News from Des Moines
This week is funnel week, when all individually filed bills need to be through the committee process to be eligible for floor action. This week is always a flurry of activity with many subcommittee meetings and long committee meetings considering bills.
On Tuesday the Natural Resources committee passed House File 391 — State Forest Nursery Reform — a bill that I filed to help the DNR keep our state forest nursery profitable. This bill allows the DNR to set its pricing based on market conditions and sell smaller quantities of seedlings. It is important to maintain the nursery so that Iowa seed stock trees are available. The nursery sales have declined over the years from roughly five million a year to roughly one million trees per year, necessitating the changes.
This past week a bill to eliminate the bottle redemption program and replacing it with a comprehensive recycling program was introduced as House Study Bill 163. My research has indicated that the current bottle redemption program works well. Statewide roughly 86 percent of redeemable bottles are returned, and in the Marshalltown area I am told it is closer to 90 percent. The economics of this program haven’t changed since it was began in the late 1970s, we are still at a nickel deposit fee and a one-cent redemption fee. The fact that the return rate is so high tells me the current law is working, and we may only need to update the fees to reflect present day economics. I believe that a recycling program may work well in the cities, but in the rural areas I don’t think it will be as efficient as the current bottle redemption law.
Now that the dust has settled on the changes to Chapter 20 for collective bargaining with the unions we are already starting to reap the benefits that this change has offered our local governments. For example, thanks to these changes one central Iowa school district I am aware of has been able to reduce the number of health care insurance plans it offers from six to five, dropping the most expensive plan. This change only slightly increased the premiums on the employees that had to select one of the other five plans, but it will save the school district roughly $600,000 per year, a tremendous savings. The district was therefore able to offer a higher pay increase for the staff as well as use this cash for other needs in the district. This is just one example of how the changes to Chapter 20 collective bargaining is helping our school districts manage their affairs in a manner that will positively impact our children’s education.
Another example of how this change to Collective Bargaining is working involves how sick time and overtime pay is calculated for state employees that are members of the union known as the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Previously the AFSCME state employee agreement allowed a person taking sick days during the week to still work on Friday and collect overtime for work beyond eight hours that day or for work on the weekend, even though they had not actually worked over forty hours that week. The legislation changes have allowed the management to rewrite the rules on overtime pay to only pay overtime after forty actual hours have been worked in a week. This change will save the state millions of dollars per year. Clearly the changes to Chapter 20 collective bargaining are having a positive impact for Iowa’s taxpayers.
State Rep. Dean Fisher can be reached at 641-750-3594 or via email at email@example.com