Not all of the political activity in Iowa these days relates to the caucuses. The state legislature is back in session as well.

Senate File 84 was considered in a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. The bill would restrict many employers from asking job applicants up-front about criminal convictions. The purpose of the bill is to provide better opportunities for ex-offenders by preventing their job applications to be put aside immediately based on their criminal record.

Once the job applicant has been determined to be otherwise qualified and has been selected for an interview, employers could do the background checks and inquiries necessary. One of the Iowa Catholic Conference’s legislative concerns is to support the return of ex-offenders into the community once reparations are made. We’ll keep you posted on the bill’s progress.

The Senate Human Resources Committee will hear an update on “Medicaid privatization” next Monday from Mikki Stier, Iowa Medicaid Director. Concerns have been expressed about continuity of care for Medicaid patients and whether there will be an adequate number of medical providers available when the system switches over to a managed-care model on March 1. It is anticipated that the committee will be working on legislation to provide additional oversight to Medicaid. Our concern is that Medicaid recipients get the care they need.

Many Iowans are in snowy Washington, D.C. at this writing for the March for Life marking the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Here in Iowa, the Midwest March for Life at the state capitol was last Saturday. You can check out some photos from the Mass for Life and the March on our Facebook page. About 500 people participated.

A new Marist poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus shows that a strong majority of Americans support greater restrictions on abortion. More than 80 percent of Americans would restrict abortion to the first three months of pregnancy. That includes nearly two-thirds of people who are “pro-choice.” In Iowa, because of court decisions, abortion is legal throughout pregnancy.

“It is time for a new national conversation on abortion, one that begins with this consensus in favor of restrictions —a consensus that American women and men have already reached, and that includes a majority even of those who call themselves pro-choice,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.

RESOURCES FOR THE IOWA CAUCUSES

The Iowa precinct caucuses are coming up on Monday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. If you want to participate now’s the time to make your plans. You’ll want to get to the caucus site early as large crowds are anticipated. To see where your neighborhood precinct will meet, go to www.iowademocrats.org or www.iowagop.org. You can register to vote or switch party registration on the spot. Typically the voting for presidential candidates comes early in the caucus and party platform work comes later.

Our resources about the caucuses can be found here. They include statements from the Iowa bishops, a document on conscience formation and some sample platform resolutions. In their new “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” document, the U.S. bishops say “Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable.” The Church does not suppose or oppose candidates.

In a recent article, Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels said “We . . . have a duty to inform ourselves about issues so as to vote conscientiously. Everyone guides his or her choices by something. For Catholics, that something should be the teachings of Christ and his Church.”

Everyday voters are very welcome at the caucus – these meetings are not just for people who are really politically active. Some people in other states are a little envious of your opportunity to participate in this first electoral test of 2016!

AND FINALLY,

The U.S. Senate voted 55-43 last week to keep H.R. 4038 from proceeding. The bill would have stopped the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States. Senators Ernst and Grassley voted in favor of the legislation. The Justice for Immigrants campaign of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference urged a “no” vote.