From Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City –
For the past few years, serving in the legislature, I have done my best to work for common sense solutions. I try to avoid partisan politics and support legislation that makes Iowa (and particularly North Central Iowa) a better place to live, work and raise a family. I am proud of the fact that occasionally I am one of two or three Democrats to vote for Republican bills that I feel are in the state’s interest. I am also proud of the fact that despite being in the minority, I have also always been able to convince my Republican colleagues to advance some of my ideas despite having my Democratic name on the bill.
The working relationship I have found with Republican and Democratic colleagues has served my constituents and the state well. Being able to work together has usually given me hope that we can work together in the State House to accomplish good things for Iowans. I view working together with others in the legislature as my job. I still believe that it is.
This year something has changed dramatically and for the worse. To be frank, the first month of session was unusually quiet and slow from a lack of filed bills or even discussion with colleagues. There just wasn’t anything to talk about. Nothing was happening. Little did I know, it was the calm before the storm.
Last Monday things got weird. The state patrol moved in to the Capitol and squad cars were posted in the parking lot. I counted 8 troopers at the Capitol, usually we have one or two, if any. When I asked the Trooper why such a state patrol presence he said we are expecting protests. That is when I discovered that the Republicans were going to file a bill to gut collective bargaining for public employees, something that can accurately be described as “a union busting bill.”
As expected, hundreds of prison guards, firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees turned up to demonstrate and speak out against the proposed collective bargaining bill. They were orderly and didn’t warrant any response from the extra security posted to the building. In a way that was ironic, State Troopers patrolling public safety workers to make sure they didn’t cause a disturbance.
As an advocate for workers, I do not support the changes Governor Branstad and the Republicans are proposing. It hurts public employees which hurts all workers in the state. Further, the current system they seek to change has served Iowa well for 42 years. We have no strikes and management and workers have a predictable dispute resolution system that has brought stability to Iowa tax payers and its employees. I guess the best argument for the current system is, what is wrong with making sure that someone who works hard earns a decent living?
After four years, this has been the lowest week of my service in the Iowa House. No Democrat was consulted about the legislation we are dealing with. All the bill drafting was done by one side. No input from workers or their families as to how losing health care benefits will affect them.
As a child, I was taught to thank people who did something nice for me. Teachers, city, county and state workers do lots of nice things for me and the rest of the state, we should say thank you. Let’s hope this new state of affairs doesn’t signal a new era of nasty partisan politics in our Great State.
Teachers, Law Enforcement & Nurses Targeted by Republicans
Hundreds of teachers, law enforcement, nurses, and other working families packed the State Capitol this week in an effort to stop a Republican bill that would deny workers a voice in their own workplace. The bill is expected to move quickly next week with debate and a public hearing.
Originally passed to stop strikes, Iowa’s bi-partisan collective bargaining law gives workers a say in their own workplace and has served Iowans well for more than 40 years. It simply requires Iowans and their public employer (school, city, county, etc.) to sit down and work together to discuss issues and reach mutually agreeable solutions in the workplace.
The divisive issue is just the latest in a series of bills offered by Republicans, who believe teachers, firefighters, and law enforcement officials are overpaid and underworked.
Many lawmakers oppose the changes proposed by Republicans and believe law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, and other Iowa workers deserve fairness and a voice in their own workplace.
House Follows Through on Record Low State Aid for Schools
Students in K-12 schools will likely find higher class sizes and fewer opportunities next year. That’s after Republican lawmakers approved their plan for another historic low increase in basic funding for public schools on Monday. The level of funding approved is the lowest amount in six years.
Before the bill was approved late on Monday night, more than 200 Iowa superintendents, teachers and parents packed the State Capitol to speak out against the Republican bill. Iowans told lawmakers there will be severe consequences of inadequate public school funding again next year.
A survey of Iowa superintendents found low state investment in education again this year would force them to raise class sizes, cut teachers, and reduce opportunities for students. They also said underfunding schools again next year would force them to delay purchases for books or classroom materials, delay new technology, and cut back on literacy programs.
When offered an opportunity to provide adequate funding that would avoid these consequences, the plan was rejected on a party line vote. Republican lawmakers also rejected the Governor’s school funding plan.
Despite the Republican bill being half the amount of basic aid the Governor recommended, it was signed into law on Wednesday.