LEGISLATURE ADDRESSES FUNDING FOR NONPUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS
The education funding bill, HF 758, passed the House and goes to the Senate. It appropriates $954 million from the general fund to the Department for the Blind, the College Student Aid Commission, the Department of Education, and the Board of Regents. Funding for public school aid was contained in a separate bill passed earlier in the session.
Regarding nonpublic schools, HF 758 contains status quo funding of $652,000 for textbooks and $8.2 million for transportation of students. The legislation also contains a new appropriation of up to $300,000 for the University of Iowa’s testing programs to help subsidize the costs of the new state assessments for nonpublic schools.
SF 140 passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 91-8 and goes to the governor. The bill sets the driving distance between a nonpublic school and a student with a minor driver’s license’s home to no more than 50 miles.
The “Education Celebration” sponsored by Iowa ACE at the Capitol was a great success. Several hundred people attended, mostly from the Catholic schools. There were many good discussions with legislators about nonpublic schools. You can see some photos on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/iowacatholicconference.
We’ll be continuing our efforts to secure an increase in tax credits that help raise money for scholarships to attend a nonpublic school.
ICC OPPOSES BILLS RELATING TO GAMBLING, CONTRACEPTION AND ‘NONRESIDENT ALIENS’
Legislation to authorize betting on sports continues to move through the process. SF 366 was approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. The committee passed an amendment to provide additional money to charity and treatment for gambling addiction. The amendment doesn’t address the underlying problem with the bill in that it will create many problem gamblers. Gambling becomes morally unacceptable when it deprives someone of what is necessary to provide for his or her needs or those of others.
The Iowa Senate has passed SF 513, which would provide contraception to adult women without a prescription or the requirement of an annual physician’s visit. The Iowa Catholic Conference opposes the bill. One of the assumptions made by proponents of the bill is that the number of abortions will go down with additional access to birth control. However, greater access to contraception does not reduce the number of abortions. A drug regimen that requires strict compliance to be effective is sometimes used inconsistently. “User failure” routinely exposes women, especially minors, to the risk of unintended pregnancy.
Additionally, the drugs on their own can pose a serious health risk. Used strictly as recommended, the drugs involved are synthetic hormones designed to have a powerful effect on the human body, and side effects are common. Used incorrectly, they can wreak havoc with sensitive systems and potentially damage major organs.
For more information, go to http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/2018/another-look-at-contraception.cfm.
SF 579 has been referred to the Senate’s unfinished business calendar and is eligible for further consideration. It requires collection of data on offenses by “nonresident aliens.” This definition would include some persons who are authorized to be here and those who are not.
This legislation implies that people are “bad actors” because they are not natives of the United States. The ICC is concerned about how the data will be used. Will it be used to promote profiling of citizens and immigrants alike? In order to obtain accurate statistics, law enforcement would have to inquire about immigration status, something a citizen, for instance, likely would not have evidence of on their person. Would such questions disproportionately target people of color?
As the U.S. bishops’ conference once said, “The Israelites’ experience of living as homeless aliens was so painful and frightening that God ordered his people for all time to have special care for the alien: ‘You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt’”(Lv 19:33-34).
To contact your legislator on these or other issues, go to www.votervoice.net/icc/home and click on “Find Politicians.”
LEGISLATIVE DEADLINE PASSES
Last Friday was the second legislative deadline. To survive, non-appropriations bills needed to have passed one chamber and through a committee in the other chamber. Most legislative action in the coming weeks will be focused on appropriations and tax bills.
Due to the deadline many pieces of legislation have been put aside and are dead for the rest of the session. We were pleased that the bill to bring back the death penalty, Senate File 588, was referred back to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Unfortunately, House Joint Resolution 14, restoring voting rights to people who committed a felony and completed their prison sentence, was not taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. It had passed the House on March 28 by a vote of 95-2.
SF 516, relating to the employment of people who are not authorized to work, and mandating use of the federal “e-verify” system, passed the Senate last week but did not advance out of the House Public Safety Committee. A study estimates that about one out of every 30 e-verify “hits” are incorrect, which will mean a lot of people in Iowa would have to go through an appeal process to keep their job if the bill would pass. The ICC opposed the bill because it is likely people would lose their jobs unjustly, or not be able to be hired. The bishops support leaving federal immigration enforcement issues to the federal government.
The fetal homicide bill which passed the Senate, SF 523, stalled out in the House Judiciary Committee. It deemed an unborn baby to actually be a person when offenders attack or otherwise harm a pregnant woman. Iowa is one of only 11 states that does not treat the killing of an unborn child (excluding abortion) as a form of homicide.
The abortion constitutional amendment, SJR 21, as expected, was referred back to the Senate State Government Committee.
The bills mentioned above are eligible for further discussion in 2020.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY TO BE CELEBRATED AT THE CAPITOL
You are invited to the sixth annual Religious Freedom Day Celebration in the rotunda at the State Capitol on Thursday, April 11 at 11:30 a.m. The event is co-sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Iowa Catholic Conference, First Amendment Partnership and the Reuben Clark Law Society. Refreshments will be served. The featured speaker will be Steven T. Collis, religious law scholar and chair of Holland & Hart First Amendment practice group.
Defenders of abortion will not bring the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. You are asked to urge your Representative to sign a petition. Go to https://votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/64866/Respond for the action alert. The Born-Alive Act would provide specific protections nationwide to help prevent newborns from being killed or left alone to die.