(Des Moines, IA) The state of Iowa has not reviewed the current collective bargaining law for public employees since 1974, and Iowa Republicans made it a priority to change that this legislative session. Yesterday the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate introduced their versions of a collective bargaining reform bill.

“For too long union special interests have routinely won over the taxpayers, especially on the issue of health care. Our goals for this legislation is simple, to put the taxpayers’ interest in a position of being treated fairly, to reward good employees and ensure that we can remove an occasional bad employee,” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said during a joint press conference with Republican legislative leadership.

“We also want to bring fairness back into the public employee benefit system that public employees receive at the taxpayer expense,” he added.

The bill does not impact private sector employees or pensions. Branstad also assured that the legislation does not strip away health care coverage. The bill exempts public safety employees for a broad scope of negotiations. He also said the bill will not end bargaining for wages.

“In fact it gives greater flexibility to reward the best employees and teachers and provide higher wages by controlling health care costs. This bill also provides much needed transparency for taxpayers when a public employee is dismissed for cause. For too long school districts and government have not been able to disclose their rationale for dismissing a public employee even if that might include neglect, abuse or even gross negligence,” Branstad remarked.

“These changes are necessary, and I am pleased that we are finally having a real conversation about an antiquated law that hasn’t been looked at since 1974,” Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, who will soon become Governor when Branstad is confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to China.

Reynolds noted, citing her experience as a county treasurer, that the changes will positively impact local government.

“I can see first hand that these changes dramatically will increase local control by giving local governments the flexibility they need to not only manage their county or their school district to make decisions that are in the best interest their constituents, their communities and their schools and the students who are attending those schools, as well as, the teachers,” Reynolds added.

“Over the last several years, it should come as no surprise to you, the House has worked on accomplishing some of these initiatives several times during the last six years, starting back in 2011, where we actually did a bill that includes much of what we are talking about,” State Representative Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake), Speaker of the Iowa House, said during the press conference.

Defending against the charge they are trying to introduce collective bargaining reform in a partisan way, Upmeyer reminded that they attempted to achieve this when Democrats were in control of the Iowa Senate and their legislation never went anywhere in that chamber.

“One thing is for sure, the proposal before us is about local control. It is how we can keep our best teachers in the classroom? How can we keep our best employees on the front lines? And creating an environment where new and innovative and creative ideas can take place to better serve Iowans. It removes the state mandate and will empower the people, give school boards the opportunity to improve student achievement as much as they can by keep the best teachers in the classroom, and being able to remove the occasional bad apple. Higher efficiency means better service and lower cost government. In short, it is a better deal for Iowans,” State Senator Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock), the Iowa Senate Majority Leader, said during the press conference.

State Representative Dave Deyoe (R-Nevada), the chairman for the House Committee on Labor, introduced HSB 84 and was heard in subcommittee today with Deyoe and State Representatives Steven Holt (R-Denison) and Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines).

A Senate companion bill SF 213 was introduced by State Senator Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) into the Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee. A subcommittee consisting of Schultz, as well as,  State Senators Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) and Jake Chapman (R-Adel) voted to recommend passage of their bill.

Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33, SMART Sheet Metal Workers, Laborers International Union of North America, Iowa Professional Fire Fighters, Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council, Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, United Professionals, ACLU of Iowa, Teamsters Local 238, Iowa Peace Officers Association, State Police Officers Council, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, Central Iowa Construction Building Trades Council, ASFME Iowa Council 61, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, Iowa State Education Association, Iowa Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), and the International Union of Operating Engineers-Local 234 have registered opposition to the bills.

The Iowa Association of Building and Industry, Iowans for Tax Relief and Americans for Prosperity – Iowa have registered their support.

While most unions and trade organizations opposed the bill, there is one who supports it.

“This legislation will restore local control to state and local governments in Iowa,” said Greg Spenner, Associated Builders and Contractors of Iowa President & CEO. “For the construction industry, this means lower property taxes, better teachers in Iowa classrooms and more efficient government. We expect this efficiency will free up taxpayer dollars to support additional capital investment in schools, city halls and other important projects in the future.”

Drew Klein, Iowa State Director of Americans for Prosperity, said now is the time for reform.

“As it stands, Iowa’s collective bargaining system is a messy process that puts too much power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. The incentives under this structure simply exist to appease both parties whatever the cost, rather than to do what’s best for taxpayers. Now is a better time than ever for our Iowa’s lawmakers to undertake collective bargaining reform,” Klein said in a released statement.

There will be a public hearing at the Iowa State Capitol on collective bargaining reform on Monday, February 13th from 6:00p – 8:00p.

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