ICC Newsletter, March 18, 2022
Since the second legislative deadline passed on Friday, the House and Senate’s attention turns to floor debate as they enter the last weeks of the session.
The Iowa Catholic Conference has several “action alerts” with sample messages to legislators to make it easy for you to contact your legislator(s) on these issues of concern:
Supporting Parental choice in education
Opposing cashless gambling
Opposing reductions in unemployment insurance benefits
Sometimes it’s about the dog that doesn’t bark:
There are many discussions taking place about the “Students First” scholarship/Education Savings Accounts proposal at the Capitol. It’s a priority of the Gov. Reynolds, but it hasn’t been brought up for debate yet. The Senate version of the bill, Senate File 2369, was placed on the “unfinished business” calendar for possible future action.
So far, the unemployment insurance benefit cuts have not reached the floor for debate. Senate File 2275 has also been put on the unfinished business calendar.
The ICC was pleased to see that Senate File 339 did not make it onto the Senate floor for debate before the deadline. It would require businesses to use the voluntary federal e-verify system to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. The ICC has opposed the bill in part because, if enforced, it would cause some people to not be hired because of errors in the system. It would also create opportunities for racial discrimination as individuals allege violations of the law by immigrants.
House File 2437 passed the House last Thursday by a vote of 93-1 and was sent to the Senate. It requires that government not treat religious conduct more restrictively than comparable secular conduct in cases of comparable risk (think: church services during a pandemic) or alleged economic need or benefit. A similar bill in the Senate was put on the unfinished business calendar.
A top priority of the ICC, the Iowa MOMS bill, SF 2354, passed a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. The bill would provide $2 million in additional services for pregnant women and new moms, as well as extend Medicaid coverage for mothers from two months to a year post-partum.
Bills that were passed by a committee last week ahead of the deadline included:
House File 2464 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill deletes certain criminal records of victims of human trafficking. It recognizes that victims were subject to coercion and abuse when in captivity and helps them make a new start.
House File 2372 also passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. It provides a penalty for a person who attempts to intentionally terminate a human pregnancy without the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person. We thought this was in the law already, but it’s a technical fix in response to an Iowa Supreme Court decision.
Senate File 522, which creates criminal penalties for elder abuse, passed the House Judiciary Committee. This will help protect adults who are made vulnerable by age, much as we do for children.
House File 2562 and Senate Study Bill 3351 each passed a committee to remain alive. The bills would extend the amount of notice given to mobile home residents in advance of an eviction or rent increase. It would also provide a remedy for residents if the landlord doesn’t supply essential services.
House File 2420 passed the Senate State Government Committee. This enables parents to drop off an infant at a safe place if the parent feels they cannot care for the child. It has been used about 50 times since it came into effect about 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, the “cashless gambling” bill, HF 2497, passed the Senate State Government Committee. Under the bill, people could put funds into an app and transfer the money to their player’s card at the machine, without even a walk to the ATM required. Legalizing gambling on video games most likely would be appealing to younger Iowans as well. These changes could be harmful to those who already have gambling problems. The ICC has been working to encourage an amendment to limit its effects and include 1-800-bets-off in the app.
The House Education Committee has passed both Senate File 2197, which provides for a task force on public special education services to be provided in nonpublic schools, and Senate File 2362, that requires the Department of Education to convene a group to plan health care trainings for school personnel.
STATEMENT ON UKRAINE
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Administrative Committee issued a statement on March 16 about Ukraine. It read, in part: “In union with the Holy See, we call for the immediate cessation of Russia’s armed aggression and unprovoked war on Ukraine that has already exacted a staggering toll - thousands dead and an exodus of three million refugees - with no end in sight … This possibility of global warfare is compounded by the unthinkable consequences that would result from the potential use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
“We call on Catholics of the United States and all people of good will to pray for an end to this war in Ukraine and for peace based on justice and respect for international law. We remember always that prayer is never a feeble gesture of last resort! It is a weapon of hope.”