The Statehouse Survivors: Funnel One Report

The first legislative funnel has passed at the Iowa Statehouse, and legislators’ work has narrowed – funneling out bills that have not yet passed out of a committee. All bills which did not pass out of a committee by that day are no longer eligible for debate this session – it’s a way to “funnel down” which bills have enough support to actually go anywhere.

While legislative leaders expected the status quo, we went on the offense pushing a number of our people and planet first policies. Some survived, and some did not.

Ultimately, our work moving forward is clear. There are a number of bills that need to be better, and some that need to be stopped.

 

Putting Workers First!living_wage

  • Stopping Wage Theft – This session there were companion bills in the Senate and the House (Senate File 39 & House File 73). Both bills required transparency between employers and employees regarding wages and proposed stricter penalties for employers that commit wage theft. This bill went nowhere in the House, but Senate File 39 made it out of committee and passed the Senate floor on a party line vote of 26-23. SF 39 now goes to the House Labor Committee for discussion, where we will put pressure on House Labor Chair Greg Forristall to move this bill.CCI Action members were in full force during the Senate bill’s subcommittee meeting with three testimonies from members who had experienced wage theft at their jobs.
  • Raise the Minimum Wage – This session multiple bills to raise the minimum wage were introduced. House File 71 proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10/hr with cost of living adjustments to account for inflation (like federal efforts), but the bill was not assigned to a subcommittee and is now dead. An alternate bill, Senate File 269, was introduced by Senate Democrats to raise the minimum wage to $8.75/hr with no cost of living adjustment. The bill passed the full Senate on a vote of 27-22. All 26 Senate Democrats voted in favor of the bill, as well as one Republican, Sen. Rick Bertrand of Sioux City.While a raise to $8.75 would incrementally help some, what Iowa needs is a minimum wage of at least $10.10 with indexing and goal to reach $15/hr. Moving forward we are going to encourage Representatives in the House to amend the $8.75 bill to $10.10 with indexing.
  • Fair Payroll Debit Cards – More and more workers now receive a payroll debit card instead of a paper paycheck. This year a stronger payroll debit card bill Senate Study Bill 1004, was proposed in the Senate by the Attorney General’s Office to protect workers from having their wages nickeled and dimed. The bill sought tighter restrictions concerning usage fees, name identification details on the card, and to implement a transparent and easily accessible explanation of how the cards work including giving employees the option to how they’d like to be paid.CCI Action members shared their payroll debit card experiences at several subcommittee discussions and challenged the Iowa Bankers Association on several key points. After several discussions and amendments, though, a weaker bill was passed out of committee. It now moves to the Senate floor where we plan to push for stronger amendments.

 

Putting Borrowers First!

  • Cracking down on payday loans – As initially drafted, House Study Bill 138 was common-sense, bipartisan reform to the payday loan industry. It created a realistic expectation of a borrower’s ability to repay their loan by allowing a borrower to pay off their loan in installments – or all at once – over a 90 day period (vs. by their next paycheck). Sadly, in order to survive the March 6 funnel, the bill was radically amended (with much help from the payday loan industry) in order to pass out of committee. 19 of 23 legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, voted to keep this bill alive. Issues regarding disclosure and the availability of extended payback plans now remain to be debated on the House floor.

 

Putting People & Planet First!clean_water

Despite Iowa’s water crisis being front page – and even national – news, most members of the legislature failed to act on any meaningful regulation to hold polluters accountable and clean up Iowa’s waterways.

  • Strengthening manure on snow ban – We set out to strengthen Iowa’s manure on snow ban, as it stands it goes into effect too late in the season and has too many loop holes. Introduced by Dan Kelley and Joe Bolcom, Senate File 256/Senate Study Bill 1191/House File 489 was the best ‘clean water’ bill this session. It aimed to strengthen manure application laws and ban spreading manure when it isn’t safe. The bill banned spreading manure on frozen/snow-covered ground, on water-saturated ground, when it is forecasted to rain and on land with a 20% slope or more. This bill failed to pass out of committee in both the House and Senate. 
  • Eliminating pollution control tax exemption – Factory farms get a “pollution control” tax exemption for having a manure pit under their building. We know “that ain’t right” and it’s just one more way that taxpayers and everyday Iowans subsidize the factory farm industry. This bill – Senate Study Bill 1266 and House File 483 – would get rid of this factory farm tax loophole, and is alive in both House and Senate.
  • Making Pipelines pay – Senate File 129 would require that corporations wanting to build pipelines for hazardous liquids (like Bakken crude oil) provide $250,000 of assurance per mile of pipeline to the Iowa Utilities Board prior to a permit being issued for a hazardous liquid pipeline. The bill did not pass out of sub-committee.
  • On March 5 however, 15 State Representatives, led by Chuck Isenhart, submitted a bipartisan comment to the Iowa Utilities Board outlining their concerns about the Bakken Pipeline, calling for a rejection of the permit for the project, and demanding an independent environmental impact statement funded by Energy Transfer Partners.

A number of good “people and planet” bills to increase funding for local foods, require labeling of GMO foods, and crack down on pesticide drift did not pass out of a committee and are no longer up for debate this legislative session.

But, three bad deregulation bills pushed by the Farm Bureau the corporate ag and the factory farm industry, introduced and rushed through committee on the final day, are still alive in the House.

  • Making DNR Factory Farm Inspections harder – As a result of the Clean Water Act work plan (that you forced EPA & DNR to adopt), the Dept. of Natural Resources is mandated to inspect factory farms and issue permits when necessary. Industry doesn’t want inspections and pushes for less oversight.
  • Two bills – House File 578 and House File 586 – go after the Dept. of Natural Resources ability to do their job, allowing a factory farmer to kick DNR inspectors off their property for frivolous reasons or force DNR to look up site specific protocols. There are also provisions that would take factory farm records out of county courthouses, saying county supervisors don’t have to accept or store manure management plans like they do now, forcing citizens to travel to one of six DNR site offices around the state. These bills passed out of committee and go to the House floor for a vote.

  • Deregulating commercial manure applicators: We stopped this last year; it’s been reintroduced. We know that too much manure is ending up in our water ways, yet House File 508 aims to shorten manure applicator training from 3 hours/year to 2 hours/year.  This bill passed out of committee and goes to the House floor for a vote.

 

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