Democrats in the Iowa Senate have passed a bill that would force Iowa businesses to give employees up to four hours of unpaid time off to attend the Iowa Caucuses.
Every Republican in the Senate voted against the bill. Senator Dave Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, said legislators should not be promoting a “political party event.”
“What do they do at political party events? We’ve all been to ’em,” Johnson said. “You pass the hat. Sometimes they pass the bushel basket. OK, these are fundraisers as well. Do you really think that’s appropriate?”
Critics of Iowa’s lead-off event in the presidential nominating season say low wage employees and shift workers are not represented at the Caucuses because they cannot easily get time off to participate. That’s one reason Hillary Clinton’s backers have cited as a chief complaint about the Caucuses and Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, urged his senate colleagues to back the bill.
“I mean, we’re the first in the nation! Don’t we understand that?” said Dvorsky, whose wife, Sue Dvorsky, is a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman. “…I think it’s a small price to pay to keep us first in the nation to pass this bill.”
Democrats have been talking about other steps to increase Caucus participation, like offering babysitting service and allowing members of the military on active duty to participate from a distance, but Iowa Republicans have not been embracing those moves. Iowa’s Caucuses are party-run events and the two parties have different rules for determining winners. Iowa Democrats base their declared winner on a delegate count, while Iowa Republicans conduct a statewide straw poll to determine their winner.