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Iowa Catholic Conference news update, Feb. 4, 2024

Legislative committees will be busy the next couple of weeks as the first funnel deadline approaches.


Several bills involving the migration issue were considered last week. The House Judiciary Committee passed HF 2128, which would forbid state universities from offering in-state tuition rates to students who can’t prove legal presence in the state. We might want to keep in mind we may already invested thousands of dollars in the education of these young people for many years, and in some cases, this bill might stop us from getting a return on our investment.


It was a good sign that the Iowa House’s version of an e-verify mandate bill failed in a House subcommittee last week, although the Senate version, SF 108, also passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would mandate the use of the optional federal e-verify system. It’s the ICC’s opinion that this bill is duplicative in part because the federal government is already authorized to investigate employment violations in this context.


Also last week, the “smuggling of humans” bill, HF 2112, passed a House Judiciary subcommittee. We are working to improve the bill.  The Church does not encourage illegal immigration but is concerned the bill as drafted could be interpreted by some to criminalize providing basic charity to immigrants.


A bill to bring back the death penalty (SSB 3085) passed a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. The ICC spoke in opposition. A cycle of violence should be broken without taking yet another life, especially since innocent people have been executed. During the meeting, the chair of the subcommittee said they intend to amend the bill to narrow its effects to those who kill peace officers.


Both the House and Senate had subcommittee hearings for the bill revamping Iowa’s Area Education Agencies. The House subcommittee did not advance the bill, and the Senate members of the subcommittee, while passing it, made it clear that there would have to be substantial changes. There is a feeling among many legislators that it will be helpful to review how AEAs use their funding and provide services. Nonpublic schools and many special education students in nonpublic schools receive services from AEAs. Stay tuned.


The House’s version of the Iowa MOMS “fix-up” bill, HF 2267, has passed the Health and Human Services Committee. SSB 3114 also passed a Senate subcommittee. The bills would expand the number of organizations who could receive funding to aid pregnant women.


Later today (Monday) and tomorrow, there are subcommittee meetings scheduled to consider the Governor’s proposal to make sure that mothers with Medicaid coverage can receive care for a full year after the birth of their child. Currently mothers have coverage for 60 days after the birth. The ICC supports the bills. Medicaid is the primary payor for births in Iowa.


The Senate State Government Committee passed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” religious liberty bill, SF 2095. The same bill on the House side, HSB 614, passed a House subcommittee last week. RFRA creates a balancing test in the courts to weigh a person’s right to act consistent with their religion against the government’s desire to pursue its interests in a way that violates that right.


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