State lawmakers appear headed for a showdown over Iowa’s “Right to Work” law. It says right now that workers can’t be forced to join a union, or to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal says Democrats don’t expect to repeal the law, but want some changes that would help unions…like asking workers to pay a fee if they accept wage increases that were negotiated by a union, or they ask for the union’s help in filing a grievance.

“If you’re a group of people who created a union and someone who got fired asks you to supply him an attorney, and you’re required to do that by federal law, and “go grieve the case,” Gronstal says, “you ought to pay your fair share.”

But House Republican leader Christopher Rants says it does amount to an attack on the state’s right-to-work law, and a move that Democrats never mentioned during the campaign. Rants says Republicans worry about a “hidden agenda” that would require employers to collect a “substitute for union dues — in effect, forced unionization for those people that choose for whatever reason that they do not want to participate or belong to a union.” Rants says that will repel businesses looking to relocate in Iowa, and says Republicans won’t support it.

On Tuesday statehouse Democrats also outlined a plan to pass an increase in the state minimum wage early in the upcoming legislative session. House Speaker-elect Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says the quarter of a million Iowans now earning the minimum wage of five-dollars-fifteen-cents an hour could be making two dollars an hour more.

“To help people help themselves in the state, we will do that over a two-year period,” Murphy says, “So that by January of 1009 we will have the minimum wage to 7-dollars and 25-cents an hour.” Statehouse Republicans aren’t saying they’ll block a minimum-wage increase, but do want to help businesses at the same time.

Senate Republican leader Mary Lundby says as an example, they want to help small businesses start providing health insurance for their employees. She says one idea is to create a ten-Million-dollar “pool” of money that small businesses could borrow from to cover catastrophic illnesses.

A package might include a minimum wage, she says, and a “health piece” for small businesses to help them provide insurance and cover the catastrophic costs for employees, while they’re in their first couple years of that new plan.