The first day of the Iowa legislative session this week offered an opportunity for legislative leaders to talk about their expectations for the session. You can find the highlights on our Facebook page.

Legislators began introducing bills this week. Many have little chance of advancement. As bills start to move we’ll let you know about our priority items.

Iowa is one of only seven states with a “split legislature.” The Democrats control the Senate, 26-24, while Republicans lead the House 56-43 pending a special election. This can make it more difficult to pass legislation but we think proposals get vetted a little better.

Gov. Branstad also delivered the Condition of the State address at the capitol this week. He expressed support for veterans, anti-bullying efforts, and increased access to broadband in rural areas. The governor also discussed the need for additional funding for infrastructure. You can watch his speech at governor.iowa.gov.

The governor has also released his budget proposal for the next fiscal year. The governor’s budget spends about $7.3 billion. The majority goes to two areas: school aid ($2.9 billion), and Medicaid ($1.6 billion). Wages and benefits for state employees, as you would expect, make up a big part of the budget at $2.1 billion. While many areas of public school funding were increased, support for nonpublic school students in transportation and textbook/technology remained at the status quo in the governor’s proposal.

We’re looking forward to seeing many of you this weekend at the Midwest March for Life and the 2015 Iowa Institute for Social Action! The Mass for Life is at St. Ambrose Cathedral at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 17).

FEDERAL ISSUES

We were disappointed by the U.S. House votes this week to undo executive actions on immigration and put immigrants at greater risk for deportation. These amendments were part of the bill that will fund the federal Homeland Security department. The bill goes to the Senate. Iowa’s three Republican congressmen (Rod Blum, Steve King, David Young) voted for the measures, while Democrat Dave Loebsack did not vote.

Tomorrow is the first day of “9 Days for Life,” a time of prayer, penance and pilgrimage marking the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout nine months of pregnancy. For more information, go to www.9daysforlife.com.

Next week the U.S. House is expected to pass the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” that would generally protect unborn children from abortion beginning at 20 weeks fetal age. The bill would then go to the Senate.

It takes 60 out of 100 votes to pass a bill in the U.S. Senate so both bills we mentioned will have a more difficult path there.

AND FINALLY,

P.S. If you’re a parent with school-age children, as you’re doing your taxes make sure you look into Iowa’s tuition and textbook tax credit. It offers a 25 percent tax credit on the first $1,000 spent for tuition or education fees. Many parents of students in public or nonpublic schools would be eligible for some benefit.