2014 Iowa legislative session report back

People First Priorities vs. Corporate Favors

A Clear Choice

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Our action is changing the way politics is done by putting people at the center of decision making, not partisan politics or corporate profits. We went on the offense, pushed for the Iowa we want to see, and set the stage for the 2014 elections during the 2014 legislative session. Click on the links below to see what we got done in each area!

Family Farms & the Environment    

Worker Justice & Financial Security     

Protecting the Vote

 

Family Farms & the Environment

STOPPED: “Dumbing Down” Manure Applicator Education; House File 2367: a bill to reduce the amount of training that manure applicators are required to take. Current law requires three hours of training every year. As the Des Moines Register points out, hairdressers need 500 hours of training, but the people in charge of handling thousands of gallons of toxic, highly concentrated manure only need three hours. What’s more, last year the legislature passed a bill allowing this training to be done online rather than in person, potentially reducing the quality of the training.

HF 2367 is the perfect example of the industry strategy of “death by a thousand cuts”: chipping away at every piece of public oversight, no matter how small. For the factory farm industry, every law protecting the public is a “burdensome regulation” that threatens to put them out of business. In this case, the sponsor of the bill was Rep. Jarad Klein, from Washington County. Klein is a factory farmer who owns 10,000 hogs in confinement, and has proven over the last few sessions to be a reliable mouthpiece for the Pork Producers and the Farm Bureau.

Klein tried to position his bill as uncontroversial, just streamlining the training process, but thanks to the hard work of CCI Action citizen lobbyists, we were able to reveal the bill as the bad deregulation attempt that it actually was. We convinced 31 representatives to vote against the bill on the floor of the House, including one Republican, before we stopped the bill from coming up at the committee level in the Senate.

EXPOSED: “Sneaking” pro-factory farm policy changes into the state budget: Your citizen lobbyists stayed vigilant to the factory farm smallend, when CCI Action members uncovered an attempt to sneak policy changes into the Agriculture and Natural Resources budget that a few legislators and corporate lobbyists couldn’t win through the normal legislative process. The Ag and Natural Resources budget, which funds the DNR and the Department of Ag, included language that would make the information gathered by last year’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) secret. The Reduction Strategy was passed last year as an attempt to clean up Iowa’s waters. Unfortunately, it relies completely on “voluntary compliance” which lets farmers choose whether or not to participate.

As weak as the Reduction Strategy is, the amendment in the ag budget would have weakened it even further. The one good part of the NRS was that it would collect data about how bad Iowa’s waters are, and what’s causing the problem – but the language in the budget would keep that data secret. CCI Action members brought this major policy change to light, alerting allies, the media and of course members like you. We lobbied hard against it as the budget was debated in the House (where it passed 71-27) and in the Senate, where we won an amendment to the bill which took out the bad language, ensuring the public will have access to the NRS data.

STOPPED: The factory farm attack. We know that it takes more than one day to win change at the legislature. That’s why we put together an ace team of CCI Action members, our “Clean Water citizen lobbyists,” who committed to coming up to the capitol every week to lobby legislators, attend committee meetings, and fight for clean water. Corporate lobbyists are talking to legislators every day – with their hard work, the citizen lobby team counterbalanced that corporate message. In total, the Clean Water citizen lobbyists talked to 126 of the 150 legislators about protecting Iowa’s water and our ongoing campaign to enforce the Clean Water Act on factory farms in Iowa – more than we ever have before.

Other bad bills that our citizen lobby team pushed back against included an attempt to limit all state rules (including those that provide oversight on factory farms and clean water) to be no stronger than federal law, a proposal for a nutrient cap-and-trade system (instead of simply outlawing pollution), and a bill to establish an “urban-ag academy.” This last bill would have used our taxpayer dollars to give corporate ag talking points to legislators via a Farm Bureau-backed and Regents-run “academy” to “educate” legislators. All of these bills died in committee, thanks in part to our opposition.

 

Worker Justice & Financial Security

 

BUILDING PUBLIC SUPPORT & MOMENTUM: Raise the Wage; Senate File 2260: “We can’t survive on $7.25!” CCI Action
members were heard chanting this line around the Capitol all session as they pushed for an increase to the minimum wage.

Senate File 2260 would have incrementally increased the minimum wage over the next two years from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by January 1, 2016. This bill mirrored S. 460 the Federal Fair Minimum Wage Act. (In fact, Senator Harkin, the original sponsor of S. 460, shared the story of CCI Action member Nereida Castro during a Senate floor speech in January).

