Lawmakers react to legislation

After debate in state legislative chambers earlier this week, bills calling for wide-ranging changes to collective bargaining negotiations for public union employees have passed both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.

“I am certainly glad it’s over… with the amendment we offered that corrected some issues in the bill,” said state Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Montour, who voted in favor of the legislation. “It took into account some of the issues the opposition had.”

State Rep. Mark Smith, who voted against the legislation, had a different view.

“I think it is a sad day for all Iowans,” he said. “This (Chapter 20) was a law that had served Iowa well for 40 years.”

He said the changes opened up a “vacuum” and could possibly make for a chaotic situation when it comes to public union employees like construction workers and teachers.

“The model for (the changes to collective bargaining) is Wisconsin, which is seeing teachers move out-of-state,” Smith said.

“Already I’ve received an email from school personnel in Minnesota saying that this will be great for helping them with their teacher shortage.”

State Sen. Jeff Edler, who voted in favor of the legislation in that chamber on Thursday, said the decision provided a “tool” to local governments.

“The Iowa Senate has now provided our local governments with a tool … a tool that will allow the flexibility to provide innovative solutions for the future of their communities,” Edler said after the legislation passed in the senate.

The bill passed Thursday calls for bargaining units whose membership is less than 30 percent public safety employees to have a much narrower scope of negotiations than currently enjoyed.

Areas that would be excluded from the legal scope of negotiations for such units include insurance, leaves of absence for political activities, supplemental pay, transfer procedures, evaluation procedures, procedures for staff reduction and subcontracting public services.

With the legislation passed in both chambers, it is now up to Gov. Terry Branstad to either sign or veto the bill. If he signs, the bill will pass into law.

“I was able to vote for this bill … this re-balancing will be good for the state,” Fisher said.

Smith said he was unhappy with the unusual speed with which the lawmaking process moved in relation to the bill.

“I’ve always thought that it was fast-tracked for a deliberate reason,” Smith said of the speed with which Republican lawmakers moved the from the bills’ introduction to a public hearing to a votes in each chamber. “I think that that’s unfortunate too.”

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