The legislative clock

Earlier today, House Democratic leaders indicated debate on a bill that would require a "prevailing wage" on government/taxpayer-funded construction projects would start at "about one o'clock."

Unfortunately, they did not specify a time zone.  It is now 2:49 p.m. central. The House is not debating,   At this moment there is general inaction as most members of the Iowa House of Representatives sit at their desks, surf on their laptops, talk with their clerks and visit with one another. 

A river of young adults walked down the center aisle of the house at about two o'clock, stood in the center portion of the House and milled about a bit.  Pictures were taken. A few legislators have taken constituents up to the speakers rostrum and posed for more pictures this afternoon.  Again, no debate is occurring.  We are told a key amendment is being drafted and must be distributed to House members before debate can start.

In the basement of the statehouse there are dozens of men and women, some of whom are wearing t-shirts indicating they are members of the Plumbers & Steamfitters union.  All are wearing rather large, neon green stickers indicating their support of the prevailing wage bill.

House Speaker Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) this morning told reporters the bill would pass, sometime, whenever debate does get going. "We have 51 votes as of this morning," Murphy said. "We worked on a compromise, late into the night, actually early into the morning this morning and I think we have an agreement where we have 51 (Democrats) voting for a prevailing wage bill."

The agreement limits the scope the bill a bit, to include state and school district construction projects, but with an out for some city and county projects.  Here's how it would work:  if your city or county is building, oh, let's say a gazebo with tax dollars and that gazebo costs less than $1.5 million, your city would not have to require contractors who win the bid for the project pay their workers the prevailing wage.  But if the gazebo costs more than that, workers would have to be paid the prevailing wage.  In short, the line is $1.5 million.  But there's also another wrinkle:  if 20 percent of the financing for the city/county project comes from the state, then contractors would have to pay the prevailing wage.

If that's confusing, consider those of us who're trying to figure out when it's one o'clock and debate can start.  My clock reads 2:55 p.m. central right now.

UPDATE:  It's nearly five o'clock.  The Chief Clerk of the House just made an announcement.  The amendment everyone's been waiting for should be ready by a quarter to six, and that's when debate will (may) start.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.