So this morning we debated HF 2227, a bill making various changes to child labor requirements administered by the labor commissioner under Code chapter 92. In large part it’s a good bill, but it does one thing that is very problematic:
Currently, for certain types of employment, a minor under the age of 16 must obtain a work permit from a school official before the employer can officially hire the minor, and a copy of the work permit (which includes the name/location of the minor’s employer) is filed with the IA labor commissioner. This bill totally removes the authority of a school superintendent or other school official to issue a work permit — under the bill, a child may begin work upon the child’s employer electronically filing a completed work permit form with the labor commissioner, or — and here comes the problematic part of the bill — simply retaining a completed work permit on file. E.g., by filing it away in a filing cabinet.
This certainly simplifies the process, but it’s also kind of dangerous. I am sure that the vast majority of employers who hire minors are good employers and don’t exploit their minor employees. BUT under this bill, the child’s school will not be aware that a child is working or where the child is working, and there will be no record of the fact that a minor is employed at a specific business, unless the employer chooses to share that information with the labor commissioner. And while I”m sure that all of the good employers will do the right thing and file the work permit with the labor commissioner, I’m equally sure that some of the not so good employers won’t — and the concern is that these bad employers will take advantage of the lack of oversight created by this bill, and will be much more inclined to exploit their child employees.
So why does the bill allow this? The argument is that (1) school officials don’t have time to be filling out work permits and (b) employers don’t have time to be sending a copy of the work permit to the labor commissioner. However, one of the good things this bill does is create a new electronic work permit form — and to file a completed form, an employer will just need to hit the “send” button. That’s it. Boom, the work permit is filed. How simple, and fast, and unburdensome is that?
Representative Running-Marquardt, from Cedar Rapids, serves on the House Labor committee and in order to attempt to make this bill a better bill, and one that has a chance of passing in the Iowa Senate, she filed an amendment (H – 8006), that would have amended the bill to require an employer to hit the send button — i.e., to file a completed child labor work permit electronically with the labor commissioner. This seems so simple, and makes so much sense, and would so clearly provide Iowa’s children with a little additional protection by providing their employers with a little additional oversight.
But — the amendment failed, because almost all of the R’s voted no, for reasons that were certainly not made clear (although props to Representative Brian Moore for doing the right thing with his Yes vote). And while the bill passed the House, it did so on an (almost) straight party line vote, which means that it’s unlikely that it will be brought up in the Senate. And that’s what’s so frustrating — there are a lot of good things in the bill, and with Rep. Running-Marquadt’s amendment on it the bill would have been even better, and the bill would have passed out of the House with strong bi-partisan support, in which case the Senate would have most likely run the bill and passed it, and I assume the Governor would have signed off on it, and hurray — the bill would have become law. But because the majority party refused to accept a reasonable amendment — i.e., refused to compromise even a little bit, even though the bill still would have done everything they wanted it to do — now the bill is likely dead, and none of it will become law.
And that happens all the time out here, and it’s frustrating, and I don’t believe that this “all or nothing” attitude is particularly conducive to good government, since it generally results in nothing. And nothing is not what we were sent out here to do.