Capitol Update: Week 6

Amending House File 291

We spent this week discussing House File 291.  This is the collective bargaining legislation. We have listened to Iowans during the subcommittee and committee process, at the public hearing, at forums across the state, and through emails and phone calls.  During this process, a number of items were brought to our attention that needed to be addressed.  The amendment was a culmination of those discussions and addresses many of the concerns Iowans have expressed over the course of this debate.

It reinstates proper cause for suspensions and discharges. This means there will be still need to be documentation and a reasonable justification to terminate the employee.  There is also case law and court rulings that protect the employees from wrongful termination.

It removes some items from the list of prohibited negotiations.  They are release time, grievance procedures, Seniority and any benefits related to seniority.  It moves them to the permissive topics.   This means these topics can be discussed if both parties agree to discuss them.

The next part of the amendment reinstates the right to appeal a civil service commission’s decision to district court. It requires the court to give deference to the commission’s ruling. In the original bill we believed that the right to an appeal was a part of the process.  This makes the wording more clear.

We fixed a drafting error that could have affected firefighter and police pensions. We reduced the threshold to qualify as public safety employment to 30% (was previously 50%).   In small sheriff’s departments where deputies, jailers and dispatchers negotiate as one unit, if the makeup of deputies is more than 30% the unit can negotiate under the public safety part of the code. We added motor vehicle enforcement officers to the list of public safety employees.

Lastly I want you to understand how I reached my decision to support this legislation.  It actually started many years ago as a school board member in Monticello.  I was a part of the negotiation process each year.  I remember one evening when we were reducing a couple positions because of the poor financial state of the district.  The money was not there.

I sat that evening listening to a union steward from Des Moines tell us we had lots of money.  All we need was to raise taxes on the taxpayers of the district.  From that point on, I knew the law needed to be changed.

I supported a similar bill back in 2011 and 2015.  I believe this legislation will give more control back to the school boards, counties, and the cities. That is a good thing.   I appreciate all the email, phone calls and people who contacted me both for and against this bill.

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