Friday, February 20, 2009

Prevailing Wage Debate Friday

Today is Friday. And apparently the Iowa legislature will work today. Friday. The controversial prevailing wage bill was supposed to get debated Thursday. But leaders say since it took so long to draft and ready amendments for the bill, they had to quit for the night without debate last night around 10:30. Even if you are the most casual follower of the Iowa statehouse, you know the legislature doesn't work at the statehouse on Fridays. Almost never, actually. Perhaps, one or two Fridays per session? And usually it occurs at the end of the legislative session as lawmakers try to finish up the budget or whatever issue needs final work.

Legislators are only about a third of the way through this legislative session. So why are Democrats pushing so hard to get this prevailing wage debate finished this week? Why can't it just wait until Monday afternoon, when lawmakers usually go back into session for the week? What's the rush? Republicans have maintained this whole debate is just a "thank you" for unions for helped Democrats win big in last November's election. Republicans say this thank you will cost you, the taxpayer, millions by jacking up construction costs of public projects. Democrats say this is a fairness issue. They say it will stop project builders from screwing over workers by classifying them as "independent contractors", which gets them out of paying benefits, decent wages, etc.

Critics would contend the Democrats may think they have the votes to get prevailing wage passed in the house today, so they're trying to get this thing passed a.s.a.p. That way they don't risk losing support when members go back home this weekend and get hounded by constituents' phone calls and complaints at the grocery store. Last I heard, Democrats were thinking they had 51 votes in the house. So a swing of one or two lawmakers would doom the vote. That's why critics say the Democrats don't want to wait until Monday for a vote.

If this prevailing wage bill really would make life better for Iowans (that is why lawmakers work for the taxpayers, right?) as Democrats contend, then don't Democrats owe it to Iowans to explain why this bill warrants the work today? Friday.

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