Laws made 'in the dark' are seldom good news
It is 7 p.m. on Wednesday evening, I am at my desk on the House floor, and I anticipate being here for several more hours this evening. This is all due to an eleventh-hour amendment to what was intended to be a non-controversial clean-up bill of Chapter 20, Iowa's public employee collective bargaining chapter. At 4 p.m. yesterday, at the last possible moment, a 14 page amendment was filed that, in essence, puts everything into the realm of collective bargaining. With this amendment, the ability of our school boards, city councils, county supervisors, hospital boards and other public bodies to negotiate with public employee unions will be severely hampered, and the power of the budget will be given over to adjudicators under binding arbitration.
Chapter 20, the rules under which Iowa public employee unions must operate, was first passed in 1974 after twelve days of debate by the Iowa Legislature. It has been relatively untouched in the 34 years since and for good reason. This is a very complicated piece of law and has the potential for a huge impact on the finances of all of our government entities. It should not be taken lightly, nor should it be rushed through in the dark of the night. That is the attempt that is being made here this evening.
In an elegant parliamentary maneuver, the amendment was held in secrecy until it was submitted at the last possible second. It was never discussed in sub-committee nor committee, and it was never talked about in the Labor Committee. The timing was also elegant in that a large portion of the public schools in Iowa are on spring break; therefore, the superintendents, business managers, and school board members were, in large part, unaware of this eleventh-hour attempt to undercut their ability to control costs in their schools. The third part of the maneuver included pushing this through the House today (Wednesday). The Senate is prepared to debate the bill tomorrow and have it on the Governor's desk and signed by Friday. A law that took twelve days to debate and pass in 1974 is in the process of being drastically altered, rammed through the Legislature and signed by the Governor in 48 hours, and all at a time when the largest stakeholders in these changes are largely unaware of the proceedings or are on spring vacation.
Laws made in the dark of night seldom accomplish good public policy. Laws rammed through the process in an attempt to circumvent full public input and involvement are seldom good public policy. Laws that are passed through the use of an elegant sleight of parliamentary procedure can seldom stand the light of day. What we do here tonight, whether this bill passes or fails, is a disservice to the people ofIowa. Winning at any cost cheapens all who are involved in the process. Tonight I am not proud of the action of the Iowa Legislature, not because I will probably be on the losing side, but because the majority of this body has put winning at any cost ahead of the good of the people of the State of Iowa.
* Contact me at (515)281-3221 in Des Moines, or (712)732-6340 at home, or email me at Gary.Worthan@legis.state.ia.us.