Divided Iowa Supreme Court upholds collective bargaining law

“Our role is to decide whether constitutional lines were crossed, not to sit as a superlegislature rethinking policy choices of the elected branches,” four Iowa Supreme Court justices said today in two rulings that upheld the 2017 collective bargaining law.

The state’s two largest public employee labor unions, AFSCME Council 61 and the Iowa State Education Association, had challenged the law, which eliminated almost all bargaining rights for most public employees but preserved more rights for units containing at least 30 percent “public safety” employees. The ISEA also challenged a provision that banned payroll deduction for union dues.

Justice Thomas Waterman wrote for the majority in both cases, joined by the court’s three other most conservative judges: Edward Mansfield, Susan Christensen, and Christopher McDonald. His ruling upheld two Polk County District Court rulings in 2017.

Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justice Brent Appel dissented from the AFSCME decision, joined by Justice David Wiggins. Appel wrote a partial concurrence and partial dissent in the ISEA case, joined by Cady and Wiggins. They would have allowed the state to end payroll deductions for union dues but struck down the part of the law that gave more bargaining rights to some workers than others. They highlighted the statute’s “illogical” classification system, under which many who receive the expanded privileges are not themselves “public safety employees,” while others “with obvious public safety responsibilities” are excluded.

Had the late Justice Daryl Hecht been able to consider this case, these decisions would likely have gone 4-3 the other way. However, Hecht stepped down while battling melanoma in December, shortly before the court heard oral arguments. Governor Kim Reynolds appointed McDonald to fill the vacancy in February. Normally new justices do not participate in rulings when they were not present for oral arguments, but the court would have been deadlocked on these cases otherwise. So file this disappointing outcome for some 180,000 public employees under E for “elections have consequences.”

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Iowa teacher salary dollars go unspent

Randy Richardson, retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, has closely followed contract negotiations in public schools for many years. -promoted by Laura Belin

This is the time of the year when “bargaining season” wraps up for Iowa’s teachers. Under the collective bargaining law in place for more than 40 years, most local unions would have either reached a voluntary agreement with their school board or be headed to mediation, or possibly arbitration.

Unfortunately, the bargaining law enacted in 2017 has changed this pattern. Now, local teacher groups can only bargain their base salaries and have limited abilities to seek help through the arbitration process. Consequently, many school boards across the state are offering teachers “one-time” increases in pay with no advancement on a salary schedule. Those increases are often so little that when combined with the additional costs of health insurance, many teachers will be taking home less money in 2019-20 than they did this year.

School officials will say that minimal pay raises stem mainly from a lack of state government support. They are correct that Iowa schools have received historically small increases in state funding over the last eight years. However, some school districts have managed to accumulate a large “pot” of money that can only be spent on teacher salaries, and for some reason, they aren’t spending it.

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Thomas Kedley is first Republican candidate in IA-02

Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley is the first declared Republican candidate in Iowa’s second Congressional district, Zachary Oren Smith was first to report for the Iowa City Press-Citizen on May 6. Kedley filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on May 3. At this writing I haven’t found a Congressional campaign website. The candidate is on Twitter @tjkedley and has a Facebook page for his mayoral campaign.

Kedley has been mayor of the Clarke County seat since 2015. He told Oren Smith his top priorities would be education, agriculture and a balanced budget.

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Learning from baseball

Bruce Lear: “Swinging for the bleacher seats every time will often leave a player sitting in the dugout with a sore back. The same is true for candidates.” -promoted by Laura Belin

I love baseball. It’s a game of chess with four bases on a field instead of knights and rooks on a board. The object is to defend against runs and advance your runners around the bases. An easy game? No!

It has no clock, so the game isn’t lost until the final out at the plate or in the field. It’s slow. It’s methodical. It’s a game of statistics. The season is 162 games, so there are times of utter despair and utter joy.

James Earl Jones sums it up best in the now 30-year-old Iowa epic Field of Dreams:

“The one constant throughout the years, Ray has been baseball. America has rolled like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”

For me, baseball is a lot like politics. Winning is based on a strategy about finding that sweet spot in a very long season. It’s slow. It’s methodical. It’s based on statistics we call polls.

This year’s crop of Democratic candidates could perhaps learn from baseball hitters through the ages. Remember, Babe Ruth led the league in home runs but also in strike outs. In politics when there is a binary choice between candidates, too many times waving or watching a fast ball or curve might get you a gig on CNN or Fox instead of the Presidency.

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First look at the Iowa House landscape for 2020

Republicans used their control over state government to inflict tremendous damage on Iowa during the 2019 legislative session: underfunding education, blocking steps that would improve Medicaid services, dismantling effective sex education programs, further undermining workers’ rights, targeting health care for transgender Iowans, and giving Governor Kim Reynolds the ability to pack our highest courts with conservative ideologues.

The disastrous outcomes underscored the urgent need for Democrats to break the Republican trifecta in 2020. The Iowa House is the only realistic path for doing so, since Reynolds won’t be up for re-election next year, and the 32-18 GOP majority in the Iowa Senate will take several cycles to undo. State Representative Andy McKean’s recent party switch improved Democratic prospects, shrinking the Republican majority in the chamber from 54-46 to 53-47. Nevertheless, a net gain of four House seats will be no easy task for Democrats.

The Daily Kos Elections team calculated the 2018 election results for governor and state auditor in every Iowa House district. Jeff Singer discussed their key findings in a May 2 post: Reynolds carried 60 state House districts, Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell just 39. The “median seat backed Reynolds 51.0-46.3, a margin of 4.7 points. That’s about 2 points to the right of her statewide margin of 2.8 points.” Eight Democrats represent districts Reynolds carried, and one (Dave Williams) represents a district where Reynolds and Hubbell tied, while “only one Republican is in a Hubbell district.”

I’d encourage all Iowa politics watchers to bookmark the DK Elections number-crunching, as well as the team’s spreadsheet on 2016 presidential results by House district.

The Daily Kos team also looked at the 2018 voting for state auditor, seeking clues on which House seats might be within reach for Democrats. I don’t find that angle as useful. Previous State Auditor Mary Mosiman ran a terrible campaign. Not only did Rob Sand outwork Mosiman on the trail, he ran unanswered television commercials for six weeks, allowing him to go into election day with higher name ID than the incumbent, which is almost unheard of. Sad to say, Democrats won’t be outspending incompetent, little-known GOP candidates in the 2020 state legislative races.

Here’s my first take on both parties’ best pickup opportunities. What appear to be competitive state House seats may shift over the coming year, depending on candidate recruitment and incumbent retirements, so Bleeding Heartland will periodically return to this topic.

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If a teacher were president...

Tyler Higgs is a school psychologist who lives in Clive. -promoted by Laura Belin

If a teacher were president…

She would rebuild the middle class because she knows that students who come from a lower socioeconomic background are at a disadvantage when it comes to their education, physical health, and career readiness. This affects our society as a whole.

She would fight for high quality universal child care and early childhood education, which have a high return on investment for her students and for America.

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