We hope to see you at the Midwest March for Life coming up on Saturday, Jan. 16. The event is sponsored by Iowa Right to Life. Check out the flier here. There will be a Mass with the bishops of Iowa at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines beginning at 9:30 a.m., followed by a rally on the west steps of the state capitol at 11 a.m. and a walk to the Iowa Supreme Court building.

The March will continue with a free lunch at 12:30 p.m. at the Iowa Events Center. The keynote speaker will be Melissa Ohden, founder of the Abortion Survivors Network and a survivor of a failed abortion. Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, will be part of a breakout session on state legislation and the Iowa caucuses. For more information, or to RSVP for the lunch, go to www.iowartl.org.

The Iowa legislative session begins on Monday. The following day Gov. Branstad will present his Condition of the State address and budget to the legislature. The state’s tax revenue is not rising as fast as once predicted so that has an impact on how much legislators can spend.

A top item of discussion during the session will be the amount of funding for public schools. The governor recently proposed the idea of moving some money from the “statewide penny” (SAVE) tax that pays for public school infrastructure to help fund water quality efforts. Combined with the governor’s veto of some school funding last session, that will make for some interesting discussions.

We’ve been preparing for the session by working on draft legislation and meeting with lawmakers and other groups to help advance our agenda. Just to highlight a few of the issues we anticipate working on:

  • A top priority of the bishops is to help parents exercise their right to choose the kind of education best suited to the needs of their children, regardless of their income or where they live. This year we plan to continue working on an Education Savings Account (ESA) program. An ESA is a state-funded savings account for a child to help pay for tuition to a nonpublic school. Last session there were several ESA bills introduced in both the Senate and the House.
  • Last summer you may have heard about videos that show Planned Parenthood trafficking in fetal tissues following abortions. We believe that practice is unethical. Not only that, but apparently abortion methods are sometimes altered not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more intact organs. We have been working on a bill to outlaw trafficking in fetal body parts, and support efforts to redirect government family planning money away from abortion providers.
  • The past couple of years we have been working on legislation at the statehouse that would fund additional support for refugees. Unfortunately, with the anti-refugee rhetoric that has been heard in our country following terrorist attacks, we hope we won’t be facing legislation against refugees.

Refugees are individuals who have fled their countries of origin because of war, fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group. They have to move away from their home, and typically live in camps overseas. Before any admission to the U.S., each refugee must undergo a vetting process by the State Department and Homeland Security, which usually takes 18 months to two years.

The Catholic Church in Iowa has assisted with the resettlement of refugees in the state for decades. The Iowa bishops made a statement a couple of months ago against rejecting refugees simply on the basis of nationality or religion.

Obviously many other items of interest will come up during the legislative session. We’ll keep you informed through this newsletter. You can find our entire list of legislative concerns at www.iowacatholicconference.org.

AND FINALLY,

While we don’t support or oppose candidates, we have placed some updated resources on our website to help you prepare for the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. The caucuses are a great opportunity for Iowans to have a direct impact on the political landscape and beyond. To find out your caucus location, go to www.iowademocrats.org or www.iowagop.org.