There is a blizzard of subcommittee and committee meetings taking place at the State Capitol as legislators rush to push through their bills. This Friday, Feb. 21, is the first legislative deadline where non-budget or tax-related bills must be passed out of committee to avoid being set aside.
One positive we’ve noticed this session is the comeback of bills sponsored by members of both parties. They have been nearly non-existent during the past decade, but this year we’ve seen bipartisan bills related to mobile home regulation and a tax exemption for food banks. The next time someone says that everything is terrible in politics you can point to this.
ICC LEGISLATIVE BREAKFAST
The annual Iowa Catholic Conference legislative breakfast took place last Tuesday at the State Capitol. The four bishops and other ICC board and committee members had an opportunity to chat with legislators about such issues as the abortion constitutional amendment, support for Catholic school students, protection for residents of mobile home parks, migration, and criminal justice reform/voting rights for people coming out of prison.
PROTECT LIFE AMENDMENT
The “Protect Life” constitutional amendment to clarify that Iowa’s Constitution does not contain a right to abortion, Senate Joint Resolution 2001, passed the Senate on Thursday by a party-line vote of 32-18. The amendment does not ban any abortion.
The House version of the amendment, House Study Bill 577, passed the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 12. Opponents have requested that a public hearing on the bill take place before a House vote. We’ll keep you posted.
OTHER INITIATIVES TO HELP THOSE ON THE MARGINS
As mentioned earlier, bipartisan bills have been introduced (Senate File 2238 and House File 2351) to address protections for mobile home residents. They don’t have the same rights that other renters do. These bills were crafted to address recent situations where out of state companies bought up mobile home parks and drastically increased the rent on the lots. Many residents faced eviction.
A subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon (Monday) to consider their bill. Key parts of the legislation require that landlords must have “legitimate grounds” for eviction and must give six months’ notice for rate increases. The ICC will be working in support of the bills.
The ACLU and other organizations are sponsoring a rally at the State Capitol at 2:30 p.m. today (Monday) in support of voting rights for people coming out of prison. House Joint Resolution 14, supported by the ICC, would amend the Iowa Constitution to restore voting rights of Iowans with felony convictions. In our view, returning the right to vote promotes the civic engagement of those re-entering the community. It is a measure of mercy, dignity and justice.
There is a separate bill in play which would require the payment of all restitution to victims before rights are restored. The payment of restitution is just; however, requiring all repayment before the right to vote would be restored could end up keeping lower-income people from voting. The ICC would like to see a bill with fewer obstacles to voting move forward.
Iowa is now the only state left that permanently strips people with a felony conviction of their right to vote.
In a piece of good news, House File 2203 passed the House Human Resources Committee. The bill would establish a graduated eligibility phase-out for state child care assistance. This would help avoid cutting people off from all child care assistance when they get a raise or a better job, the so-called “cliff effect.”
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
Several bills supported by the ICC passed out of subcommittee last week. We’ve included a link to the committees considering the bill. You can find out who your legislator is and what committees they serve on in our ICC Action Center. If your legislator is on the committee, you can send an email in support.
The Iowa Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Senate File 508 passed out of subcommittee last week. Senate Local Government Committee
House File 663, to enact an Education Savings Account grant program for parents of nonpublic school children passed a subcommittee. House Education Committee
House File 2259 would prohibit government from giving business to hotels that do not receive certification and training on the prevention of human trafficking. It is estimated that about 70 percent of people who traffic others use hotels to do so. House Public Safety Committee
VOICE YOUR OPPOSITION
A bill opposed by the ICC also passed out of subcommittee. Senate File 579, a bill revived from last year, would collect information on citations and offenses committed by nonresident aliens. This category includes many people who are here legally. Many law enforcement personnel oppose this kind of law because it can interfere in community relations with diverse populations.
ICC opposes this bill because it implies that people are bad actors because they’re not from the United States. You can send a note in opposition to your member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A bill has been introduced (Senate Study Bill 3158) to impose new work requirements on Medicaid recipients. The bill also makes harmful changes to SNAP (food stamps) by making eligibility tougher and preventing the state from pursuing/renewing waivers for work requirements.
Having health insurance through Medicaid helps Iowans stay healthy, go to work, care for their families, and pay the bills. But taking health coverage away from people who don’t meet rigid reporting requirements won’t achieve that goal. It is also noteworthy that a federal court struck down a similar law in Arkansas last week.
UPCOMING EVENTS AT THE STATE CAPITOL
Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 8 a.m. to noon, Anti-Hunger Day at the Capitol
Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020 Refugee Day On The Hill
Monday, March 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Iowa Prayer Rally for Life
U.S. BISHOPS SPEAK OUT ON USURY, DISARMAMENT
Payday lending is modern day usury. These short-term, high-interest loans prey on the financial hardship of poor and vulnerable consumers – all for the sake of big profits, which only come when consumers fail. This practice directly contradicts our Catholic understanding that the role of the economy is to serve people, not the other way around. Right now, members of Congress are considering their support for the bipartisan Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act of 2019 (HR 5050).
A decisive vote on this bill would put a 36 percent APR interest rate cap on all payday and car-title loans. Click here for an action alert from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their partners in the Faith for Just Lending Coalition.
The Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a statement on nuclear disarmament. The committee is grateful to the Holy Father for the renewed effort to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity.
The committee statement said, in part, “As such, we also call upon our own government to be part of and indeed renew its primary responsibility in that effort. The nations which have nuclear weapons must take the lead in mutual reduction of their weapons.”