The second legislative “funnel” deadline was on Friday. Other than budget and tax bills, legislation was required to have passed one chamber and through a committee in the other chamber to remain eligible. Keep in mind nothing is totally dead until the session is over.

Senate File 471 advanced out of the House Human Resources Committee last Wednesday night. The committee fixed the problems we saw in the Senate version of the bill. We will be working to see if we can get this bill on the House floor for debate and back to the Senate for final approval.

Senate File 471 would restrict abortions in Iowa after 20 weeks post-fertilization. An abortion will no longer be performed at or beyond that point unless there is a threat to the long-term health or life of the mother.

The bill updates the Iowa Code to reflect the advances made in saving the lives of infants over the past 40 years. Unborn children once considered too young to survive are now doing so at an increasing rate. In addition, several nearby states have 20-week abortion bans in place. We are concerned Iowa might become a destination for late-term abortion providers without this legislation.

An updated action alert and sample message for SF 471 is available here. Please contact your member of the Iowa House. Thanks also to those who attended the pro-life rally sponsored by the Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders last week.

Several other bills of interest did not make it past the funnel deadline, including:

Senate File 359 had passed the Iowa Senate a week ago. It would outlaw trafficking in fetal body parts.

Senate File 2 passed the Iowa Senate on Feb. 2. It would set up a state-funded family planning program which is intended to duplicate a current federal/state program. The main change from current practice is that abortion providers would not be able to receive funding. Many observers speculate that this legislation will re-appear later in a budget bill.

Senate File 360 passed the Iowa Senate unanimously on March 30. Iowa’s Safe Haven law allows parents of newborns to relinquish custody to certain institutional health facilities without fear of prosecution for abandonment. Senate File 360 would have expanded the law to include first responders who arrive following a 911 call.

Two immigration enforcement-only bills, SF 412 and HF 265, did not advance to beat the deadline. The Senate’s so-called “sanctuary cities” bill, Senate File 481, was moved to the Unfinished Business Calendar so it remains eligible. While we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in assisting and continuing to “welcome the stranger.” You can remind legislators about this issue here.

In other news, Gov. Branstad signed Senate File 295 on Friday. Among other provisions it prohibits cities or counties from approving a higher minimum wage than the statewide minimum wage. During debate last week, the Senate rejected efforts to allow several counties that had set a higher wage to continue to do so. While the law does not requires employers in these counties to lower wages, common sense tells you some will.

Even some lawmakers who voted for the bill acknowledged it would sometimes be necessary to raise the minimum wage statewide. We continue to encourage legislators to go in that direction. Here’s a sample message.

A bill to legalize a new form of high-interest lending, House Study Bill 189, was addressed by a House Ways and Means subcommittee last week. The bill allows 17 percent interest for loans up to $2,500. The best-case scenario for those loans would be an annual interest rate of more than 200 percent. These are similar to “payday” loans but could be extended to higher amounts and longer time periods.

For example, a one-year loan of $1,000, for example, would end up costing about $2,500 if paid off on time. We understand that customers seeking these loans might have little or no credit history but interest rates this high are unconscionable and serve to hurt those who can least afford it.

One of our legislative concerns for this year was a removal of the dollar cap on funding for government mental health services. Senate Study Bill 1187, introduced last week, removes the dollar cap and sets up sustained funding for regional mental health systems with an inflationary factor. The bill also recognizes the population shifts that have taken place. However, it doesn’t address all the funding issues that some of the biggest counties have. We’ll keep you updated on the bill’s progress and what you can do to help.

EVENTS OF INTEREST COMING UP AT THE CAPITOL

The annual “Education Celebration” sponsored by Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education is coming up at the capitol this Thursday, April 6. There will be a rally at noon in the first floor rotunda. Many parents will be in attendance and plan to talk with lawmakers about assistance for parents to attend a nonpublic school.

There will be an event marking the Iowa Religious Freedom Day on Thursday, April 13. The celebration will be held in the first floor rotunda at noon in the capitol. Go to www.iowareligiousfreedomday.org for more information. We also have a blog post about the event. We hope to see you there!

FEDERAL ISSUES

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised both chambers of the U.S. Congress for taking action to nullify a rule change made late in the Obama Administration. The rule prevented states from redirecting Title X family planning funding away from abortion providers.

“The clear purpose of this Title X rule change was to benefit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood,” Cardinal Dolan said. “So Congress has done well to reverse this very bad public policy, and to restore the ability of states to stop one stream of our tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood and redirect it to community health centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care.”

The main sponsor of the Senate version was Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). The measure now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign the resolution into law.

In other news, President Trump issued an executive order on March 28 that rescinds and weakens numerous environmental protections, and effectively dismantles the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the national program designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent in relation to 2015 levels by the year 2030. Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest pollution emitting sector, making up just under one-third of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions.

“The USCCB, in unity with Pope Francis, strongly supports environmental stewardship and has called consistently for ‘our own country to curtail carbon emissions,’” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in response to the order. “This Executive Order places a number of environmental protections in jeopardy and moves the U.S. away from a national carbon standard, all without adopting a sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation.”

The USCCB has voiced support for a national carbon emission standard in recent years, though the Church does not privilege one set of technical, economic, or political approaches over another. Bishop Dewane stresses that, although the CPP is not the only possible mechanism for reducing carbon emissions, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern.