Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, Jan. 31, 2021

The story of the session so far is that the legislative leadership is moving fast on several of their priorities.


The governor’s “Students First” education reform bill, Senate File 159, passed the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 26-21.


The bill includes the availability of “education savings accounts” for about 9,000 students in 34 school buildings across the state that have been identified by the federal government as in need of comprehensive improvement. The funds could be used to pay tuition at a nonpublic school. According to the Legislative Services Agency, it is estimated that use of the scholarships would save the state’s General Fund about $800,000 annually.


The bill also includes an increase in the tuition and textbook tax credit for current school parents.


Thanks to the many of you who asked your Senator to increase the number of scholarships available in the bill. We are now asking members of the Iowa House to expand the proposal to help some of our current students in Catholic schools. You can review and send a message to your representative here: https://www.votervoice.net/ICC/campaigns/79857/respond.


Parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children, so the Church believes that parents have a right, in justice, to access some of their tax dollars to help them exercise that duty.


The public agrees. A poll released last week by Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education shows 77% of Iowa school parents support universal Education Savings Account legislation.


The annual Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll on abortion has been released as well. 70% of Americans would limit abortion to, at most, the first three months or pregnancy. 60% oppose domestic taxpayer funding of abortion.


The proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution clarifying it does not contain a right to abortion (HJR 5) passed the House by a vote of 55-44 last Wednesday. The Senate plans to take up its version of the bill (SJR2) in subcommittee later today. If the amendment passes both chambers, it will need to be passed by both chambers again in two years before it would go to a vote of the people. The amendment would not end abortion in Iowa as some claim.


The Senate and House passed the second reading of an amendment (SJR 7) last week to make the right to keep and bear arms subject to “strict scrutiny” in Iowa’s Constitution. The ICC has opposed the legislation because it would make any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms very difficult if not impossible. It passed the Senate 29 to 18, and the House, 58-41. Now it will go to a vote of the people of Iowa in the fall of 2022 to see if we want to put it in the state Constitution.


The bill to bring the death penalty back to Iowa has not yet been considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. If your Senator is on that committee, you can send a message here: https://www.votervoice.net/ICC/campaigns/79598/respond.


A bill supported by the ICC to phase in an increase in the state’s tax credit for adoptive parents from $5,000 to $10,000 is set to be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee later today. The ICC also supports a provision in the agriculture department’s bill which establishes a fund to help match purchases of local produce by schools.


BISHOPS REACT TO EXECUTIVE ORDERS

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued statements last week on certain actions of the Biden Administration:

  • One opposed the overturning of the “Mexico City Policy,” which forbids U.S. taxpayer funds from being sent to organizations that both promote and provide abortions in developing countries, saying the executive order was “antithetical to reason, violates human dignity, and is incompatible with Catholic teaching.”

  • The other statement supported the Administration’s early actions to address urgent food and housing needs for those experiencing hardship during the COVID pandemic, including the extension of the CDC’s eviction moratorium and the USDA’s efforts to expand nutrition assistance.


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