After three days of debate, Republicans in the Iowa House have passed a bill that makes changes in Iowa’s labor laws and would require public sector workers to pay $100 a month toward their health care. 

At noon, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen made this announcement: “We have now arrived at the appointed time.”  Democrats had drafted more than 100 amendments to try to make changes in the Republican-crafted bill.  House members began simply voting on each amendment that hadn’t been addressed by midday today.

The final vote tally — on the bill itself — came just before 12:30 p.m.  Fifty-eight Republicans in the Iowa House voted for the legislation and 38 Democrats voted against it. Representative Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, shouted at House Republicans after the vote, complaining the House switchboard had been closed for the day and Iowans had no way of calling legislators to share their opinions on the bill.

“We talk about transparency in the state of Iowa. We’ve done bills that talk about transparency within the state of Iowa, and then — in one of the most contentious debates — we shut down that switchboard,” Murphy said, screaming: “Shame on you!”

Others in the House, including some of the union members who’d been watching from the House gallery, began shouting and clapping.  House Speaker Kraig Paulsen intervened after about 15 seconds, and folks quickly quieted down. “It would be more helpful for that issue to be identified when you find it rather than at the end of the day,” Paulsen told Murphy. 

At the beginning of today, House Democrats began making their final arguments against the bill, calling it “anti-American” and accusing Republicans of engaging in “union busting.”  Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, accused Republicans of treating fire fighters, teachers and other public employees as second-class citizens.

“This bill is extreme,” Hall said. “It takes away the rights of workers and it’s a disgrace, in my opinion, that we’re discussing it today.”

Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, called it an “oppressive” bill.  “Before you forcefully shut down debate and silence those in opposition on the floor, I want my voice heard,” she said. “…This bill being considered today to end collective bargaining will take away rights from those who serve us: the police officers, fire fighters, troopers, teachers — those who protect our children.”

Republicans say their proposal makes common sense changes that may wind up saving taxpayers money. Representative Lance Horbach, a Republican from Tama, is chairman of the House Labor Committee. “If we don’t do something, the cost of government is just going to keep going to rise and rise and rise and so we needed to come up with an answer. This bill was an answer,” Horbach said this morning. “This wasn’t a bill seeking a political headline. This was a bill seeking a resolution.”

Horbach said the 60 Republicans who won seats in the Iowa House last fall came to work with “new answers” to long-standing problems, and making changes in Iowa’s labor laws was among them.

“The people asked us multiple questions during the campaign process and one of the questions was, ‘What are you going to do for controlling the costs of government?’…’Why can’t we get a process where we can keep the best teacher or keep the best worker?’ And on and on and on,” Horbach said. “This bill is actually answering those questions.”

And Horbach said Democrats had every opportunity to make their case against the bill during the 28 hours of debate that stretched over three days. Horbach made his comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs tonight at 6:30 on Iowa Public Television.

Democrats in the Iowa Senate say they have no intention of considering the bill that passed the House this afternoon.

(This story was updated at 1:56 p.m.)