Capitol Update

House Passes Binding Arbitration Changes for School Districts and AEAs

After two days of debate, the House passed House File 549, which narrowly changes the binding arbitration process for school district and Area Education Agency (AEA) employees. The bill makes three small, yet very significant changes to what an arbitrator is allowed to consider when rendering a decision on union contracts.

For too long the scale of fairness has been tilted in favor of labor and against taxpayers during contract negotiations for school districts and AEAs. School boards and their negotiating teams have been forced to build 3-4% yearly raises into their budgets, regardless of district revenues, putting a financial strain on districts. House File 549 seeks to remedy this problem and even the playing field in labor negotiations for teachers. The three changes that the bill would make are solely focused on school districts and AEAs as a cost-containment measure.

First, an arbitrator no longer is required to pick one or the other of the two parties’ final offers on an item when there’s an impasse. Instead, the arbitrator is authorized to choose a point between the two offers. This ensures that a compromise position can be reached where both sides can come away from negotiations happy.

Second, an arbitrator is no longer able to consider the public employer’s authority to levy taxes to finance an increase in compensation packages. Unions point to government’s unlimited ability to raise taxes as the basis for pay increases beyond what current revenues can afford.

Third, an arbitrator is required to look at a comparison of public and private sector wages, hours, and conditions of employment for workers doing comparable work to get a true and fair comparison. Current law only requires an arbitrator to look at a comparison of other public sector workers.

During debate Democrats filed numerous amendments, all of which were not germane to the bill. Six of the amendments expanded the scope of negotiations to include class sizes, teacher prep time, overtime, classroom-expense reimbursements, continuing education costs, and the costs associated with renewing licenses. Another amendment set State Supplemental Aid at 4%, and another dealt with a school financing issue. Additionally, one Democrat offered an amendment which he then divided into 16 separate amendments, mostly reversing the changes in House File 549, and then adding numerous other factors that an arbitrator must consider when rendering a decision.

After several hours of debate and five Democrat caucuses, the bill finally passed on a party-line vote of 56-41. House File 549 now heads to the Iowa Senate where it faces an uncertain future.

Weekly Recap

Chad and Emily Becker visited the Capitol this week. We took a tour to the top of the dome while they were here. Chad is the son of Charlie Becker from Monticello and is attending med school here in Des Moines.

Chad and Emily Becker on the balcony at the top of the dome

Chad and Emily Becker on the balcony at the top of the dome

Charlie Becker bought a set of Iowa Code books at the Monticello School Foundation Dinner. Charlie is the director of Camp Courageous. I donated a set of books that contains the current version of the Iowa Code of Laws.  The tour was part of the package. I want to thank Charlie for his generous donation to the foundation. I hope he enjoys the books.

Wednesday was a special day for me. Marie Hein came to the Statehouse. She is a very unique lady and I am proud to call her my Aunt. Senator Zumbach is also her nephew. She is the only Iowan I know to have a nephew be both her State Representative and her State Senator. She was introduced on the House and Senate floor to legislators. It was her first time in the House and Senate chambers. It was great to have her here.

Sen. Zumbach and I with our Aunt Marie Hein

Sen. Zumbach and I with our Aunt Marie Hein

Next Friday, March 27th I will be attending a forum in Monticello at the City Council Chambers at noon.  Everyone is welcome to attend.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

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