Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, May 2, 2021

SENATE PASSES EDUCATION OMNIBUS BILL


By a vote of 42-6 the Iowa Senate has passed HF 847, which would raise the Tuition and Textbook Tax Credit for many school parents and help raise money for private school scholarships. The bill assists donors to School Tuition Organizations (STO) by increasing the percentage of the gift eligible for a tax credit from 65% to 75% and increasing the STO tax credit cap to $20 million starting next year.


HF 847 also doubles the Tuition and Textbook tax credit for school parents to 25% of the first $2,000 in educational expenses. For Catholic school parents it would mean a tax credit for $500 per child. The bill returns to the House with the support of the Iowa Catholic Conference.


The Senate also passed and sent to the governor HF 813, which will allow non-profit organizations to start public charter schools.


LAST WEEK AT THE CAPITOL

  • Gov. Reynolds signed SF 252, which allows Iowa landlords to refuse federal “Section 8” housing vouchers. The ICC opposed the bill out of concern that it would make it more difficult for recipients to find a place to rent.

  • The Senate receded from their amendment on the “human trafficking” bill, HF 452, and sent it to the governor. The ICC supported the bill. It provides authorities with additional resources to complete investigations of trafficking, specifically in massage therapy and cosmotology businesses. The bill defines “forced labor” and makes it a felony for a person to knowingly rent property for human trafficking use. The bill also allows a person accused of human trafficking, who is also a victim of human trafficking, to use that as a defense.

  • SF 617 has passed the Senate Ways and Means committee. The ICC opposes a provision in the bill that provides for a new one-week waiting period before unemployment benefits kick in. That change is estimated to save the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund about $23 million, which represents $23 million in benefits that laid-off workers won’t receive.

  • No news this week on the Protect Life Amendment, which would clarify that Iowa’s Constitution does not contain a right to an abortion. Both chambers have passed the proposal with slightly different language.

  • The House Appropriations Committee has passed HF 891, the state’s $2 billion human services budget. Some positive provisions include: requirements to reimburse telehealth mental health services at the same rate as in-person, which benefits Catholic Charities to provide counseling to people in rural areas; addressing the “cliff effect” by offering a eligibility phaseout for parents receiving child care benefits; and an increase in funding for FaDSS, the family development and self-sufficiency program.

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee passed bills that will support additional tax credits for affordable housing projects (SF 612), and creating a disaster recovery housing assistance program (SF 611).

Our action alerts with sample messages for legislators are available at www.iowacatholicconference.org/voter-voice. Thanks to the thousands of you who have taken action on important issues!


FEDERAL UPDATES


  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities is encouraging people to sign a petition at www.notaxpayerabortion.com in support of the Hyde Amendment and other federal provisions preventing abortion funding.

  • The Catholic Mobilizing Network is calling upon the President for a moratorium on the death penalty. People can sign the petition at https://catholicsmobilizing.org/biden-end-federal-dp.

  • Data from the 2020 Census was released. Iowa did not lose a congressional seat this go around.


POPE FRANCIS SENDS VIDEO MESSAGE TO CLIMATE CONFERENCE


President Joe Biden convened the Leaders Summit on Climate on April 22-23, which included a video message by Pope Francis. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, respective chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, have released a statement in support of the Holy Father.


The statement read, in part: “Pope Francis addressed a virtual gathering of over 40 leaders from the highest levels of world government at the White House’s Leaders Summit on Climate, saying, ‘our concern is to see that the environment is cleaner, healthier and conserved, and to take care of nature so that it takes care of us.’ … We commend the Biden Administration’s commitment to climate stewardship and environmental justice, consistent with the decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.”


Here in Iowa, a group of legislators introduced a constitutional amendment proposal which states that “every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment” including pure water and clean air. While the specific language in HJR 12 might be difficult to enforce, it raises the question of how we’re doing on environmental issues. The amendment is not eligible for consideration by the Legislature this year.



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