Iowa Legislative Update

By Charlie Wishman, Secretary/Treasurer IFL

This week in the legislature there was a lot of action, with it being a “funnel week.”  “Funnels” are deadlines that are set by the legislature to narrow down the amount of bills being considered.  This week a bill must pass a full House or Senate committee to continue to be considered, unless it contains appropriations of some kind or relates to taxes and must pass through a Ways and Means Committee.  Here are some of the highlights of legislative action this week:

Bills that would have stopped the “Clean Line” energy transmission project failed to advance this week.  These bills were designed to stop this project in particular, and would have had put future projects in jeopardy by making the process that the Iowa Utilities Board goes through to grant routes more complicated and also would have restricted “eminent domain,” where private land can be forced to be bought out for a public use project.  What this means, is that the Clean Line project can continue to advance, meaning more jobs and green energy production.

While a minimum wage bill was never taken up in the Iowa House, the Iowa Senate Labor Committee passed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.  It is unlikely, but still possible that the full Senate could vote on this.  Even if it does pass the Iowa Senate, it is not likely that the House will take a minimum wage increase up and would also not be signed by the Governor.  The Senate Labor committee also moved SF 191 through its full committee, which would increase penalties for wage theft as well as provide for penalties for retribution that employees face when they report wage theft.  That bill also faces a tough battle in the Iowa House if it were to advance to the other chamber.

SSB 3052, commonly known as the “apprenticeship bill” passed the Senate Economic Growth Committee that would increase funding for registered apprenticeship programs.  It was amended, however, unlike its House companion bill.  The Senate version would actually add more money than the Governor recommended for worker training, and creates an advisory council as well.  Supporters of the original version of the bill believe that apprenticeship funds should be administered by the Economic Development Authority, rather than a single community college through the Department of Education as the Senate bill was amended to.  This bill can still see changes, and it is our hope that we see more appropriations for registered apprenticeship programs.

SF 2084, which would have in its original version would have reopened the Toledo Juvenile Home, was amended and passed out of Senate Human Resources committee.  The amendment was an attempt to “de-politicize” the situation, which was caused by Governor Branstad and his unilateral and illegal shutdown of the facility.   This amendment is less prescriptive and removed the words “Toledo” from the bill to focus more on making sure there is a facility for young women in need of services formerly provided at the Iowa Juvenile Home.

A bill that would shut down a union-operated greyhound racing facility in Dubuque moved along in the Iowa House this week as well, however a similar bill did not move forward in the Iowa Senate.  This is an issue that cuts across party lines, with Democrats and Republicans taking sides on this issues for many different reasons.

Through “funnel” week is a week that is meant to narrow down the number of bills considered, keep in mind that nothing is ever really dead, as long as the legislature is in session.  Though this has been declared a “short session,” there is a long way to go to ensure good bills pass and ones that harm working people do not.

Finally, just this morning Texas Governor Rick Perry was on a cable news network touting a trip to Iowa coming up next week.  He said his purpose was two-fold, first to help his friend Terry Branstad get re-elected, and secondly to lure Iowa employers to his state.  While Perry surely is also visiting to begin playing Presidential politics, inviting someone to campaign for you who has stated his goal is to steal Iowa jobs away is a funny way for Governor Branstad to reach his goal of creating 200,000 jobs for Iowa.   


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