Two bills supported by the Iowa Catholic Conference were passed by the legislature and sent to the governor this week:

House File 2386 passed the Senate 49-0. The bill enables the termination of parental rights when the court finds “clear and convincing” evidence that a 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 Iowa House also passed Senate File 2191 by a vote of 98-0. The bill establishes an office in the Department of Public Safety to combat human trafficking.

ACTION ALERTS

We encourage you to download the VoterVoice app for your phone. Once you download the app you can search for “Iowa Catholic Conference” and you’ll be good to go with our action alerts on your mobile device.

We put up a new action alert this week. The new action alert is in support of Senate File 492, a bill providing Iowans access to state-based case management services in the event of a disaster. Catholic Charities is one of the faith-based providers that are part of the statewide recovery network that serves in the event of emergency.

The 2014 Task Force on Iowa Flood Recovery proposed the creation of “a dedicated funding source for disaster case management to insure equitable access to services for all Iowans recovering from the impact of a disaster.” SF 492 addresses that need by putting in place disaster case management services, in addition to cash individual assistance, in a time of crisis. A case manager would partner with a disaster-affected individual or family in order to plan for and achieve realistic goals for long-term recovery following a disaster. This service would be available regardless of family income.

Disaster case management is designed to meet the needs of Iowans facing the natural disasters most common in the state, such as the recent tornados in Clinton County, which may not be widespread enough to be declared as a federal disaster.

SF 492 has already passed the Senate unanimously and we are working for its consideration in the House. Please send a message to members of the House Appropriations Committee. (Note that you will only be able to send a message if your address matches a legislator serving on the committee.)

The ICC is also working in support of a bill that would support refugees who have resettled in Iowa. SF 2298 would expand the current “RefugeeRISE” program contingent on an appropriation from the legislature. The Iowa Refugee Alliance is seeking $350,000 from the state to leverage $650,000 in federal matching dollars. Several legislators are looking for a place in the budget to fund the program.

The RefugeeRISE program hires Americorps teams to build workforce skills and self-sufficiency in the refugee community by pairing one native English-speaking member with one refugee member. The program increases access for refugees to existing workforce development programs and provides direct services in native languages.

In partnership with the federal government, resettlement agencies such as Catholic Charities and USCRI provide direct assistance to refugees during the first 90 days following arrival. Other groups such as EMBARC, Lutheran Services in Iowa, and Visiting Nurse Services provide important services after the first 90 days.

MEDICAID CHANGEOVER

The Catholic Church has consistently held that health care is a natural human right and that low-income people should get the care they need. Discussion continues at the State Capitol regarding the April 1 transition of Medicaid from a state-run program to one operated by three private companies. Medicaid is the government health insurance plan that serves about 560,000 lower-income Iowans.

The governor’s office made the decision to move towards a “managed care” system in an attempt to promote accountability of providers for health outcomes as well as hold down the rate of increase in Medicaid costs.

However, over the past several months, many Medicaid recipients have had problems keeping their current doctor or finding a new health care provider as the changeover is made. As a result of the concerns, the Senate Government Oversight Committee passed a bill this week, Senate File 2305, to provide for increased oversight of Medicaid. The bill is expected to be debated on the Senate floor soon.

BUDGET ISSUES

As we mentioned might happen, the legislature agreed to a compromise bill on federal tax coupling and sales tax rules. Also this week, the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference came out with a new report that projects state revenue to increase slightly during the next budget year. Democrats and Republicans have apparently agreed to an overall budget target of $7.351 billion. These steps will make it a little easier for the chambers to come to an agreement on public school funding, which has been sharply contested between the parties during the past few years.

GENOCIDE DECLARED IN THE MIDDLE EAST

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB), Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, issued an urgent call on March 14 to support a petition to stop genocide in the Middle East and convince the U.S. Department of State to include Christians in any formal declaration of genocide. On March 17, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, announced that ISIS’s actions against Christians and other minorities constitute genocide.