The Legislature will come back into session tomorrow after taking a break for today’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Regarding Dr. King, the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, said: “This year, as we again mark the anniversary of his life, and reflect upon the 51st anniversary of his death, we are thankful for the path forged by Dr. King and the countless others who worked tirelessly and suffered greatly in the fight for racial equality and justice ... This past November, the entire body of Catholic bishops approved Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love - A Pastoral Letter Against Racism. The letter’s goal is to again name and call attention to a great affliction and evil that persists in this nation, and to offer a hope-filled Christian response to this perennial sickness.”
LAST WEEK AT THE CAPITOL
The 88th Iowa General Assembly convened last week and Gov. Kim Reynolds was inaugurated to her first full term on Friday. Much of the week was taken up by reports to the Legislature by the governor, courts and the Iowa National Guard.
The governor presented her FY 2020 budget recommendations during her Condition of the State address on Jan. 15. The budget calls for spending about $7.66 billion from the state General Fund, leaving an estimated surplus of $306 million. Typically the Legislature takes the governor’s budget as a starting point before approving a final budget for the state.
The governor is recommending $3.3 billion in state aid for schools, an increase of about $90 million compared to the current fiscal year. The governor also calls for an increase of $72 million in the state’s portion of Medicaid to a total of $1.4 billion. About $11 million of that would go to expand mental health services.
Among other items of interest during her address, Gov. Reynolds said she supported a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for felons. She also said state should improve training opportunities in state prisons, and she proposed a new home-building program at the Newton prison.
It was discovered last week that the Iowa Secretary of State failed to file proper notice before the election on the constitutional amendment that passed last session applying “strict scrutiny” to any regulation of weapons. An amendment has to pass two separate General Assemblies before it can go to the people. Due to the glitch, last year’s passage doesn’t count, so the amendment has to start over this year. Alert readers will recall that the Iowa bishops have called for opposition to the amendment.
In addition, the ICC is opposing a bill, Senate Study Bill 1017, which would require all schools to allow people with permits to carry guns in the school parking lot when picking up students. This would make some of the “no weapons allowed” policies at schools inoperative. We also believe it would violate private school property rights. The bill passed out of subcommittee and is eligible for debate by the full Judiciary Committee.
This week is National School Choice Week. The ICC supports a bill introduced by Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), Senate File 21, which would increase the amount of tax credits in the School Tuition Organization program to $20 million. The tax credits are for donors to scholarships going to low-income students to attend Catholic and other nonpublic schools. The scholarships reach more than 10,000 young people in Iowa. Our partner, Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, is sponsoring a legislative breakfast on Thursday, Jan. 24 at the State Capitol.
The Iowa Hunger Coalition has a “Day on the Hill”this Thursday, Jan. 24 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Emailiowahungercoalition@gmail.com for more information and a link to a webinar in preparation for the event.
PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS ENCOURAGED TO CREATE A BORDER SOLUTION AND END SHUT-DOWN
Bishop Joseph Vásquez, of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, on Jan. 10 called on the President and Congressional leaders to create a border solution and end the government shut-down.
Bishop Vasquez said in part: “Secure borders and humane treatment of those fleeing persecution and seeking a better life are not mutually exclusive ... The President and Congressional leaders need to come together and end the shut-down with a solution that recognizes the dignity of work of affected employees, respects the humanity of all regardless of immigration status, and protects the sanctity of human life.”
SENATE FAILS TO PASS ‘NO TAXPAYER FUNDING FOR ABORTION’ ACT
“Taxpayer dollars should not pay for abortion. The majority of Americans, including many who consider themselves pro-choice, agree on this," said Kat Talalas, spokeswoman on abortion for the USCCB, responding to the Senate’s vote Friday on the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2019” (S. 109). The Senate voted (48-47) in favor of the bill, but Talalas expressed deep disappointment that it did not receive the 60 votes needed for passage in the Senate.
The Senate held its vote on Jan. 17, the day before the annual March for Life in Washington. The bill would codify a permanent, government-wide policy against taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage.