If you sent a message to your legislator last week through our Action Center last week, thank you! If you haven’t yet done so, we would appreciate your taking action on these two bills:

House File 2329 would stop the transfer or sale of fetal tissue in Iowa after an abortion. The ICC supports the bill. Our position is that abortion is a grave moral evil and that fact makes the use of fetal body parts following the abortion unethical.

The Des Moines Register recently editorialized against the bill by calling it “anti-science” and “clearly an anti-abortion stunt.” Its position makes perfect sense if you believe abortion to be a regrettable but perhaps necessary event, or in some cases a positive good.

House File 2276 prohibits the state, counties and cities from limiting or restricting enforcement of federal immigration law in Iowa. The ICC opposes the bill. The bill addresses perceived problems when local law enforcement entities in Iowa decline to honor requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain undocumented people arrested on minor charges while the federal government investigates their status. A federal court has ruled that these requests are optional.

The Catholic bishops don’t have a position on exactly how law enforcement should respond to those requests. However, we have expressed concern about the effect on families and believe that decisions about the usage of law enforcement resources are better left to local communities. One important issue in effective community law enforcement is building trust between police and immigrant communities.

BILLS OF INTEREST

Representatives of EMBARC, Lutheran Services in Iowa, Visiting Nurse Services, Catholic Charities and the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) were at the State Capitol last week advocating for an expansion of the RefugeeRISE program. This program provides job readiness skills to refugees who’ve lived in Iowa ten or fewer years. There’s still a serious need for trained workers in both rural and urban areas of our state.

RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps, launched in late 2015 through the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, is administered by EMBARC. Currently, 17 AmeriCorps members serve in seven teams in Des Moines, Marshalltown and Waterloo.

Senate File 2153 would offer $350,000 from the state to match $650,000 in federal funds to expand the RefugeeRise program. The bill is scheduled for a subcommittee hearing tomorrow. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Along with Interfaith Power and Light, we are advocating for a bill, SF 2182, that would provide matching funds for nonprofit corporations to complete energy efficiency projects. The grants would be made through the Iowa Energy Center. Many nonprofit agencies are in older facilities and a grant program would assist their energy efficiency efforts.

We were pleased to see that the Senate unanimously passed SF 2288, which would provide for additional confidentiality for juvenile court records. The bill goes to the House. This would help enable juvenile offenders, when they’re older, to more easily get a job without being stigmatized as a criminal. It would still allow for the public to know about violent criminals in their community.

The Iowa Senate also unanimously voted for SF 2191 to establish an office in the Department of Public Safety to combat human trafficking.

The ICC supports a bill, HF 2386, to enable the termination of parental rights when the court finds “clear and convincing evidence” that the child was conceived as a result of sexual abuse. The abuser’s parental rights could be terminated as a result of their perpetrating the sexual abuse.

The ICC also supports SF 2238, which would require mandatory reporters of child abuse (such as social workers, teachers, etc.) to report all abuse of all children. Currently it is not required to report abuse of children aged 12 to 17 committed by non-caretakers. One reason given for this exception is the possibility that some young people will not seek assistance following a sexual assault if they believe the abuse will not be kept confidential. We believe the current exception could have the effect of protecting abusers.

The federal government gave approval to the State of Iowa to proceed with its Medicaid “privatization” or “modernization” efforts. A bill providing for additional legislative oversight of Medicaid, Senate File 2213, is moving through the process. The Catholic bishops have consistently held that health care in a natural human right and low-income people should get the care they need.

Even though the “doctor-prescribed suicide” bills are dead for the session, there is another subcommittee hearing for the Senate bill, SF 2051, at the Capitol this Thursday. Proponents want to keep the issue in the news.

An Iowa statewide poll has found majority support of driver’s licenses for all immigrants, regardless of immigration status. The ICC has been working in support of this issue with other groups for several years with little success. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling for the ACLU, found that 58 percent of all Iowa caucus-goers support driver’s licenses for immigrants, regardless of immigration status. House File 2318, introduced by Rep. John Kooiker (R-Boyden), would have provided for such licenses to be issued to immigrants regardless of authorization status. However, the bill was introduced at the legislative deadline.

AND FINALLY,

Millions of working poor families find it increasingly difficult to meet their daily needs and achieve financial security. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) are two important social provisions that help struggling families escape poverty. Claiming these tax credits can aid in securing better housing, pursuing quality education, obtaining dependable transportation, covering out-of-pocket health care costs, or paying for quality childcare. If you are a low-income person and work, you may qualify. Go to www.eitcoutreach.org for more information.