Minimum Wage Bill Goes to the Governor; Bill Rescinds Higher Wages in Four Iowa Counties

Mar 27, 2017

A bill to bring the minimum wage down in counties that have raised it won final legislative approval in the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate last night.  

It will now be up to Governor Branstad to sign the bill rescinding the higher wages in effect in Polk, Linn, Johnson, and Wapello Counties, where the wage is now higher than the statewide minimum of $7.25 an hour.      

What do we have against poor people? -Sen. Janet Peterson

Republicans complained the current trend creates a hodge-podge of varying wages.   

“This bill creates certainty, predictability, and consistency,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull).   

Feenstra says the bill doesn’t mean employers in those counties will automatically cut workers’ wages if the bill becomes law

“We don't say an employer has to stay at a minimum wage level,” Feenstra said.   “They can do as they see fit to hire people.”

But Democrats argued passionately for a higher wage for Iowa’s working poor.  

“Can we not give an Iowan working hard for $7.25 a little bit of a raise?”  asked Sen. Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines).  “What do we have against poor people in this state working hard and trying to make it?”

Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City)
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

“You people are out of touch,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) to his Republican colleagues.

Democrats argued the decisions of county elected officials should take precedence.

“This is disrespectful of their leadership,” Bolkcom said.

The bill was approved on a party-line vote of 29 to 21.

Also along party lines, the Senate turned down an amendment that would have grandfathered in the counties that have already approved a higher minimum wage.

A higher minimum wage is also under consideration in Lee County.

The bill also limits local governments’ ability to restrict sales of packaging materials by local retailers.

That portion of the bill would stop a proposed ordinance in Dubuque that would prevent retailers from supplying plastic bags for consumer purchases.