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Iowa Politics Roundup: State Won’t Claim $14.5 Million for Unemployment Benefits - Page 2 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 04 March 2011 20:26

Wisconsin Comes to Iowa” Next Week; Big Crowd Expected at Capitol

The Iowa Capitol is expected to be so packed next Monday for a public hearing on collective bargaining that House Speaker Paulsen has arranged for audio of the hearing in the House chamber to be broadcast in the Capitol rotunda and in the old Supreme Court chamber.

“At least from the signals we’ve been sent, I’m not sure the chamber will be able to hold everybody,” Paulsen said.

Two contentious issues – a collective-bargaining bill and a proposed elimination of the state-funded preschool program – will be debated in the Iowa House next week.

It starts with a public hearing scheduled for 6 to 8:15 p.m. Monday on the collective-bargaining bill. The issue last week brought up to 1,000 people to the Capitol for a rally. Democrats in the House Labor Committee later offered about 50 amendments to the bill. Committee debate lasted a total of 15 hours.

“Next week, Wisconsin comes to Iowa,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines). “I expect we’re going to spend a great portion if not the entire week trying to oppose the end of our collective-bargaining system here in Iowa, which is what House Study Bill 117 does. We call upon all Iowans that oppose the end our collective-bargaining system to come to the Capitol to be heard. We expect quite a turnout on Monday for the public hearing.”

House Study Bill 117 would make numerous changes to Iowa’s collective-bargaining laws, including allowing employees in union shops to directly negotiate the terms of their employment, limiting what’s included in collective bargaining, and curbing union power. Arbitrators, for example, could consider nonunion and private-sector wages and a contract’s effects on taxes in making their decisions.

“We’re excited about that bill,” Paulsen said. “It obviously addresses a whole lot of different things. We’ve tried to be sensitive to all sides concerned. In fact, one of the concerns that revolved around the whole repeal of Iowa’s right-to-work law was unions did not want to represent people that were not members. This bill addresses that.”

Paulsen said Iowans will also appreciate the provision taking health insurance out of collective bargaining for state workers. “Eighty-four percent of state employees pay nothing for their health care,” Paulsen said. “That’s just not reflective of the real world, so this bill also addresses that.”

But McCarthy said it’s Democrats’ intention to have their voices heard on the issue.

“It takes away rights from police officers, firefighters, troopers, teachers, corrections workers – their rights to bargain in good faith at the bargaining table,” McCarthy said. “So that will be the central focus next week. Again, it’s disappointing that they’re moving in this extreme fashion. So Iowa will experience a little bit of Wisconsin next week.”

With all of the action over collective bargaining, the debate over preschool might be overshadowed next week. But the issue is equally important to Democrats.

House Study Bill 145 would repeal the current statewide preschool program for four-year-old children and would create an Iowa preschool scholarship program for four-year-olds. Families earning up to 300 percent of federal poverty level – almost $67,000 for a family of four – would qualify for scholarships. While the current program enrolls about 20,000 kids (about half of the state’s four-year-olds), the new program aims to enroll about 16,660 kids, roughly 70 percent of the 23,000 who are eligible.

The House Education Committee voted 12-10 along party lines for the bill just before 10 p.m. Monday.

Debate over both issues is expected Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday on the House floor.

Abortion Bill Fails to Clear Legislative Funnel

A bill backed by the staunchest social conservatives that would have defined the beginning of life as conception and banned all abortions will not survive this week’s legislative funnel deadline, House Human Resources Committee Chair Linda Miller told IowaPolitics.com.

“Basically, I didn’t have consensus in the committee or the votes to bring it out,” said Miller (R-Bettendorf). “Can’t bring out legislation that you don’t have the votes for.”

Miller said she’s supportive of House File 153, but not as written. She and Representative Dave Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant) both told IowaPolitics.com that they could not support the provision in the bill that said: “The Iowa Supreme Court shall not have appellate jurisdiction over the provisions of this section.”

“I was concerned about the clause about the Supreme Court, the judicial language in it,” Miller said. “And I felt that there needed to be some kind of amendment in regards to the life of the mother, just because I think you needed to clarify that more than anything else.”

An informal poll released late last week by The Family Leader showed that only six Republican members of the House Human Resources Committee supported the bill as drafted. It would have taken 11 votes for the bill to pass out of committee.

Four Republicans on the committee said they would support the bill if it protects the life of the mother.

Miller said sponsors of the bill were not willing to accept an amendment to that effect.

But this is not the end to the abortion debate this legislative session.

State Representative Kim Pearson (R-Pleasant Hill) told The Family Leader that the “life at conception” bill will move forward next week in a new form, despite not clearing this week’s legislative funnel.

And House Speaker Paulsen last week moved House File 5, a late-term-abortion ban, to the Government Oversight Committee – a funnel-proof committee – so House Republicans can continue discussion without having the pressure of funnel week.

Legislative Term-Limit Bill Dies in Committee

A bill spearheaded by a group of freshmen that would have limited legislators to serving 16 consecutive years in either the Iowa House or Senate was rejected by the House State Government Committee this week on an 11-12 vote.

“In no other state did we find a term-limit bill as liberal as this one,” argued Representative Guy Vander Linen (R-Oskaloosa), a retired marine and freshman lawmaker.

House Joint Resolution 10 would have limited lawmakers to eight terms in the Iowa House or four terms in the Iowa Senate and would have taken effect in 2017. As a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution, it would require approval by two consecutive General Assemblies before going to a vote of the people.

Joining Democrats in voting against the bill were Republican Representatives Dawn Pettengill of Mount Auburn, who’s serving her fourth term in the Iowa House; Scott Raecker of Urbandale, who’s serving his seventh term; and Jack Drake of Griswold, who’s serving his 10th term.

“If you want power to go to the people, we have that now. Those are called elections,” said Representative Todd Taylor (D-Cedar Rapids), who’s been in the legislature for 16 years. “The term limits limit the voters’ choices.”

Taylor argued that term limits would shift power from elected officials to unelected bureaucrats who are not accountable to the people.

Representative Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque) said term limits come up more than any other single issue on the campaign trail. But he said voters’ angst has more to do with what’s going on at national level.

“A better solution is in campaign-finance reform,” he said. “The inability to get new people elected is because it’s so hard to raise the money needed to displace incumbents at the polls. The term-limit issue is kind of a red-herring issue in many respects.”

This will be the final weekly summary from IowaPolitics.com, an online government and politics news service.


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