Ashley’s Angle: Week Six 2/17/17

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Trusted. Proven. Leader

Thank you so much for entrusting me to represent Iowa House District 67. I am proud to represent people from Marion, Robins, Hiawatha, and Cedar Rapids.

Earlier this week, I managed HF 133 (formerly HSB 5) on the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives. Despite some shenanigans from fellow Republicans, the bill passed 96-0, with 4 absent. I’m proud that my first bill had bipartisan support and I believe this is a great step in offering the best legal support to children in custody disputes.

Special Focus Edition — Collective Bargaining

In my newsletters I often try to bring to light some of the lesser known aspects of my time in the legislature. However, I cannot ignore the many emails I have received from both sides of the collective bargaining reform, and I want to take this opportunity to respond to all my constituents. I am working diligently to try and answer all constituents. In the meantime, I want everyone to know my thoughts on collective bargaining (aka HF 291 and formerly HSB 84).

Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code and collective bargaining has been in effect since the original law passed in the 70’s. Chapter 20 codifies the process of collective bargaining, outlining how public employers and public sector unions can come to an agreement and create a contract.

This bill proposed adjustments to make Chapter 20 more equitable for both sides negotiating.  I believe in local management and the need to allow them to manage as their local area requires, offering good wages, benefits, and a competitive package. It must be within their means, and employees must also be respected in the process.

The current system hinders local management and forces them to work within a one-size fits all structure. As we all know, one-sized fits all systems never fit all. HF 291 allows local leadership the flexibility to better manage and allocate resources within their jurisdictions. These individuals are most responsible to and most attuned to the the needs of their communities. Unions will still be able to represent and bargain for employees. That privilege is still intact in the reformed Chapter 20.

The Senate and House Labor Chairs and the Governor went through that process and started developing a bill to update this law in late November. They did so with input from local officials and employees. This bill went through the same process every bill goes through. Drafting, Subcommittee, Committee, Debate, and passage. This bill also had a public hearing.

I want to make some things clear of what the bill does not do. There has been a lot of talk and a lot of misinformation and I hope to set some of that straight.

  • The bill does not affect private sector unions.
  • Again, The bill does not repeal the ability to collectively bargain for government employees. It will affect what they can bargain for, but does not eliminate that privilege.
  • The bill does not affect public employee pensions. Public pensions have never been part of collective bargaining in Iowa and it will remain so.
  • The bill does not take away health insurance.  The bill explicitly states that the state is required to provide a health insurance plan to employees, just as private employers do.
  • The bill does not mandate that local entities or employees must join a statewide health insurance pool. It will be opt in when the time comes, or the employer can choose to offer their own plans.
  • The bill does not allow for the dismissal of employees for “no reason”. An amendment to the bill left the “proper cause” protection intact.

This list applies to non-public safety positions.
Mandatory Subject of Collective Bargaining

  • Wages
  • Other Matters Mutually Agreed Upon, which can include these permissive items:
    • Hours,
    • Vacation
    • Holidays
    • Leave of Absence
    • Shift Differentials
    • Overtime Compensation
    • Seniority
    • Job Classifications
    • Health & Safety Matters
    • Procedure for Staff Reduction
    • In-service Training

Prohibited from being subjects of Collective Bargaining

  • Retirement – as is current law- IPERS was never a topic of negotiation
  • Insurance (Districts are required to offer full time employees health benefits)
  • Supplemental Pay
  • Transfer Procedures
  • Evaluation Procedures
  • Dues Check-offs
  • Leaves of Absences for political activity

NOTE: If an item is prohibited from bargaining during the formal process, it does not prevent employees from discussing those items with their supervisors individually. It has been claimed that I, and others, must never have spoken with any union or public employees during this process. I can categorically say that this claim is unfounded. I have personally met and spoke with all manner of public sector employees. From DNR workers, school district supervisors/teachers, police/firefighters, and members of the local union who came to the Capitol. We may not agree on everything, but we have had good productive conversations.

This bill is not an attack on public sector employees nor is it sponsored by out of state interests.  It in fact allows for local managers to provide incentives to reward exceptional employees. They can also use the new tools to attract new employees, and retain exceptional workers.

As always, I encourage everyone to fully read the bill for themselves. Ignore the political statements from both sides, read the bill, and come to a conclusion for yourself. I have talked with many people this week (even those from outside of my district) to explain these changes in real logical terms. I will gladly continue those conversations in a respectful manner.

Capitol Visitors
Suprintendent Qunitin Shepherd, School Board President Tim Isenberg and School Board Member George Abouassaly from Linn-Mar High School visited to discuss banning texting while driving. A classmate was killed recently by a texting-driver in Linn County, and they want to see the law changed.
A group of nursing students from Mount Mercy University visited the Capitol this week. We discussed ways that we can help assist individuals entering the field of nursing and offer help as they receive more training and higher degrees.
A group of delegates from Kosovo visited with members of the International Relations committee. We hope that the state of Iowa and the country of Kosovo can continue to build a mutually beneficial relationship as we move into the future.  Happy 9th Birthday today to this nation!
Met with this group from the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa. It was Insurance Day on the Hill!
Bill of the Week
Although not officially a filed bill yet, on Thursday I submitted language that would assist local firefighters and ambulance services. Within the current laws, EMS services receive some reimbursement from Medicaid for transporting and treating Medicaid patients. Still, the EMS service providers do not receive full reimbursement and a funding gap is left. I’m working across the aisle to help make sure this bill is effective in helping our local departments.

The good news is that there are federal funds available in the Ground Emergency Medical Transportation Services (GEMT) supplemental reimbursement program. The bad news, local departments cannot even apply for those funds without legislative approval. I want to remove that unnecessary approval and allow local departments to seek they funding they need and deserve for providing such an essential service to out cities, counties, and our state.

Legislation of a similar nature has passed in both California, Oregon, and Washington.