The General Assembly spent most of last week debating bills on the floor of the chambers after spending several weeks doing committee work. Several events of note also took place at the Capitol, including Refugee Day and Anti-Hunger Day. You can check out some photos on our Facebook page.
Hundreds of people also attended the public hearing for the Protect Life Amendment (HJR 2004) on Tuesday. The good news was there were more people present to speak in favor than against. Click here for our latest action alert in support of the amendment. The action alert has a sample message for you to customize and send to your member of the Iowa House. HJR 2004 clarifies that our state Constitution does not contain a right to an abortion but it does not ban abortion. It would allow the Legislature to regulate the procedure.
Now would be a good time for you also to contact your Senator on other key issues of concern, including Medicaid and voting rights for people returning from prison. Our home page for alerts is at www.votervoice.net/icc/home.
Senate File 2366 would impose new work requirements on Medicaid recipients (ICC opposes), and HJR 14 would enable people who have committed felonies to vote once they have completed their sentence (ICC supports).
In other news, the medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, provided an update on the coronavirus (COVID-19) to the Senate Human Resources Committee last week. She said the risk remains low and the disease is not circulating in Iowa. The most important measures people should take, as always, are hand washing, covering coughs, and staying home when ill. She noted that the department’s website will remain updated with information: https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus.
GOVERNOR’S TAX PLAN UNDER CONSIDERATION
An issue to watch in the coming weeks is how the Legislature deals with Gov. Reynolds’ tax proposal, the Invest in Iowa Act (Senate Study Bill 3116 and House Study Bill 657). Some version of the plan seems likely to pass but at this point majority Republicans, not to mention Democrats, don’t agree on all aspects of the bill.
The proposal calls for a one-cent increase in the sales tax from six to seven percent, raising about $540 million.
According to Iowa’s Constitution, the first 3/8 of this sales tax increase must go to the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. The governor’s proposal would change the formula for the trust fund and put more money into water quality efforts and less into other conservation/outdoor recreation projects.
The sales tax increase would offset a 10 percent income tax cut for most Iowans, with the cuts reaching 25 percent for the lowest-income Iowans. That's on top of a 2018 tax cut package that's still being phased in. Low- and moderate-income people tend to pay higher percentages of their total income in sales tax.
The increase in the sales tax would also help provide state funding to replace most local property taxes in the government mental health system (a small net increase).
Apparently, the proposal will lift the total dollar cap on regional mental health services that was put in place in 1996. So local funding of mental health would be allowed to grow somewhat over time as property values increase.
The proposal would also exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from sales tax and increase the eligibility for the Early Childhood Development and Child and Dependent Care tax credits by doubling the maximum net income amount to $90,000.
CONGRESS FAILS TO ADVANCE ABORTION BAN
The U.S. Senate has failed to advance the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 3275) and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 311) last week. In the Senate, 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster and advance a bill to a vote on passage. The Pain-Capable bill would protect unborn children from late-term abortions. It is very similar to Iowa’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Born-Alive bill would ensure that a child born alive following an abortion would receive the same degree of care to preserve her life and health as would be given to any other child born alive at the same gestational age. It failed to advance by a vote of 56 to 41.
The U.S. House of Representatives also failed to advance the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. A procedural vote to amend another piece of legislation to include the Born Alive Abortion Survivors’ Protection Act failed by a vote of 187 to 220.