The Iowa Senate and House have passed different versions of SF 510, the “standings” appropriations bill. The bill makes adjustments to appropriations that are required by state law.

Regarding an issue of concern to the Iowa Catholic Conference, both versions of SF 510 contain status quo funding of $8.6 million for the transportation of nonpublic school students. If fully funded, the appropriation would be $9.96 million. School districts control how this money is expended either by providing the service themselves, contracting it out, or reimbursing parents.

During debate on SF 510, the House approved an “opt-in” provision for public school parents regarding information on human growth and development used in classrooms and educational conferences/seminars. This replaces the current “opt-out” on such information provided for parents in Iowa law. In either case, parents who want their children to receive this information in the public school will still be able to do so. The ICC supports public policies that help parents in exercising their right to choose the kind of education best suited to the needs of their children.

The House also took out a few items in the Senate version of SF 510 that were supported by the ICC, including:

  • Funding a pilot program to assist refugees. The proposal would allocate about $750,000 to help a community organization train refugees to assist other refugees in accessing community resources.
  • Funding to fight human trafficking, and a requirement for the state to conduct additional outreach programs to help the public recognize and report incidents of human trafficking, as well as require training for law enforcement personnel on the issue.
  • Requiring employers to treat an employee who chooses to adopt in the same manner as an employee who is the biological parent of a newborn child for purposes of employment policies, benefits, and protections for the first year of the adoption.

We anticipate that this bill will be sent to a conference committee next week. All of the disputed issues mentioned will be on the table for discussion. Please send a message to your members of the Iowa legislature in support of these issues.

We also have an action alert for SF 505, the human services appropriations bill. We support eliminating government funding for abortion providers, and helping additional parents avoid the “cliff effect” with child care expenses – when a person gets a pay raise or a new job, starts making more money, and loses all of their child care assistance, resulting in a net loss.

Finally, there is no visible progress on the standoff regarding public school funding, although apparently there are still negotiations taking place.

IOWA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE BOARD MEETING

The Iowa Catholic Conference board of directors met on May 14. Among the topics discussed were end of life care and assisted suicide, poverty, and support for Catholic school parents. You can go to our Facebook page to see some pictures. The board is made up of the four diocesan bishops of Iowa along with priests, deacons, religious sisters and lay people.

NEBRASKA UNICAMERAL VOTES TO ELIMINATE DEATH PENALTY

The Nebraska unicameral legislature voted 32-15 on Wednesday to repeal the death penalty. Thirty votes will be required to overcome an expected veto by the governor. We appreciate the work of our friends at the Nebraska Catholic Conference on this issue.

AND FINALLY,

“Freedom to Bear Witness” is the theme of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom in support of religious liberty, which will take place from June 21 to July 4. A variety of resources (also in Spanish) are available at www.Fortnight4Freedom.org.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!