DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation that would allow some workers to take unpaid time off to participate in Iowa’s presidential caucuses received approval in the Senate on Wednesday, but appears unlikely to garner enough support in the House.
The Senate voted 26-24 along party lines for the bill. It now heads to the Republican-controlled House, where House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, of Hiawatha, has indicated it’s not a priority.
The legislation would allow a voter in Iowa to take up to four hours off without incurring a penalty or a pay reduction to attend a presidential precinct caucus. The bill would not apply to workers with jobs that affect public health or safety. Employers who could show they would experience economic distress would also not be required to allow their workers to take the time off.
Sen. Robert Dvorsky, D-Coralville, led the bill on the floor. He said the legislation would increase attendance in Iowa’s presidential caucuses.
“We’re the first in the nation,” he said. “Don’t we understand that? We set the pace. The people who win Iowa generally have a good chance of winning the presidential nomination. … I think it’s a small price to pay to keep us first in the nation to pass this bill.”
Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, said the bill is inappropriate because the caucuses are political party events.
“So we’re going to ask employers to open themselves up to their employees and give them up to four hours unpaid time and all these other strings that come attached with that,” he said.
Iowa’s presidential caucuses are scheduled for February 2016.
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