It was another long day of debate Wednesday in the Iowa House and Senate, where Democrats are trying to stop a bill they say will decimate Iowa’s collective bargaining law that benefits 180,000 public employees.
Democrats have stretched the debate across two days, though passage is almost guaranteed.
Calls continue to come in to House and Senate switchboards overwhelmingly against the bill that impedes the ability of public unions to organize and takes away rights to bargain on a wide range of benefits and workplace issues, including health insurance.
Rep. Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) opened Wednesday’s debate after a late night Tuesday night.
“I left the capitol last night asking why are we doing this,” Steckman said. “I woke up this morning and said why are we doing this? So I’m hoping as I ask the question why that some of you new legislators are asking that same question. Why are you voting for this?”
Democrats cited examples of Republican elected officials who in the past have praised Iowa’s collective bargaining law but are now backing legislation to eliminate most of its worker protections.
But Rep. Dawn Pettengill (R-Mount Auburn) read a series of e-mails from constituents who support the bill.
“Don’t let the unions intimidate you with their unhinged demonstrations,” Pettengill read. “Stand your ground. It’s time to revert the progressive agenda in our state."
Another GOP lawmaker read favorable e-mails from school board members and city council members.
Backers say local governments need more authority to keep employee costs under control and get rid of bad employees.
In another exchange, Rep. Bob Kressig (D-Cedar Falls) asked Rep. Steven Holt (R-Denison) if workers are getting anything from the bill.
“I’m sure you’ve gotten the emails I’ve gotten that basically are sharing is what you’re trying to do is destroy Chapter 20 collective bargaining,” Kressig said.
“I’ve also talked to the President of Iowa Wesleyan Community College that these innovations will help him improve education,” Holt responded. “So I’m hearing a lot from both sides.”
“A lot?” Kressig asked.
“Yes, sir,” Holt said.
Other exchanges between lawmakers grew angry at times.
Debate was delayed briefly in the House while technicians repaired the streaming video service that is enabling any Iowan with an internet connection to follow the debate.
According to Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), when switchboards closed at 4 p.m., operators had received 2027 calls this week opposed to the bill and 26 calls in favor.