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Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, Jan. 21, 2024


Last week at the State Capitol


Legislative activity was a little slow last week at the State Capitol between the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and caucuses on Monday and another snowstorm on Thursday. We expect the number of hearings and bill introductions to ramp up quickly.


Unfortunately, a new bill to bring back the death penalty (SSB 3085) was introduced. This bill would bring back the possibility of the death penalty for any murder in the first degree, not only for a limited number of situations. We’ll keep you posted on its progress.


As Catholics, we are called to live with justice and mercy and uphold the value of all life. Our Catechism states that the death penalty is "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" (2267).


There’s some chatter at the Statehouse about the bill (HSB 542 and SSB 3073) to overhaul the state’s Area Education Agencies. AEAs provide special education, media and professional development services to public and private school students and staff. The bill would give public school districts, instead of AEAs, control over special education dollars. Also under the bill, AEAs would no longer provide other educational and media services, which would save about $68 million in property taxes.


The ICC appreciates the state’s interest in improving achievement levels for students with disabilities and streamlining government services. However, we are urging careful consideration of how the proposed AEA reorganization would affect students in Catholic schools who rely on these services. We also are working to incorporate findings from the recent task force on “Special Education Support for Students Enrolled in Nonpublic Schools.” The governor’s office has said the bill will be amended.


A new bill called the “Med Act” (SSB 3006) would protect health care personnel from being required to provide a health care treatment if they regard the treatment as being harmful. Medical professionals should not be forced to violate their conscience and their oath to “Do No Harm.”


The ICC is working on improvements to the Iowa MOMS program for pregnant women and new moms so additional agencies and pregnancy centers can participate. The changes can be found in HF 2057. The ICC also supports HSB 516, which would help protect maternity homes from local zoning restrictions.


House File 2022 would allocate a million dollars for “Double Up Food Bucks.” This is a program administered by the Iowa healthiest state initiative to make fresh fruits and vegetables sold at farmers markets and grocery stores more accessible for families on SNAP (food stamps). For every dollar spent on fruits and veggies up to $10 a day, the person gets another dollar on the EBT card. It’s a great idea to encourage healthy eating.


Thanks to those who participated in the ICC webinar last week. We plan on doing that again.


Federal immigration reform


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is encouraging you to send a message to your Senators and Representative in support of immigration reform that respects religious liberty. The subject of immigration is politically divisive in our nation, and it has often been a point of contention throughout American history. Meanwhile, serving newcomers is compelled by Sacred Scripture and Catholic social teaching, and it is a core ministry of the Church. Recently these realities have collided, producing a rise in hostility from some toward the longstanding Church ministries.


To be clear, Catholic social teaching recognizes a country’s right and responsibility to manage its borders in accordance with the common good, and the U.S. bishops have been vocal proponents of immigration reform for many years.

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