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Update from the capitol, Feb. 10, 2023

Praying for solidarity

Des Moines Bishop William Joensen, chair of the Iowa Catholic Conference board, offered a prayer at the “Prayer for Life” event at the State Capitol on Feb. 6.

The bishop prayed, in part: “Help us to love one another as you love us: to cherish each and every human life as the bearer of a dignity that should never be distorted or destroyed … As Pope Francis has enjoined, may we form a ‘caravan of solidarity,’ where nascent persons in the womb and those in every stage and situation along the continuum of life, including persons with special needs, single parents, immigrants, and senior individuals conscious of the horizon between this world and the next, might be accompanied with all they need to realize the length of days that you in your wisdom have bestowed upon us.”

Last week’s committee action

House Study Bill 105 has passed a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. The Iowa Catholic Conference is opposed to the bill, which would mandate the use of “E-Verify” by businesses in Iowa.

E-verify is a federal program intended to make sure that only those authorized to work in the U.S. can do so. The overall goal is good, but the ICC’s position is that a mandatory expansion should only take place if undertaken in the context of positive immigration reform that includes legalization for undocumented persons, error rates in government databases are reduced significantly; opportunities for employer misuse of the program are curbed, and workers are provided with a fair and meaningful opportunity to correct false positives.

A couple of bills supporting the adoption process are advancing in the Iowa House:

  • House File 67 passed out of Ways and Means subcommittee. The bill increases the state Adoption Tax Credit from the current maximum of $5,000 for each qualified adoption to $7,500 for tax year 2024 and to $10,000 after that. In 2021, 220 tax credits were claimed for adoptions.

  • House File 114 was passed unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee and will be eligible for debate on the floor. The proposal requires employers to treat adoptive parents in the same manner as biological parents for family leave purposes.

Coming up at the State Capitol

Subcommittee hearings are scheduled this week for several bills of interest.

On Monday, House File 8 will be considered. The ICC supports the bill, which prohibits instruction related to gender identity and sexual orientation in school districts in K-3.

Senate Study Bill 1139, which includes funding for the “Iowa MOMS” program, is scheduled to be considered on Tuesday. The Iowa MOMS program would help new mothers by offering funding to pregnancy counseling centers. We encourage legislators to provide $2 million for the Iowa MOMS initiative and appropriate additional funds for the governor’s proposed fatherhood engagement program.

The Senate’s version of a bill to improve oversight of welfare benefits, Senate Study Bill 1105, will be heard on Wednesday. The ICC’s main concern about this bill is a new asset test for food stamps. It’s similar but not identical to House File 3. Households with more than one vehicle would be especially at risk of being kicked off SNAP (food stamps). Having a vehicle can be the difference between finding employment or not, especially in rural areas of the state without public transit. Even children’s savings accounts would count toward the asset limit for the household.

Day of prayer against human trafficking

Each year on Feb. 8 the Catholic Church marks the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. The theme chosen for this year is “Journeying in Dignity,” through which the faithful are called to recognize the processes that lead to exploitation, discover the daily paths of those in search of freedom and dignity, promote anti-trafficking actions, and build a culture of encounter.

The event coincides with the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped in her native Sudan at the age of seven, sold into slavery, and trafficked to Italy, where she was eventually freed and became a member of the Canossian Daughters of Charity. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000.


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