It was a short week at the state capitol last week with the Iowa Caucuses on Monday and a snowstorm on Tuesday. The precinct caucuses saw record turnout on the Republican side and high attendance among the Democrats. Most meetings at the capitol were cancelled last Tuesday but the rest of the week was hectic as lawmakers push towards the first legislative deadline on Feb. 19.

Here’s a look at some bills we’re working on. You can click on the link to see the text of the bill and its sponsors.

Senate File 2051 – legalize doctor-prescribed suicide (oppose)

A subcommittee meeting on the bill is scheduled for this week. Stay tuned for any action alerts following the meeting. For more detailed information on the ICC position go to our website.

House Study Bill 558 – anti- “sanctuary” cities (oppose)

The bill would forbid state, county or local governments from limiting or restricting enforcement of federal immigration law in any way. 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 formal position on how law enforcement should respond to those requests. However, they have expressed concern about the effect on families from legislation similar to HSB 558 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.

HSB 558 passed out of subcommittee on Thursday and could be addressed by the House Public Safety Committee this week. Here’s a link to the members of the committee.

Senate Study Bill 3033 – eliminates the 90-day waiting period before a divorce (oppose)

When it comes to marriage, government should do no harm. The Iowa Catholic Conference opposes the bill because we believe the state has a legitimate interest in a waiting period for a divorce. The current waiting period serves several public policy purposes, including providing both parties with the opportunity to thoroughly contemplate the impact of divorcing and to help ensure that all issues are addressed and no advantage is taken of either party.

Senate File 2028 – energy efficiency matching grants for nonprofits (support)

The bill appropriates $1 million to the Iowa Energy Center for matching grants to help pay for energy efficiency improvements to buildings owned and operated by nonprofit organizations. It is similar to a bill supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops at the federal level. Pope Francis has called us to protect creation and care for our common home. One way to do this is to help nonprofits make needed energy-efficiency improvements! A subcommittee meeting on the Iowa bill is scheduled for later this week.

Senate File 84 – “ban the box” (support)

With exceptions, SF 84 would stop businesses from asking job candidates on the first application form whether they have a criminal history. Background checks and other inquiries can take place after it has been determined that the job candidate is otherwise qualified for the position. ICC has supported the bill because it would provide better job prospects for ex-offenders as they seek re-entry to the community. This bill has been considered in two subcommittee meetings and work continues.

Senate File 2082 – creates an office to combat human trafficking (support)

SF 2082 would establish an office within the department of public safety to oversee efforts to combat human trafficking. Trafficking in persons is the fastest-growing criminal activity and is on the same scale of gun-running and drugs.

If you want to send a message on these bills, go to www.votervoice.net/icc/home. Keep on eye on your inbox for action alerts on these bills as they move through the process.

We are following many other issues as well: for example, health care. Medicaid is the government health insurance for low-income people. As we noted a couple of weeks ago, concerns have been raised about the continuity of care for Medicaid recipients as the state transfers to a “managed care” model. Among the stated purposes of the changeover from the traditional “fee-for-service” model is to improve access to health care and for the state to be reimbursing for better outcomes for patients. This process is also intended to be more efficient and save money. Medicaid makes up about 20 percent of the state’s budget.

During the past several months, numerous questions have arisen as to whether there will be an adequate number of medical providers available when the system switches over to the managed-care model on March 1.

As a result, Senate Democrats plan a vote for this week to stop the transition process because they believe the state is not ready. In the other chamber, House Republican leadership has already said they do not plan to pass a bill that would stop the new system.

The concern of the Iowa Catholic Conference is that Medicaid recipients get the care they need. Our Catholic tradition teaches that health care is a natural human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Among the causes that contribute to poverty are “inadequate measures for guaranteeing basic health care” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 447). We plan to bring that perspective to the governor and legislators and ask them to work on this issue with prudence and a commitment to the common good.

AND FINALLY,

Our partners at the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education have announced that the March 1 “Education Celebration” rally will feature Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights) and parents. The event will be held in the rotunda at the State Capitol at noon to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program. Several hundred parents and students are expected to attend. We hope to see you there.