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Branstad signs historic collective bargaining changes

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DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad on Friday signed into law sweeping changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law.

Unions representing public employees vow to fight in court.

Branstad signed House File 291 into law less than a day after majority Republicans in the House and Senate used extraordinary measures to end a protracted floor debate and pass the bill.

It passed the House 53-47 with six Republicans joining 41 Democrats who opposed the measure before clearing the Iowa Senate, 29-21, with 20 Democrats and one independent voting no.

“I’m very pleased to sign this bill into law,” said Branstad, a six-time GOP governor who voted as a legislator against a collective bargaining law that has been in place since 1974.

“These necessary reforms to our antiquated 43-year-old public employee collective bargaining law bring fairness for Iowa taxpayers and flexibility to public employees,” Branstad said in a statement. “This bill also gives local governments, schools and state government greater freedom in managing their resources with the opportunity to reward good public employees.”

Over objections, legislative Republicans ended debate spanning more than three days Thursday to expedite final votes on a 68-page measure. It scales back the rights public-sector workers had to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions.

The new law limited most public-sector union contract negotiations to base wages, eliminating such issues as health insurance and supplemental pay as mandatory items for bargaining. The law it replaces allowed about 184,000 public-sector workers for the state, counties, cities and school districts to bargain for wage, benefits, and other workplace issues with impasses resolved by binding arbitration.

Overall, the bill covers employment matters involving public employees including collective bargaining, educator employment matters, personnel records and settlement agreements, city Civil Service requirements and health insurance.

Lt. Gov. Reynolds also applauded the changes, saying: “I’m excited about the long overdue reforms that have been put in place today. My experience as county treasurer for 13 years gave me a firsthand look at how out of balance the system had become.

The leader of the state’s largest public employees union said his organization will file a lawsuit challenging the legislation.

“This battle is not over. This war is not over,” AFSCME Local 61 President Danny Homan said. “It’s extremely unconstitutional.”

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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