LAST WEEK AT THE STATE CAPITOL
Several bills of interest were moving through the chambers last week, including two bills supported by the Iowa Catholic Conference:
House File 2259 passed the House. It would allow a lodging provider to certify that all employees have completed training to help identify and prevent human trafficking. A government employer could only use public funds to stay at certified locations. The bill goes to the Senate.
House File 2417 passed the House and goes to the Senate. It ensures that parents adopting a child under the age of 6 get the same time off and benefits as birth parents.
The ICC is registered in opposition to the following bills:
A bill to enact work requirements for Medicaid recipients, Senate File 2366, passed the Iowa Senate and goes to the House. An amendment to provide additional exemptions from the work requirements improved the bill. Three out of four people on Medicaid are already working but hours can be erratic and limited by their employer to avoid paying benefits. The Catholic bishops believe that people in our society have a fundamental right to healthcare. The purpose of Medicaid is to offer health care to lower-income people and that fact sometimes seems to be lost in the discussion.
Senate File 2368 also passed the Senate and goes to the House. It says a city cannot stop landlords from refusing to accept federal housing vouchers. It makes it more difficult for low-income people to obtain housing when landlords will not accept federal housing assistance.
A bill to define “discharge of sentence” (Senate File 2348) passed the Senate and goes to the House. This bill is related to the constitutional amendment proposal, House Joint Resolution 14, which would restore voting rights for people who have committed felonies and have discharged their sentence. Senate File 2348 would require the payment of all restitution to victims before rights are restored. It would also exclude murderers and sex offenders. One concern is that wealthy people coming out of prison would be able to receive the right to vote back sooner than poor people because they could pay the restitution sooner.
Many Senators did not want to debate HJR 14 until they passed SF 2348. Click here for an action alert encouraging Senators to restore voting rights to those completing their sentence.
ICC TESTIFIES AT SUBCOMMITTEES
Iowa Catholic Conference staff testified at several subcommittee hearings last week, including on Gov. Reynolds’ “Future Ready” workforce proposal, her “Invest in Iowa” plan, and a bill to outlaw fetal homicide.
The “Future Ready” bills (Senate File 2313/House File 2384) are intended to help Iowa build a skilled workforce. Among many other provisions, the bills contain new requirements for all schools to offer a computer science course. Sounds like a good thing, however, every new state curriculum requirement can mean taking time and effort away from a core subject.
We mentioned the governor’s “Invest in Iowa” plan (Senate Study Bill 3116) in last week’s newsletter. The bill involves several of our legislative principles including:
Care for creation and protecting our natural environment
Supporting families (child care)
Making health care, including mental health care, more readily available and affordable to all Iowans
Supporting a just and equitable tax system
As ICC staff continues to evaluate this bill, we see several positive aspects:
Expanding income eligibility for child and dependent care and early childhood tax credits for parents
Exempting diapers and feminine products from the sales tax
Providing additional funding to natural resources, conservation projects and water quality
The bill provides for the state to assume more than 70 percent of the funding for non-Medicaid mental health services from county property taxes. This would be OK as long as the state follows through on the promises it’s making.
The bill raises the sales tax by a penny - raising more than $500 million - and cuts income taxes. Catholic social teaching would suggest that everyone should contribute to society according to his or her ability to pay. The sales tax increase is going to fall more heavily upon lower-income people.
It should be noted, however, that while rates are being cut, higher income taxpayers will pay a higher income tax rate than lower-income people in the bill.
The bill did not yet advance out of subcommittee.
A House subcommittee passed Senate File 523. Very alert readers will recall that this bill passed the Senate last year. It protects unborn human life in the criminal code in contexts other than abortion or medical procedures. In other words, it deems an unborn baby to actually be a person when offenders attack or otherwise harm a pregnant woman.
Iowa is one of only about a dozen states that does not explicitly treat the killing of an unborn child (excluding abortion) as a form of homicide. SF 523 excludes actions by the pregnant mother from the scope of the legislation.
You can always contact legislators with your thoughts on these bills at www.votervoice.net/icc/home.
Several groups sponsored the Prayer Rally for Life last Monday. About 200 people were there. You can check out some photos and other news from the Capitol on our Facebook page. The action alert in support of an amendment clarifying that our state Constitution does not contain a right to an abortion is at https://votervoice.net/ICC/Campaigns/71646/Respond.