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From the Desk of Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer

We had another successful week in the House ñ our committees were hard at work. You may recall, this week the Iowa House reached its first deadline related to legislative action, commonly referred to as the “First Funnel.”|March 6, 2011

We had another successful week in the House ñ our committees were hard at work. You may recall, this week the Iowa House reached its first deadline related to legislative action, commonly referred to as the “First Funnel.” For a policy bill to remain eligible for debate by the full House, it must be approved by a House committee before the end of the “First Funnel.” If a bill doesn’t survive, it is dead for the remainder of the year. This rule does not apply to oversight, budget or tax bills. All of our committees spent a great deal of time and work on bills that will now survive and we’ll work through going forward.

Looking ahead to next week, we’ll be spending a great deal of time discussing Iowa’s collective bargaining law. Over the past few weeks, there has been much in the news about collective bargaining in Wisconsin, Ohio and other Midwestern states. The House Labor committee here in Iowa has also been working on some changes to our law. While the House proposal does not eliminate collective bargaining, which is being proposed in other states, we believe review and reform of Iowa’s statute is long overdue.

Today, 84% of state employees pay nothing for their health care. I do not believe this is reflective of the real world and it is something that our collective bargaining reform would allow us to address.

Chapter 20 and collective bargaining are currently tilted too far in favor of labor and against the taxpayer. We believe it’s time to take a look at this practice. Our bill, House File 525, includes some of the following changes to Iowa’s Chapter 20 law:

– Creating the possibility of a ‘free agent employee’. If an individual decides they do not want to be represented by a union, they may bargain their contract individually. Currently, ALL employees are considered a unit, even those who are not part of the union. This is something labor considers unfair. We agree.

– Allowing an arbiter to choose only between two impasse points, and not just an either/or scenario that can make final negotiations unnecessarily contentious.

– Giving the arbiter authority to consider points in between the two parties would allow for a more level playing field at the arbitration level of contract negotiations.

– Changing the scope of negotiations to exclude insurance and procedures for staff reductions from collective bargaining. This allows employers to keep outstanding or critical staff, even if they have less seniority.

– Changing what an arbiter is allowed to consider during binding arbitration. Currently, an arbiter compares wages to other public sector employees. This bill would include a comparison to private wages and benefits as well.

While you will hear that the bill eliminates collective bargaining, the truth is that the list of items that can still be bargained for is largely unchanged and will still include: wages, hours, vacations, holidays, leaves of absence, shift differentials, overtime compensation, supplemental pay, seniority, transfer procedures, job classifications, health and safety matters, evaluation procedures, in-service training, and other matters mutually agreed upon.

House File 525 was passed out of the House Labor committee late last week and has gone through a very open and transparent subcommittee and committee process. We will also be hosting a public hearing on the bill on Monday, March 7th from 6pm to 8pm in the House chamber. It’s important to get Iowans’ point of view as we continue through the process. If you wish to speak at the public hearing, please contact the Legislative Information Office at (515) 281-5129.

Big thanks to all the visitors that stopped by the capitol this week. It was great to see folks from the North Iowa Community Action, Kaplan University, Forest City YMCA and the Franklin County Officials.

This week I signed a very special pledge — I pledged to spread the word to end the word. The Special Olympics and Best Buddies International have started a movement across the country to raise awareness about the hurtful effects of the word ‘retard(ed)’ and to encourage people to refrain from using the r-word. I hope you will join me in this effort. You can find out more information at www.r-word.org.

As always, please feel free to contact me if you’ll be visiting ñ linda.upmeyer@legis.state.ia.us or my office at (515) 281-4618.

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