House Democrats extend collective bargaining debate around the clock

ClockBy Bob Eschliman


The Iowa House of Representatives began debate on a bill that amends collective bargaining laws for public school districts and area education agencies at 4:44 p.m. Tuesday. Nineteen hours and 38 minutes later, it finally voted on the proposed legislation.

House File 549 would amend Iowa Code as it relates to collective bargaining arbitration proceedings involving teachers employed by public school districts and AEAs. Specifically, it would allow arbitrators to select a position that falls between labor and management positions, rather than one or the other, when there is an impasse during labor negotiations, and to allow consideration of private- and public-sector jobs when considering positions.

Democrats argued during six and a half hours of debate that the bill is unfair to teachers in Iowa, noting that teachers in other countries spend much less time teaching and more time grading and preparing for upcoming classroom activities. They introduced seven amendments, as well as an amendment to a Republican amendment, which required extensive debate.

The Republican amendment expanded the provisions of the bill to include all employees of AEAs. It was adopted on a 58-37 vote.

And, much like their efforts to defeat the abortion prerequisites bill last Thursday, Democrats frequently went into caucus. Several of their amendments focused supplemental state aid, allowable growth, and allowing school districts to dip into their emergency funds to avoid staffing cuts.

Decorum became an issue as the debate wore on Tuesday evening. State Rep. Patti Ruff (D-McGregor) ripped into the Republican budget proposal 1.25-percent allowable growth for preK-12 school funding, saying, “We have a Third World budget,” which prompted a point-of-order from state Rep. Dawn Pettengill (R-Mount Auburn).

Every Democrat amendment was either ruled not germane to the original bill or withdrawn. During debate of the overall bill Wednesday, Democrats again attacked Republicans, noting fewer than five contract negotiations had gone to arbitration in each of the past four years, saying existing laws were already working.

They claimed HF 549 was a “distraction” or “guise” to blame Iowa teachers for “breaking the state budget,” rather than focusing on the Republican “inadequate” funding proposal. They also noted the Iowa Association of School Boards said, during committee meetings on the bill, that it did not ask for the proposed legislation.

Officially, IASB is “undecided” on the bill.

State Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) said the bill was rushed through committee during Funnel Week, and that Democrats weren’t able to select their own member for the subcommittee. He continued to the Democratic argument that the bill was intended to provide cover for the Republicans’ 1.25-percent allowable growth proposal.

Many other Democrats spoke out against the bill, focusing on their own teaching experiences, the experiences of their friends who teach, or of experiences of their constituents.

In his closing remarks, however, HF 549’s floor manager, state Rep. Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia), noted that Republican leadership has increased education spending by more than $500 million. He also noted that public school districts are unique because they have many ways to levy the funds they need to operate, if additional funding is necessary.

In response to Democrat accusations that the House was illegally withholding the education appropriations, he noted the House education spending bill was adopted on the 15th day of the legislative session. It was immediately messaged to the Senate, controlled by Democrats, where it was ignored.

The Senate funding bill will be debated in the House soon.

Ultimately, the proposed legislation was adopted, 56-41, on a party line vote. House Minority Leader Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown) invoked Rule 75 and requested a roll call vote.

CLICK HERE to see video of the first part of the debate.

CLICK HERE to see video of the second part of the debate.