Most of the election coverage has been focused on the presidential race but we pay attention to the Iowa Statehouse. Tuesday’s elections resulted in the Republicans gaining control of the Iowa Senate. They picked up six seats for a total of 29 Republicans to 19 Democrats and one independent. There will be a special election in Davenport next month. The Republicans in the House gained two seats giving them a 59-41 majority.

This is the first time Republicans have had control of both chambers and the governor’s office since the 1990’s. This will present some new opportunities and challenges for the Iowa Catholic Conference legislative concerns approved last month by the bishops and board.

One opportunity at the legislature might come in the form of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). These would allow parents who choose a Catholic school to receive a deposit of public funds into a savings account to use for educational expenses such as tuition.

Other priorities such as opposition to doctor-prescribed suicide and support for abortion restrictions and an increase in the state’s minimum wage were affirmed. Other items were marked for additional attention, including:

  • Funding for regional mental health services. Services are currently provided through regions made up of counties and funded by county property taxes. There is a dollar cap determining how much property tax revenue counties can dedicate to mental health care.
  • Robust oversight of the Medicaid managed care program. The bishops received input that with the changes in Medicaid there are people who no longer can access needed care, have had to change doctors, have had their privacy compromised, or have to travel long distances for care.
  • Gun control. The board approved support of reasonable measures to control the sale and use of firearms, including universal background checks for gun purchases.

The legislative session begins on Jan. 9. The full list of concerns can be viewed at www.iowacatholicconference.org.

As much as possible the ICC avoids getting caught up in the ongoing Republican vs. Democratic battles. Our focus will continue to be on applying Catholic teachings about human life and dignity to important issues and bringing our recommendations to the public square. We’re looking forward to educating legislators about the concerns of the Catholic Church and working for the common good in whatever ways possible.

In other election news, despite strong efforts by the state Catholic Conferences, Nebraskans reinstated the death penalty and voters in Colorado approved physician-assisted suicide.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has congratulated Donald Trump on his election to the presidency.

“We, as citizens and our elected representatives, would do well to remember the words of Pope Francis when he addressed the United States Congress last year, ‘all political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity,’ Archbishop Kurtz said. “And we will look for the new administration’s commitment to domestic religious liberty, ensuring people of faith remain free to proclaim and shape our lives around the truth about man and woman, and the unique bond of marriage that they can form.”

Archbishop Kurtz concluded, “Let us pray for leaders in public life that they may rise to the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage. And may all of us as Catholics help each other be faithful and joyful witnesses to the healing love of Jesus.”

ICC’s 50th ANNIVERSARY

As we noted in previous newsletters, the ICC is marking its 50th anniversary this fall. Here’s a few of the legislative priorities approved by the ICC board in November 1988:

  • “We support the continuation of state legislation that prohibits the use of public funds and facilities for abortions.
  • We continue to support the full state funding of nonpublic school transportation, textbooks, AEA and hot lunch services.
  • The ICC supports the expansion of Medicaid, decentralization of the medically needy program and a program where employers are required to furnish medical insurance programs to their employees.”

STUDY SHOWS STO TAX CREDIT SAVES MILLIONS FOR IOWA

The School Tuition Organization Tax Credit in Iowa helps raise almost $20 million every year in scholarships for low-income children to attend nonpublic schools. People who give to an STO receive a 65 percent state tax credit for their donations. It’s a classic win-win. If you’re interested in donating to an STO and receiving a tax credit, go to www.iowaace.org for an STO directory.

A new study just released by the EdChoice organization shows that the Iowa STO program has saved Iowa taxpayers between $280 million and almost $461 million during its first 10 years. For more information click here.