At about 12:30 p.m. today, the Iowa House of Representatives voted to make changes to Chapter 20 of the Iowa code. Chapter 20 deals with collective bargaining with public employee unions.
The bill, House File 525, would make a few changes to the collective bargaining portion of the Iowa Code if signed into law. The bill would create a new classification of public employee called a “free agent.” These new “free agent” employees would not be represented by a labor union. Employees would have to voluntarily sign a release that says that they cannot claim any right to representation by a union. The bill would also exclude health insurance and procedures for staff reduction from the collective bargaining process.
Another change the bill makes is giving the arbitrator the ability to choose either party’s final request on an impasse item or make a decision that is between the two parties’ offers. Currently, the arbitrator is forced to choose between just the two options that the parties have put forth as their last best offers.
The bill would also empower the arbitrator to consider a number of additional factors like benefit comparison, comparison between union and non-union public employees, comparison between public employees and private sector employees, and the ability of the public employer to pay for any adjustment without raising taxes.
Public unions and Iowa Democrats did their best to try and make the changes that were included in House File 525 into a rallying cry like has been seen in Wisconsin. Despite bussing in union workers for rallies, having union members shouting into blow horns in the rotunda of the capitol, and lying about how many people attended the public hearing on the bill, it is clear to most Iowans that the changes that the Iowa House passed today are reasonable and necessary if the state wants to control its costs.
House Democrats also have tried to make it seem as though the Republicans in the House have rammed this bill through without proper debate. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The House had roughly 30 hours of floor debate on House File 525. They also had a very open subcommittee hearing, during which the public was allowed to speak. That meeting lasted for an hour. There was also a 15-hour labor committee meeting and two-hour public hearings on the bill.
It seems that House Democrats have forgotten how they treated the minority party when they were in the majority. Then-Speaker Pat Murphy used the time-certain procedure to limit the amount of time when prevailing wage and open-scope bargaining were debated in the chamber.
Murphy used the time-certain procedure on prevailing wage after only eight hours of debate. He didn’t give the minority party any notice that he was about to limit debate either. Republican leadership in the House announced their plans to limit debate yesterday afternoon. When the Democrats wanted to make changes to Chapter 20, they provided the public no notice, no public hearing, nothing.
No matter how bad Iowa Democrats wanted to bring the chaos that has been occurring in Wisconsin to Iowa, it’s not going to happen. Former-Speaker Murphy can yell as loud as he wants to after the debate because the House switchboard was not working, which means that people could not make last minute calls, but Iowans had plenty of opportunities to weigh in on this matter.
The changes contained in House File 525 are very reasonable. As Speaker Paulsen said in his legislative email this afternoon, “The state can no longer afford and the taxpayers can no longer support health care insurance which does not require the employee to at least contribute something to their own health care coverage.”
Currently 84 percent of state employees play nothing for their health insurance. Asking them to pay $100 a month is not only reasonable, but also far less than private sector employees pay for their benefits.
Is that really out of line? Is that something so disgusting that the union members in the balcony had to turn their backs to the legislators in protest as they voted? Did Pat Murphy really need to throw a temper-tantrum about the switchboard being down?
Of course not, but House Democrats felt the need to do a little grandstanding so that they can keep getting 99.6 percent of the political contributions that these unions give out.
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