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Iowa Courthouses Set to Close Eight Days Between March and June - Page 6 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 27 February 2009 15:07

Prevailing Wage Bill Fails for Now, But Likely to Return

In what officials called the longest vote in Iowa Statehouse history, House Speaker Pat Murphy at 1:09 p.m. Monday closed the voting machine on the prevailing-wage bill after two days, 19 hours, and 14 minutes, declaring that the bill had lost. The bill would require contractors to pay workers the same hourly wages and benefits on public projects as they would on private-sector projects in the area.

The vote was 50-48, one vote short of passage. But then House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines), switched his vote to "no" -- a procedural move that will allow him to bring the bill up for reconsideration later this session. So the final vote stood at 49-49.

State Representative Geri Huser (D-Altoona), the only person who didn’t vote on the prevailing-wage bill that kept the Iowa House in session around the clock for 67 hours last weekend, returned from a Florida vacation this week and said she continues to be a "no" vote on the bill.

"My caucus knew where I was at on the bill. And prior to me leaving, they knew," Huser told IowaPolitics.com. "I actually have been contacted by a lot of constituents. I’ve been on my e-mails and doing all of that even while I was away. So I think I’m pretty familiar with who’s irritated with me, who’s happy with me, and where people would like to see things end up."

Huser was vacationing in Florida with her sister, where they went to visit their parents, when debate started at 12:20 p.m. Friday. The trip was planned more than two months ago.

Representative McKinley Bailey (D-Webster City) was was the Democrats’ 51st vote on the bill but changed his mind when an amendment he proposed was ruled out of order. He said his amendment would have addressed a lot of his concerns about the bill by providing some protection for small contractors in rural Iowa, and removing an unfunded mandate that required counties, school boards, and community colleges to do something without the state helping to pay it.

Following the vote, Bailey, who is serving his second term, said he received a warm reception at a forum in Webster City.

"People were very, very happy," Bailey said. "I got applause when I went in. I didn’t have a single person ask me to change my vote. I feel like I represented my district. While I feel bad about letting so many of my caucus members down, I think at the end of the day, I have to represent Wright and Hamilton and Webster county. ... My constituents seem to be happy with my decision."

Since then, Bailey has been spotted in the House chamber at times this week while fellow Democrats have met downstairs in closed-door caucuses. He is also no longer the lead legislator on some of the bills he was spearheading. But House Speaker Murphy denied Thursday that Bailey is being punished or treated differently now by House Democrats.

No. I don’t know why people get that idea,” said Murphy (D-Dubuque), who decided to hold the voting machine open for 67 hours last weekend after the bill fell one vote short of passage. “He’s on all of his committees. I had him in my office yesterday. He’s coming to caucus. I think you guys are reading too much into that.”

Culver and Democratic legislative leaders are still holding out hope to pass the bill.

This weekly summary comes from IowaPolitics.com, an online government and politics news service. IowaPolitics.com staff contributed to this report.


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