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Collective Bargaining Bill Passes House and Senate; Governor Branstad Applauds

Joyce Russell/IPR
Iowa House of Representatives

After three days of bitter partisan debate, the Iowa House and Senate today gave final approval to legislation critics say will decimate Iowa’s collective bargaining law that covers 180-thousand public employees in Iowa. 

This bill went too far too quickly - Rep. Andy McKean

A handful of Republican voters defied their leadership and voted with Democrats against the bill. 

The vote in the House was 53 to 47.   The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 21.

Democrats argued through the night and up to the afternoon, making a last pitch on behalf of public workers.  

The bill makes it harder for public unions to stay organized, caps wages and limits bargaining on health care and other issues.  

Rep. Andy McKean (R-Anamosa) voted against the bill, saying it will cause unnecessary rancor.

“I think we needed reforms to collective bargaining,” McKean said. “But I felt this bill went too far, too quickly, for what I consider to be good public policy.”

This is a very monumental undertaking - Gov. Terry Branstad

Republicans say the bill keeps a promise to voters for smaller, smarter government. 

“A promise that we would reform government to make it more efficient for the people of Iowa,” said Rep. Steven Holt (R-Denison).

The bill will go into effect with the governor’s signature. 

Governor Branstad praised the GOP majority.

"They've been working hard and I'm appreciative,” Branstad said.  “This is a very monumental undertaking."

Some school districts around the state have rushed through contract negotiations so they won’t be subject to the new law.   Democrats tried to delay implementation so that schools could complete contract negotiations that are already underway.

Republican leaders put a deadline on debate, angering minority Democrats.   

“We need to do that to finish things up,” said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake).   “We’ve done that in the past.”

But long-time members of the Iowa Senate say the maneuver has not been used in recent memory in the Senate.

“In the Senate when there’s bills to be debated and perfected, we stay and do our job,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City).  

Democrats said outside conservative groups are behind the legislation. 

“This is a tribute to the Koch brothers,” said Sen. Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines) in a reference to the billionaire brothers who underwrite conservative causes.

The head of Iowa’s largest public employees union, the American Federation  of State, County,and Municipal Employees, Danny Homan, says he will  file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new collective bargaining law. Homan calls it his goodbye present to Governor Branstad.