's task was to shore up party support to kill the "Republican"-sponsored repeal bill.

He was pretty successful. Only two of his mock party's 21 members defected, voting with the Republicans. And two of the nominal Republicans sided with the Democrats.

Even so, the bill passed, 23-21.

John Sorensen, the trade group's president, said the comments made during the make-believe session and the final vote did not necessarily reflect the members' personal views, or the association's.

"Some of the people who participated were surprised at the words that came out of their mouths," he said. "We put people into roles that they don't normally play."

Including Mr. Vich. "They turned me into a Democrat," he said. "That was a new experience."

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