The “Students First” Education Savings Account bill, House File 68, was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Jan. 24. House File 68 passed the House by a vote of 55-45 and the Senate 31-18. It will provide scholarships for students to attend an accredited nonpublic school.
The ESA amount will be about $7,600, the same average amount the state provides to a public school for each student. Roughly $1,205 per student with an ESA will go to the public school district that the student lives in.
Rules for the program will be set up in the coming weeks. We’ll keep you posted.
With the school choice issue settled for now, the Legislature has turned its attention to other matters.
SUBCOMMITTEES TAKE ACTION
An early step in Iowa’s legislative process is for a subcommittee of three legislators to meet, hear comments from the public, and vote to advance a bill. Normally a subcommittee won’t meet unless there are two votes to pass a bill.
House Study Bill 55 and Senate Study Bill 1004 would allow people to reduce their probation term if they are pursuing education or maintain verifiable employment. These incentives would encourage people who have offended to fully reintegrate into society. The bills have been passed by subcommittees in the House and Senate. The Catholic bishops of Iowa discussed the bill with the House Majority Leader last week.
A House subcommittee met on Thursday and passed House File 3, which would change Iowa’s eligibility system for food stamps and Medicaid. The ICC opposes the bill. There were so many people in attendance that there wasn’t time for everyone to speak. The main issue as we see it is putting a new asset test in place that would put Iowans with more than one vehicle at risk of losing access to SNAP (food stamp) benefits. The bill would also create additional administrative steps for Iowans to fulfill before they could qualify for benefits.
Owning two decent cars doesn’t mean people don’t need help to get food. To give some further context, the number of Iowans currently enrolled in food stamps is at a 14-year low of 135,267 households.
Two House bills were passed out of subcommittee last week which would help survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse as well as tenants who are punished with an eviction record when they weren’t actually evicted.
House Study Bill 2 passed a House subcommittee and is supported by the ICC. It would allow victims of violent crime to terminate a lease early if they provide their landlord documentation of harm. This bill reduces a major economic barrier to seeking safety, enables victims to remain in good standing with landlords and avoid an eviction record, which in turn gives survivors a better chance at escaping violence and economic hardship in the future.
House Study Bill 43 also passed a House subcommittee with the ICC’s support. It would seal eviction filings until final judgment, and after five years without an eviction for non-payment, a tenant can apply to court to have the record sealed. This bill protects renters from a lifetime of negative consequences that limit access to housing and economic security.
E-VERIFY BILL PASSES OUT OF SENATE COMMITTEE
Unfortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate File 108 last week. It would require employers in Iowa to use the federal e-verify system to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. The ICC does not oppose the federal e-verify program as such but is registered in opposition to SF 108. This proposal is duplicative because the federal government already has procedures in place to investigate employment violations in this context and to impose penalties on individuals and businesses.
When considering whether to pull a license or sanction an employer, under this bill the court may consider whether an employer made a “good faith” effort to comply with any applicable requirements. That’s fair enough, but no such consideration is given to employees who lose a job through no fault of their own.
HEALTH BILL INCLUDES ‘IOWA MOMS’
House Study Bill 91 was introduced last week. The good news is it includes the Iowa MOMS program which would help new mothers and provide new supports for dads. On the negative side the bill includes the legalization of over-the-counter contraception, which we believe undercuts the physician-patient relationship. Any prescription medication carries risks, which is why they require a prescription.
U.S. BISHOPS SUPPORT ‘NO TAXPAYER FUNDING FOR ABORTION’ BILL
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities sent a letter to House and Senate sponsors of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act (H.R.7 and S.62), in support of the legislation.
Rather than funding abortion, Bishop Burbridge said, “Congress can better serve the common good by prioritizing policies that comprehensively assist women, children, and families in need in ways that will not only encourage childbirth but make it easier to welcome and raise a new child.”