Legislative Forums And Updates

Senate bill would hurt Iowa’s public sector unions and schools. Senate File 2374, which the Iowa Senate Workforce Committee approved along party lines last week, would cripple public sector unions while once again attacking public schools. Iowa’s Republican trifecta gutted the 40-year-old public sector collective bargaining law in 2017. The changes tilted the bargaining table so much toward management, real problem solving slipped off the table, causing competitive contract settlements to evaporate. The new law accelerated our state’s teacher shortage and sent the message Iowa educators weren’t valued.

In the effort to obliterate public sector unions, the 2017 law required bargaining units to hold new recertification elections for every contract period. All employees eligible for the bargaining unit could vote, not only those who were union members. To stack the deck further, those not voting were recorded as “no” votes. But it didn’t work. They didn’t count on educators and other public sector workers supporting union representation. At least 98 percent of bargaining units have recertified.

So now in 2024, Republican legislators are pushing another grossly unfair bill targeting both unions and public schools. Under Senate File 2374, a union could be decertified if the employer fails to provide the state with a list of eligible employees for the recertification election. The public sector union would have only five days to file a lawsuit if the employer didn’t meet the state’s deadline. If the union didn’t respond through court, it would be decertified, no matter how many employees want to maintain their representation.

Last fall, Governor Reynold’s Department of Administrative Services contracted with a business consulting firm to produce a report critical of Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs). The study was translated into a bill submitted by the governor to decimate the AEAs and weaken Iowa’s public education system.

The authors of the report are not listed. The costs are not known. The directions to the consulting firm have not been shared. The consulting firm has no apparent expertise or track record in the education world. There is no documentation in the report that a single Iowan was engaged in the preparation of the report.  In summary, the consultant’s report has obvious flaws and seems selective in the data it chooses to highlight.

If the Department of Administrative Services received a groundswell of concern about special education and AEAs, where is the documentation of those concerns? Lacking any documented concerns, why was the report requested?

The underlying question is why the governor does not support public schools. Her administration has diverted millions of dollars to private schools for the first time in state history. The new charter schools recently approved by the state will be run by out-of-state companies. She has appointed Education Department directors with expertise in funding private schools, but little background in supporting the schools where 90% of our students attend. While she has offered more dollars for teacher salaries, her current AEA proposal will make their job more difficult and with less support.

Iowa Republicans want to allow state agencies to outsource their annual audits, proposing a bill that State Auditor Rob Sand’s office is calling a political play to undermine Iowa’s sole statewide elected Democrat. Senate File 2311, which through a subcommittee and committee Wednesday a day after being introduced, would permit departments to fulfill their annual audit obligation by “employing a certified public accountant to perform the audit and submitting the results to the auditor of state.”

John McCormally, Sand’s chief of staff, outlined the auditor’s office total opposition to the bill in testimony Wednesday. The office believes that the legislation “overturns the will of the voters” by going around the auditor’s office, could lead to agencies seeking more compliant and less invasive audits, would drive up costs on taxpayers and does not protect whistleblowers. The proposal comes a year after the Legislature passed a law curbing Sand’s investigative powers and barring him from taking another statewide office to court to enforce a document subpoena.

Republican lawmakers began advancing Gov. Kim Reynolds’ plan to further reduce Iowa income tax rates, but the Senate tax-writing chair said he was exploring a range of options in the coming weeks as lawmakers decide how to approach cuts.

Reynolds, seeking to build on three prior cuts under her administration, has proposed accelerating a series of gradual reductions to bring Iowa’s rate down to a flat tax of 3.65% in 2024. Her tax package would also cut unemployment tax rates for businesses and change how child-care facilities would be taxed.

Reynolds and Republicans aiming to further cut taxes argue that Iowa’s current budget surplus warrants returning money to taxpayers. Democrats warn that cuts would overwhelmingly benefit wealthy Iowans, while giving the state less financial wiggle room if the U.S. economy takes a downturn.

The Iowa Senate has passed a bill modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, said court rulings have infringed on the free exercise of religion and the bill outlines how state courts are to decide cases in the future. Thirty-one Republicans in the state senate voted for it, while the 16 Senate Democrats opposed it.

An identical version of the bill is eligible for debate in the Republican-led Iowa House. Business groups like the Iowa Chamber Alliance, Principal Financial Group and the Technology Association of Iowa are registered against the bill.

Legislation removing Iowa’s gender balance requirement for state boards and commissions advanced through the Iowa Senate Tuesday, 2/20. If the bill becomes law, the state would no longer require that state panels include an equal number of men and women.

Since the gender balance requirement was extended to cities and counties in 2012, the percentage of Iowa municipalities with gender-balanced boards rose from 13% to 61%, and rose from 12% to 62% for counties, according to the center’s data. Boards and commissions are exempt from the requirement if they unable to find a qualified candidate to meet the gender-balance rule after a three-month search under current law.

Make your voice heard!

To Attend a Legislative Forum, click HERE

Contact your legislators and the Governor!

Go to: Find My Legislator and reach out to them or call the numbers below!

  • Iowa Senate: 515-281-3116 or 515-281-3371
  • Iowa House: 515-281-3221
  • Governor’s office: 515-281-5211

Information in this email came from various news sources including: The Des Moines Register, Iowa Capital Digest, Radio Iowa and Bleeding Heartland.