GOP bill extends evening work hours for Iowa teens

DES MOINES — Republicans on committees in the Iowa House and Senate have voted to let teenagers work longer hours and let them work at jobs that are currently off-limits for minors.

“It provides greater opportunities for our youth who want to — not being forced to….but greater opportunities for our youth who desire and aspire to take on and learn (the) responsibilities of having a job,” Senator Adrian Dickey, a Republican from Packwood, said Thursday during a Senate Workforce Committee meeting.

The bill would let kids who have a permit to drive to and from school — drive to and from work. “To give teenagers the ability to have a job at the same time that their classmates are participating in sporting events or music events or doing other things,” Dickey said. “…It’s simply giving them opportunities to things that are of interest to them in the same time frame as their classmates have opportunities to do.”

Teenagers could get permission from their parents to serve alcohol in a bar or restaurant if the bill becomes law. The directors of the Workforce Development and Education Departments could grant waivers so teens could do some kinds of supervised work in places like factories and construction sites. Senator Molly Donahue, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the changes would put kids in harm’s way.

“There are so many parts of this that are against the federal laws,” Donahue said. “That is also a concern to me.”

For example, federal rules prohibit 14- and 15-year-olds from working past 9 p.m. in the summer and 7 p.m. during the school year. The bill would let 14- and 15-year-olds work two hours longer at night. Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat from Des Moines, said when it comes to children in the workplace, this bill is a step backwards.

“We have very low unemployment,” Boulton said. “We just don’t have enough workers right now and trying to correct that problem by putting more kids in the workplace just does not feel like the right path for Iowa.”

Senator Dickey accused Democrats of being hypocrites. “If you’re outraged against this bill because you don’t feel that your high school students in Iowa are mature or responsible enough to make these decisions or work with these restrictions, how you can grandstand and say that they should have the ability to request a sex change at that same age?” Dickey asked.

A bill approved by Republicans on a different Senate committee would ban minors from receiving hormone treatment or gender reassignment surgery in Iowa.