The plight of flood victims was part of Thursday’s squabbling over a bill which would require a region’s "prevailing wage" be paid to those who work on taxpayer-funded construction projects for the State of Iowa and school districts — as well as for some city and county projects. Republicans argued requiring a county’s "prevailing wage" be paid to those working on storm-related repairs will increase project costs by as much as 20 percent.
House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha was blunt. "I guess we’re going to shoot the wounded tonight and attack some of the disaster victims and punish property taxpayers," Paulsen said.
Democrats countered that the bill’s "prevailing wage" requirement would not apply to flood or tornado repair projects on an individual’s home or a business. It will only apply to city and county construction projects that cost more than $1.5 million, and in which at least 20 percent of the total project cost is being paid by the state. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says it’s about trying to keep "fly by night" contracts from invading the state and snapping up publicly-funded flood repair projects.
"When we looked at what happened in Louisiana as they started all that infrastructure work in (hurricane) recovery is there were a lot of storm chasers there and there was a lot of shoddy work done and their laws were pretty similar to what we have in Iowa, " McCarthy says. "We have a lot of great contractors in Iowa, but because we don’t have the type of regulatory scheme in Iowa that they do in other states it is, in some cases, a race to the bottom, and that’s something we want to address."
Staffers worked on details of the legislation throughout the day. In the afternoon and evening legislators were in and out of closed-door meetings to discuss the bill, but formal public debate on the legislation never started. At about seven o’clock Paulsen, the G.O.P. leader in the House, challenged Democrats over the timing. "Why do we have to start tonight?" Paulsen said. "…You think it’s a good idea to run this bill in the middle of the night."
Now, debate is scheduled to start in the middle of the day — at noon Friday — and last ’til five o’clock. McCarthy dismisses speculation that the delay is anything more than logistics. "Through no fault of our own, the legislative process jsut took a while to get things set, mechanically," McCarthy said at about 10:30 Thursday evening before the House recessed for the night.
Democratic leaders say some House Democrats who plan to vote for the bill were being targeted by telephone calls all day Thursday, urging them not to vote for the bill. For example, a local newspaper story from the Washington Evening Journal featuring Representative Larry Marek of Riverside was circulated. Marek, a Democrat, was quoted telling a local crowd last weekend that he was "pretty conservative" on labor issues and that he didn’t want to see property taxes go up.