The first legislative “funnel” deadline was last Thursday. That means any bill that has not passed out of a committee by now is dead for the session, with the exception of budget and tax bills.

During the next few weeks, the Iowa Senate will be working to pass bills that came out of a Senate committee, and send them to the House so they can go through a House committee before the next deadline date of March 31. The Iowa House will be doing the same. But nothing is dead for certain until the legislature adjourns.

Legislators dealt with some issues of great importance on Thursday.

A bill to restrict abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization (with some exceptions), Senate File 53, passed the Senate Human Resources Committee to beat the deadline. As we testified at subcommittee hearings for the bill, Iowa’s current prohibition of abortions after the second trimester is unenforceable because of an exception that allows abortions to preserve the health of the mother.

A bill to establish in law that life begins at conception, Senate File 253, was not brought up for debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The ICC agrees with the moral principle that life begins at conception, and also with the goal of the bill – to stop abortion. However, we did not think the bill provided a realistic opportunity for ending or reducing abortion in Iowa.

So there are three Senate bills still alive that have the potential to accomplish some good things in the protection of life in its earliest stages: Senate File 2, defunding abortion providers (now in House Judiciary), Senate File 53, and Senate File 359, to prevent trafficking in fetal body parts.

Legislation to bring back the death penalty was originally scheduled for a subcommittee hearing on Thursday morning in advance of the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. We were ready to testify in opposition. However, the meeting was cancelled and the bill did not advance. Thanks for your last-minute emails to legislators on the subject.

The Senate Local Government Committee passed Senate Study Bill 1172, which would require fulfillment by local law enforcement of all detainer requests (even those without a warrant) by Immigration and Customs Control. Senate File 412 passed Senate Judiciary and requires the use of e-verify by businesses that hold a state license and have at least 10 full-time employees.

The bills join House File 265 as bills promoting local law enforcement of federal immigration laws without accounting for the current relationships of trust between Iowa law enforcement and immigrant communities. This could undermine public safety by making immigrants scared of cooperating with local law enforcement.

We believe we have a Scriptural obligation to “welcome the stranger” and support merciful public policies that help immigrants provide for families. Check out our website for more information on our position.

We were pleased that the House Commerce Committee declined to take up House File 196, which would have legalized a new form of lending at 17 percent interest a month.

Senate File 427 passed out of committee and will provide more resources for public schools to educate students who are not proficient in the English language. Refugee students (by definition legally present in the U.S.) are sometimes not literate in their own language and need additional assistance.

Some parents have been asking about the status of an Education Savings Account program in the legislature. First, we appreciate your hard work to raise awareness and conversation on Education Savings Accounts and school choice. We have been working for ESAs for several years and your efforts have helped raise the issue to a level not previously seen in Iowa.

Regardless of negative commentary from opposition groups and media, independent polling data from Braun Research shows overwhelming support for school choice and ESAs in Iowa. A bill concerning an ESA or the School Tuition Organization program involves the state budget, and could be introduced at any time during the legislative session. There are many weeks left in this session, and we can still make significant gains for families who want to have a choice in how and where their child is educated, regardless of their address or income.

Earlier in the week:

The House Judiciary Committee passed House File 517. Among many provisions, it allows the use of reasonable force, including deadly force, even if an alternative course of action is available.

Catholic moral teaching recognizes the right to self-defense. However, the use of deadly force cannot be considered necessary if the person can escape. We have a moral obligation to try to not use deadly force. We believe this section of HF 517 moves Iowa farther away from the moral principle of “You shall not kill.” The good news is that the bill was amended to reinstate the need for a permit to acquire firearms.

House File 376 passed the House Labor Committee with the support of the ICC. It would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees based on pregnancy or childbirth, as long as the action would not impose an “undue hardship” on the business.

Senate Study Bill 1137 passed the Senate Education Committee and provides some needed clarifications for nonpublic schools that are accredited by agencies other than the state. All Catholic schools in Iowa are accredited by the state as are public schools, so remember that the next time you hear about private schools’ “lack of accountability”!

Unfortunately there’s still been no action on an increase in the minimum wage in Iowa. Governor Branstad has signaled his support for such a measure. The minimum wage is currently set at $7.25. So far, the only legislation moving on this issue would forbid cities and counties from raising the minimum wage on their own.

The House State Government Committee passed a bill (House File 516) requiring voters to show identification at the polls as well as adding a signature verification requirement. If this legislation continues to move forward, the state should follow through and appropriate the money necessary to pay for IDs for those who can’t afford one. The signature verification requirement could also be problematic for the elderly or people who have had a stroke, for example, and their physical condition has changed. There is little evidence of voter impersonation in Iowa.

Bills related to workers compensation (HF 518 and SF 435) would make it more difficult for injured workers to collect assistance. One example is that it would limit when a temporarily disabled worker can raise an objection to “offered work” based on suitability. In addition, workers over the age of 67 would be ineligible for benefits beyond 150 weeks (for those permanently and totally disabled by a job injury, their benefits would cease at age 67). Proponents say the bills would rebalance a system that has been tilted too much towards workers.

On these and other issues, you can send a message to your legislator by visiting our Action Center at www.votervoice.net/icc/home. We anticipate new alerts and sample messages to legislators to be available in the coming days.

And finally, in response to the recent rise in anti-Semitic actions that have taken place across the U.S., the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of Springfield, MA and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, issued a statement expressing solidarity and support for our Jewish brothers and sisters, while also calling for the rejection of these hateful actions.