Representative Bobby Kaufmann lives in a glass House

A GOP lawmaker’s outrage rings hollow when we’ve repeatedly seen Iowa Republicans push policies they never campaigned on. -promoted by Laura Belin

On the Iowa House State Government Committee’s agenda for January 22, a presentation by Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) CEO Donna Mueller and a special announcement by the committee’s Republican chair Bobby Kaufmann was scheduled for 11:00 am.

Kaufmann had stated at a forum in December, “There will be zero IPERS bills, period. End of story. End of discussion. No tweaks, no changes.” James Q. Lynch from the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that Kaufmann also plainly stated in his newsletter, “I said it before the election and I will say it again: There will unequivocally not be changes to IPERS.”

After workers’ rights were attacked from multiple points last session, it would be illogical to think that dismantling or diminishing IPERS wasn’t up for consideration with the Republicans still holding all three levers of power at the capitol. Especially since a top GOP state senator brought in a libertarian think tank two years ago to “study” Iowa’s public pension funds.

Public employees suffered one of the worst blows of the last two years when Republicans gutted Chapter 20, a grand bargain signed into law by Governor Robert Ray in 1974. For more than four decades, the collective bargaining law gave equal protections for unionized public workers and their employers. The GOP stripped out almost all protections for public union members.

It’s a union organizer’s job to protect workers, and Kaufmann should understand this. It was valid to inform the public that this could happen. If the last two years taught us anything, it’s that whatever agenda is relayed to the public during a campaign is not etched in stone.

We didn’t hear any campaigning about under-funding schools, busting the public unions, disabling the workers’ compensation law, or lowering the minimum wage, among a host of other issues. When the agenda is hidden, and is destructive when enacted, public trust erodes.

Organizations that work to raise up all Iowans and protect their hard-won benefits are going to speak out. And if legislation is unjust, it would be a breach of their mission not to.

Once again, Kaufmann should understand this. His idea seems to be to pretend the last session’s attacks on public unions never happened.

From Radio Iowa’s coverage of today’s special announcement:

“All these groups that are pushing out this crap, after today what you are doing will be completely deceitful, so I want to make it crystal clear,” Kaufmann said. “Republicans never had intentions of taking away or substantively changing your IPERS and going forward over the next two years unequivocally there will be none.” […]

“It is absolute that after today, any group that sends out the email scaring our constituents, I’m going to publicly call you a liar,” Kaufmann said.

There is a big difference between lying and a healthy concern for the public’s well-being. After last year’s attacks on labor in our state, concern can hardly be conflated with lies.

As President George W. Bush, once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice; I won’t get fooled again.”

UPDATE by Laura Belin: Democratic State Senator Claire Celsi devoted her first point of personal privilege to rebutting Kaufmann’s claims. Video and transcript provided by the Iowa Senate Democrats:

Yesterday in the Iowa House, Republican efforts to undermine IPERS came up again.

In the House, GOP Representative Bobby Kaufmann attacked Iowa groups representing Iowans counting on IPERS:
He said:

“Republicans never had intentions of taking away or substantively changing your IPERS and going forward over the next two years unequivocally there will be none.”

Here we go again. There is plenty of proof that this is not true.

Former Governor Branstad talked several times about turning IPERS into a more risky, privatized plan.

Our current Governor, Governor Reynolds, has repeatedly talked about the need to consider changes to IPERS, most recently in June of last year on Iowa Press.

Senator Zaun, a current member of the Senate, introduced legislation last session to fundamentally change IPERS.

And the Senate’s current president, Senator Schneider, invited an extreme California group, a group dedicated to shutting down retirement programs like IPERS, to speak before a legislative committee in 2017.

Here’s my point. Representative Kaufman should stop using his position of trust to make untruthful statements about IPERS, an issue Iowans are right to be concerned about.

Thank you Mr. President.

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  • I understand why the outrage deserved eyerolls

    However, it is good to have it so publicly on the record now that IPERS won’t be further messed with during this session. I wish the same were true for some other state issues that are giving a lot of Iowans a lot of heartburn as we wait for the Republican awfulness to get fully into gear. Thirty years ago I wouldn’t have put it that way, but thirty years ago there were still some moderate Republicans in this state.