Thursday, March 10, 2011

Union Bill

Day Two: Perhaps, Iowa house lawmakers and their staff members aren't quite as bleary-eyed as some feared, but the coffee is still flowing fast. The house started debating the union bill at 2pm Wednesday. The new rules in the house would prohibit most voting after midnight, unless leaders decide to suspend the rules. So there didn't seem much point to try to discuss amendments past that time period. And lawmakers didn't. They adjourned last night at 10:37 and then re-started at 7:05am. Most other house business has been delayed today as the house continues to debate the union bill. We'll see how long it goes. Today? Tomorrow? Saturday?

What's the point of all of this? Democrats admitted privately to me they are not going to win this. Republicans have a 20-seat advantage in the house. Democrats know they can't overcome that deficit. But they can reinforce their commitment to unions and their supporters. Unions are such a devoted voting block and financial supporters of the Democratic party. Maybe they can also keep stalling the clock and convince Republicans to drop some provision in the bill? Democrats know cranking out amendments and talking and talking and talking are about their only weapons in this fight. There's not a person at the statehouse who believes Democratic Senate Leader Mike Gronstal wants to do anything to weaken labor. So the same question can be asked to house Republicans: why are they trying to push this through when it isn't likely to go anywhere whenever it gets through the house? Republicans can show to their business-friends they're working to weaken unions. They can say they are trying to help taxpayers save money by forcing state workers to pay health care premiums, like people in the private sector do. And this gives them one more piece of fundraising material they can use as they target Gronstal in next year's election as they try to take back the senate.

Ah, politics.

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