Lots going on in the state legislature this week, so here are some quick hits:
The ban on smoking in public places has gone to a conference committee after the House approved a version that would fail to protect many bar and restaurant employees. The version passed by the Senate bans smoking in all bars and restaurants, along with most other public places. Senator Staci Appel chairs the conference committee.
On a party-line vote of 52-47, the House approved a measure backed by unions that
greatly expands the issues that unions can negotiate. Under the proposal, unions could negotiate such issues as insurance carriers, class sizes and overtime compensation.
Advocates say the proposal would better protect public employees. Opponents said it would strip power away from locally elected officials, placing more decision-making power in the hands of unions.
Republicans say that bill would lead to tax increases, and brought Senate business to a halt on Thursday in an effort to block debate on the proposal.
Watch for some fireworks in the Senate over this issue, starting next Monday:
But about 24 hours after Republican senators first holed up in a back room Thursday morning, refusing to debate the labor-backed bill, lawmakers agreed to end the stand-off today.
Democrats agreed to wait until Monday to debate the controversial bill, and Republicans agreed to limit debate to no longer than six hours.
The stalemate idled and irritated Democratic lawmakers, who were eager to go home to their families for the Easter holidays. At least two Democratic lawmakers stayed awake at their desks the entire night, while most left to get some sleep.
This morning, the Republican leader, Ron Wieck of Sioux City, offered what his staff called “an olive branch.”
“We will allow the bill to be read in, have a subcommittee and full committee hearing in an effort to move it to the Senate floor,” Wieck said in a statement. “This would then make the bill funnel proof and eligible for debate for the rest of the session.”
“Senate Republicans, however, refuse to allow a radical expansion of union power, at the expense of the taxpayer, move forward without more public comment,” the e-mailed statement says.
Meanwhile, attorneys are warning that the proposed worker-ID law which has not been approved yet “likely will face multiple constitutional challenges.”
The Interfaith Alliance Action Fund issued a statement last month detailing many problems with the worker-ID proposal.