Condition of the State proposals
Gov. Reynolds delivered the Condition of the State message to the state legislature last week. The ICC appreciated her words of support for parental choice in education and the “heartbeat” abortion prohibition law.
To improve maternal health outcomes, the governor proposed an expansion of Medicaid coverage for new mothers. Coverage would extend from the current two months to a full year, ensuring access to vital postpartum care. A new limit on family income would be up to 215% of the federal poverty level. The ICC supports HSB 500, which would keep the existing Medicaid eligibility maximum of 380%.
Additionally, the governor recommended a massive overhaul of the Area Education Agency (AEA) system, which provides special education, media and professional development services to public and private school staff and students. The bill (HSB 542) would give public school districts instead of AEAs control over special education dollars, and eliminate all other AEA services.
The bill also includes an increase in the minimum salary for public school teachers from $33,500 to $50,000. That would present a challenge for Catholic schools to keep up but it’s good to see the work of teachers being valued.
The ICC is in the process of gathering feedback on the AEA bill from Catholic and public school leaders on our board and committees.
Last week at the Capitol
In addition to the AEA bill, the governor’s tax legislation was introduced (HSB 543). It calls for accelerating a transition from the current top rate of 5.7% to a 3.65% flat rate in tax year 2024, and 3.5% in 2025. It does not include eliminating the state’s income tax.
A key role for government is to protect the common good and we should have a special concern for the poor and vulnerable. Our concern with tax legislation is that the state has enough funds to fulfill its role.
The governor proposed an $8.9 billion state budget, a 4.3% increase from the current year. That would be below the state’s projected revenue, and her staff estimates there would still be a $970 million budget surplus with the proposed tax cuts.
The ICC is supporting legislation, SF 2039, to require the state’s participation in the federal government’s Summer EBT (food stamp) program. It would provide $120 in nutrition benefits during the summer months to nearly 245,000 children who qualify for free and reduced price school meals. The state Department of Health and Human Services has declined to participate in the program.
This assistance could be particularly helpful in rural areas where there are fewer school meal sites. The extra support could help with consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains since healthy food is more expensive.
The ICC has also registered in support of SSB 3006, which would protect health care providers’ ability to refuse to perform a medical treatment, if the provider regards the treatment as being harmful to a patient.
Prayers for Life
Catholics nationwide are invited to pray “9 Days for Life,” an annual Respect Life novena starting tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 16.
In the Catholic Church, a ‘novena’ consists of prayers over nine successive days, and this particular novena is an opportunity for prayer and reparation in observance of the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on Jan. 22.
Participants may access the novena at 9daysforlife.com.
The Prayer for Life event at the State Capitol is scheduled for next Monday, Jan. 22. There will be a lobbying training at 11 a.m. in Room 15 on the ground floor and then a prayer and rally on the first floor rotunda at noon. Hope to see you there.
Sign up for Thursday’s webinar updating you on the 2024 session.