Web Worker Justice

Members worked to elevate the issue at the statehouse by sharing stories with legislators and the media. Nereida Castro, Amalia Hernandez and Nataly Espinoza shared their stories about minimum wage work with TV stations, radio and newspaper reporters and other major outlets. Our stories showed legislators what we knew was true: a majority of Iowans support an increase in the minimum wage. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats, under the leadership of Senator Mike Gronstal, did not take this up for a vote.

ADVANCED DESPITE THE ODDS: Stopping wage theft in Iowa; Senate File 2295: After working the past few years with workers to recoup stolen wages, and providing studies that show Iowans lose over $600 million a year in stolen wages, this year we got action. This bill would have established penalties for employers who fail to pay their workers and would have required employers to notify workers in writing about how the worker can expect to be paid (i.e. mileage, hours).

Senate File 2295 was introduced and championed by Senator Bill Dotzler and passed the Senate floor in a 26-23 vote along party lines. A similar bill—House File 38—was introduced in the House by Rep. Bruce Hunter, but did not advance after the first funnel. Despite wide support for legislation to crack down on wage theft, the bill was held up in the House by Chair of the Labor Committee, Rep. Greg Forristall, who year after year fails to bring the bill up in committee.

CCI Action members were at the forefront of this battle, sharing testimonies at committee meetings, talking to key legislators, raising awareness about the issue in the media and more. In fact, CCI Action members Ismael Ochoa, Nereida Castro and Bernabe Delgado were recognized and received a standing ovation both at House and Senate sessions for standing up for workers’ rights at the Statehouse. During a Senate Labor Committee meeting, Ismael who has experienced wage theft himself had this to share with the committee:

“If I go to a store and steal something I would be taken to jail right away. But when my employer doesn’t pay me there are no consequences. Wage theft is theft. We need legislation to stop it.”

This is the first time in years that Iowans have seen this kind of movement on anti-wage theft legislation. People from all walks of life are learning that wage theft is a growing problem. It’s not solely about workers receiving their fair pay; it is about justice and about putting people before corporate interest. Members will continue to fight wage theft and pursue change at the local level.

MAKING LEGISLATION HAPPEN: Fair access to earned wages; Senate File 2350: Some employers, especially larger corporations, are now paying their employees with payroll debit cards. These debit cards come with fees requiring workers to pay to access their wages. This is affecting low-wage workers who depend on every cent they earn to support their families.

CCI Action member and staff Vanessa Marcano helped expose the problem by sharing her personal experience on the issue. She uncovered that payments delivered on a debit card come with a long list of fees including $1.50 for more than one ATM withdrawal per pay period. The exposure of this issue led to several Op-Eds across the state, a Des Moines Register investigation and towards the end of the session, legislation was introduced specifically to tackle the problem.

Senate File 2350 would have required an employee to consent to being paid by payroll debit card, required an employer to inform workers in writing of any fees that may arise from use of cards, allowed an employee to withdraw all wages they are owed at least once per pay period without being charged a fee to access their money, among other provisions. The Senate unanimously voted 50-0 to advance this bill, however it suffered the same fate as many bills that would benefit workers, as Rep. Greg Forristall refused to bring it up in his Labor Committee.

BUILDING BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT: Ending the debt trap caused by payday loans; House File 382: After recent years of inaction by Senate Democratic leader Mike Gronstal, CCI Action members had a bill introduced in the House this year that would have mandated the opportunity to pay off a payday loan over the borrower’s next four pay periods.  This bill would have gone a long way in breaking the cycle of debt incurred by payday loan borrowing since current law requires that loans be paid in full on the borrower’s next payday with no exceptions.

The bill passed unanimously out of a House Commerce subcommittee of two Republicans and one Democrat.  Despite widespread bipartisan support in the full Commerce committee, including the chair Rep. Peter Cownie, the bill did not come up for a vote – most likely due to the meddling opposition of House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, and continued big money lobbying efforts by the payday loan industry.

 

Protecting the Vote

 

VIGILANCE PAYS OFF: Protecting the vote for all Iowans: Last session we were on the defense fighting against a bad Voter ID votingbill and a voter purge rule that would have intimidated immigrant members of our communities. This session we turned the tables and moved forward on legislation that would make voting more accessible and inclusive of people in Iowa.

Legislation to restore felons’ voting rights automatically after they have completed their sentences (Senate File 127) made it out of the Senate State Government committee for the first time in years, but the full Senate did not vote on the bill.  Another important piece of legislation that makes voting more accessible was a bill for online voter registration (Senate File 2278). This bill unanimously moved out of the Senate, but did not come up for a vote in the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

 

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If you have questions about any of these issues, legislative actions, or our full legislative agenda please don’t hesitate to contact the Iowa CCI Action Fund headquarters at 515-282-0484. Being informed and holding elected officials accountable to our vision and our values is what CCI Action is all about.