Rebalancing the Scales

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Rebalancing the Scales

We fulfilled our commitment last week of setting Supplemental State Aid within the first 30 days of session.  This provides school districts with the certainty they need to begin planning their budgets for next school year.  Thank you to the Senate and the Governor for their shared commitment in getting this done in a timely manner.

Last Monday, we passed a bill that provides Iowa’s schools with an additional $40 million next year.  Governor Branstad signed the bill into law later in the week.  As I said in my previous newsletter, K-12 education is Iowa’s top priority in the budget, accounting for 43% of all state spending.  In addition to providing K-12 with additional resources, we’ll be looking for ways to provide more flexibility to schools and examining some of the funding inequities our schools face.

Last week, the House introduced House Study Bill 84, which updates Iowa’s law regarding collective bargaining for public employees.  The law, originally passed in 1974, has remained relatively untouched for four decades.  Over the last 40 years, largely due to arbitration requirements, the scales have been tipped to favor government unions and put management and taxpayers at a disadvantage.  House Republicans believe the law deserves a thoughtful review to rebalance the scales and ensure that Iowans have a fair and equitable system that works for public employers, employees, and taxpayers.

We value our public employees and the work they do in their communities.  I’ve heard from many people who have expressed concerns about provisions in the bill that don’t actually exist.  I appreciate the opportunity to have a dialogue over this bill.  Unfortunately, it seems that many Des Moines union executives are resorting to fear mongering in an attempt to scare workers over what this bill actually does.

First, let me tell you what the bill doesn’t do:

  • It doesn’t affect private sector unions.
  • It doesn’t repeal the right to collectively bargain for government employees.
  • It doesn’t affect pensions in any way.
  • It doesn’t take away health insurance. Under the bill, the employer is required to provide a health insurance plan to employees.
  • It doesn’t mandate that local governments must join a statewide health insurance pool.

There are many reasons that Iowans should support and be excited for this legislation.

One of the primary things the bill will do is provide flexibility to locally elected officials to make decisions that are best for their communities.  Each item that is mandated to be discussed during negotiations acts as a finger on the scale, tipping the balance towards the unions.  By allowing local governments and school boards to actually manage, citizens in those communities can expect better service and more opportunities for creativity and innovation.

The bill also ends the practice of deducting union dues from government employees’ paychecks.  If a government union has won the right to collectively bargain, it is completely reasonable to expect them to collect their own dues instead of having their employer do it for them.  It’s unfair to expect that the government and taxpayers should serve as the union’s bill collector.

Another provision that I’m really excited about is the opportunity for schools to reward their best and brightest teachers.  Our bill will allow schools, and other local governments, to pay exceptional employees based on merit rather than just seniority.  It can also help schools fill positions in critical subject areas like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with highly qualified people.  This gives schools a great opportunity to recruit and retain the best teachers, especially in rural areas.

As the session continues to move along, please stay in touch.  Legislation and budgets will soon start moving through their process, so please let me know your thoughts.  You can reach me at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3521.

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