The Iowa House was active last week, even though there was not as much "big" legislation passed as in the previous weeks. Two days were devoted to floor debate and two days were set aside for committee meetings. When we are debating and voting on the floor, it is imperative that we are either at our desks, or close to them. Votes can pop up quickly, and if a legislator would happen to be a couple of floors down, it is difficult to get back upstairs before the voting machine is locked. We are sent here to vote on behalf of our people, so it is not a good thing to miss votes.
In the previous week, the House of Representatives passed HF 525, the Collective Bargaining Reform Bill. The long and open debate on the bill came to a close on Friday with the House passing the bill and sending it to the Senate.
The bill went through a lengthy and detailed discussion while in the House. The subcommittee for the bill was rescheduled so that it could be held on a day when labor activists were at the Capitol so they could be involved in the discussion. The Labor committee itself spent 15 hours debating through the night going through over fifty amendments. At that point, Republicans made a number of changes to the bill. They stripped out portions of the bill that were unworkable. After that, a two hour public hearing was held inviting even more input from Iowans. Debate on the bill began on Wednesday afternoon and finished on Friday around noon. Republicans, again, made a number of changes to the bill. The original bill had taken the topic of insurance off of the negotiation table, and a Republican amendment put it back in the scope of negotiations and also added the requirement that all public employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement must pay at least $100 toward their health care insurance premiums.
HF 525 does not gut collective bargaining. Some have continuously compared the bill to the bill that Governor Walker recently signed in Wisconsin. However, the two are dramatically different in the extent to which collective bargaining is affected. Wisconsin's bill leaves only wages to be negotiated over. The topics that can still be negotiated in Iowa: wages, hours, vacations, insurance, holidays, leaves of absence, shift differentials, overtime compensation, supplemental pay, seniority, transfer procedures, job classifications, health and safety matters, evaluation procedure, in-service training, and other matters mutually agreed upon. The other portions of the bill dealt with the procedures involved in the arbitration process, as well as providing the opportunity for an employee to declare oneself a free agent and not be represented by a public union. The overwhelming majority of collective bargaining topics remain intact and mandatory topics of negotiations. The bill now moves over to the Senate where it is expected to be met with resistance from the Democrats who control that chamber. I voted for this bill.
Another bill that I supported was House File 589 that protects Iowa's livestock and crop producers. HF 589 addresses concerns of biosecurity of Iowa's animal industry and the well-being of animals. The bill protects livestock and crop operations against unauthorized destruction, killing or injuring of stock, or disruption of agricultural or biotechnical operations on an owner's premise. Additionally, it makes it unlawful to produce, possess, or distribute an unauthorized recording (sound or image) at an animal or crop operation.
Finally, this measure creates a fraud provision to address situations where access to an animal or crop facility are granted by the owner or keeper of the facility on the basis of falsehoods or deceptions that hide the true intent of the person seeking access. I believe it is important to protect the safety of Iowa's livestock and food sources as well as empower people to report the abuse of animals.
This bill does not seek to protect operators who mistreat or neglect their animals, but rather promotes reporting these instances through the proper channels as defined in Iowa law. These channels involve reporting concerns to local, state, or federal authorities which then allows trained investigators to come to the facility unannounced during normal business hours to conduct an investigation that is biologically safe. HF 589 passed the House with overwhelmingly bipartisan support. It is now sent to the Senate for their consideration. I supported the bill.
Two bills that originated in the State Government Committee were approved this week in the House.
House File 499 passed with near unanimous support. The bill makes a significant policy change in the way that absentee ballots can legally be collected. Under the bill, a candidate cannot go out and collect ballots on which their name appears. An elected official is allowed however, to help collect absentee ballots if they are not on that particular ballot. The reform came after the growing popularity of voting absentee when more voters requested absentee ballots in 2010 than ever before. The bill seeks to avoid the appearance of ballot meddling and overall improper ballot handling.
Another state government bill that passed the floor this week was House File 484. The bill seeks to divest any public funds from companies that have active business operations in Iran. Public funds include the treasurer's office, the state board of regents, as well as the various retirement systems. The bill requires the public funds to divest within 18 months following notice to the scrutinized company. The bill does provide that if the United States declares that the bill conflicts with foreign policy, a court rules on the bill, or the United States revokes sanctions against Iran, then the provisions of this bill will no longer be required. The bill requires that every October, each public fund make a public report available that covers the scrutinizes companies list as of the end of the year, a summary of all written notices sent out, and a list of investments sold, redeemed, divested or withdrawn as required.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at email@example.com.