Budget bills are starting to move in the Iowa legislature. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the Department of Education budget bill later today (Monday). It includes status quo funding of about $650,000 to pay for textbook purchases by nonpublic schools. The bill also allows both public and nonpublic schools additional flexibility in how they spend state funds on preschool. This bill does not provide the state aid for public schools – that comes later in the “standings” appropriations bill.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed SF 497, the justice system budget. There are a few items of interest that we have been following. Victim assistance grants are funded at status quo levels, a new position is funded for human trafficking enforcement, and the Corrections Districts are receiving additional state funds for Drug Courts to replace expired federal funds. The House version has not come out yet, although their justice system budget is expected to be $14 million less than the Senate.

Also at the Iowa legislature:

  • The Senate is scheduled to debate SF 492 early this week. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) supports the bill, which funds a framework for case management services in case of disaster. Catholic Charities is typically involved in the community response following a disaster.
  • HF 347 is on its way to the governor after passing the Senate. The bill provides that the Department of Human Services will be the only licensing agency for child care programs in schools. Some programs in schools are currently regulated by the Department of Education.
  • HF 6 was amended by the Senate. HF 6 adds all school employees and many volunteers, rather than just licensed employees (such as teachers), to the school sexual exploitation statute. The Senate amendment to HF 6 extends the statute of limitations for school-related abuse lawsuits from five to 10 years, and adds parts of several bills that failed in the House, including provisions related to human trafficking and domestic violence. We do not object to any of these. HF 6 returns to the House and it can accept or reject the Senate amendment.

ASSISTED SUICIDE

Assisted suicide proposals have failed this year in a number of states, including Iowa. We have posted a new resource from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that details how doctor-prescribed suicide promotes suicide in general.

The USCCB has also released a new video called “Maggie’s Story.” It features Maggie Karner, a 51-yr-old mother of three, who was diagnosed last year with terminal brain cancer. She reclaims the term ‘dignity’ and places it at the heart of a loving family. She shares about her dad’s courageous witness when he was rendered a quadriplegic for the last 5 months of his life, allowing Maggie and her siblings to keep him company and attend to his basic needs. Through the gift of that time spent together, he taught her to face her own final days with true grace and dignity.

Finally, a new Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus found that a majority of Americans do not support assisted suicide and that strong majorities harbor deep concerns over such proposals.

FAITH LEADERS REAFFIRM COMMITMENT TO MARRIAGE AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

A few days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the rights of states to recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman, more than 30 religious leaders representing diverse faith communities throughout the United States have reaffirmed their shared commitment to marriage and religious freedom. An open letter entitled “The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness” was issued to all in positions of public service on April 23. You can see the letter at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Open-Letter-on-Marriage-and-Religious-Freedom-April-2015.pdf.