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Bargaining bill represents low point for this lawmaker

For the past few years, serving in the Legislature, I have done my best to work for common sense solutions.I try to avoid partisan politics and support legislation that makes Iowa (and particularly North Central Iowa) a better place to live, work and raise a family.I am proud of the fact that occasionally I am one of two or three Democrats to vote for Republican bills that I feel are in the state’s interest. I am also proud of the fact that despite being in the minority, I have also always been able to convince my Republican colleagues to advance some of my ideas despite having my Democratic name on the bill.The working relationship I have found with Republican and Democratic colleagues has served my constituents and the state well.Being able to work together has usually given me hope that we can work together in the State House to accomplish good things for Iowans. I view working together with others in the legislature as my job. I still believe that it is.This year something has changed dramatically and for the worse. To be frank, the first month of session was unusually quiet and slow from a lack of filed bills or even discussion with colleagues. There just wasn’t anything to talk about. Nothing was happening. Little did I know, it was the calm before the storm.Last Monday, things got weird. The State Patrol moved in to the Capitol and squad cars were posted in the parking lot. I counted eight troopers at the Capitol, usually we have one or two, if any. When I asked the trooper why such a state patrol presence he said we are expecting protests.That is when I discovered that the Republicans were going to file a bill to gut collective bargaining for public employees, something that can accurately be described as “a union busting bill.”As expected, hundreds of prison guards, firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees turned up to demonstrate and speak out against the proposed collective bargaining bill. They were orderly and didn’t warrant any response from the extra security posted to the building.In a way that was ironic, state troopers patrolling public safety workers to make sure they didn’t cause a disturbance.As an advocate for workers, I do not support the changes Governor Branstad and the Republicans are proposing. It hurts public employees which hurts all workers in the state.Further, the current system they seek to change has served Iowa well for 42 years. We have no strikes and management and workers have a predictable dispute resolution system that has brought stability to Iowa taxpayers and its employees. I guess the best argument for the current system is, what is wrong with making sure that someone who works hard earns a decent living?After four years, this has been the lowest week of my service in the Iowa House.No Democrat was consulted about the legislation we are dealing with. All the bill drafting was done by one side. No input from workers or their families as to how losing health care benefits will affect them.As a child, I was taught to thank people who did something nice for me.Teachers, city, county and state workers do lots of nice things for me and the rest of the state, we should say thank you.Let’s hope this new state of affairs doesn’t signal a new era of nasty partisan politics in our great state.

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