First things first – we pray you have a blessed Holy Week!
On to the news …
Senate File 471, the bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization, passed the House with an amendment last week by a vote of 55-41 and returns to the Senate. The bill corrects the deficiencies we saw in the House and adds a 72-hour informed consent period before an abortion takes place. If the Senate agrees, the bill goes to the governor.
There was some confusion on social media as to whether the bill requires a mother to carry a dead fetus. To clear this up, the bill does not consider the medical procedure in this situation to be an abortion.
Several nearby states have 20-week abortion bans in place. We are concerned that Iowa might become a destination for late-term abortion providers without this legislation. SF 471 represents a meaningful gain for women and children and we will encourage the Senate to approve Iowa’s first restriction on abortion in many decades. Click here for a sample message to your Senator asking for their support of the bill.
The firearms/use of force bill, House File 517, passed the Senate last week 33-17 with minimal changes. The House agreed with the changes and the bill has been sent to the governor for his expected signature. The ICC has opposed the bill particularly because it expands Iowa’s “Castle Doctrine.” Currently, there is no “duty to retreat” in the face of any perceived threat in your home or place of business in Iowa. HF 517 removes any duty to retreat from using deadly force anywhere, including to protect property.
Catholic moral teaching recognizes the right to self-defense as a way of preserving one’s life and in defense of others in the face of an imminent threat. However, we have a moral obligation not to use deadly force unless absolutely necessary.
One of our legislative concerns is supporting a sustainable funding stream for Iowa’s regional mental health care system. In 1996, as part of an effort to shift mental health funding from counties to the state budget, the legislature imposed a cap on the total dollar amount in property taxes that counties could levy for mental health and intellectual/developmental disability services.
Legislation has been introduced in both chambers (House Study Bill 194 and Senate Study Bill 1187) that would address the issue.
The 14 mental health regions, generally speaking, would like to see an increased total base amount that can be levied. The bills include a small increase in the amount of funding over time. Click here to contact your legislator and encourage them to make the regional system financially sustainable.
About 900 people attended the Education Celebration at the state capitol last week in support of additional educational opportunities for students and families. Thanks to those who were able to attend in person or send a message to your legislator. We think full educational choice for parents together with strong public schools should be a goal of education policy. Expanding opportunity for students enhances their lives and their futures.
There was another subcommittee hearing last week for House Study Bill 187, a bill to limit state tax credits. We have been monitoring the bill particularly for any impact on tax credits related to adoption, scholarships for nonpublic school children, assistance for parents of students in K-12 education (public and private) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (which supports low-income people who are working).
During the hearing, Rep. Pat Grassley, (R-New Hartford), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, announced that the Earned Income Tax Credit would not be affected. There are also indications that the focus of the bill will be on some business-related tax credits, which could mean the other tax credits we are concerned about would be unaffected. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this legislation.
The ICC supports House File 240, which would offer a 60 percent tax credit for donors to a nonprofit organization doing research in regenerative medicine. We support such research when it is done in an ethical way without destroying embryos. The legislation would help raise money for the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Coralville. The bill has passed the House Ways and Means Committee but because of concern about the total amount of tax credits extended by the state, as mentioned above, the bill has a tough road ahead this year.
Please contact your legislator regarding these or other bills through our Action Center at www.votervoice.net/icc/home.
House and Senate Republican leaders have announced their targets for state department budgets for the next fiscal year (FY 2018). The plan spends a little more than $7.4 billion and pays back some state reserve funds. This amount is about $14 million less than the current year budget.
This Thursday (April 13) is the annual celebration marking the Iowa Religious Freedom Day. The public is invited to attend a non-partisan event to learn from Drake students and other speakers about the value of religious diversity and religious freedom. The celebration will be held in the first floor rotunda at noon in the capitol. Lunch will be provided.
A few of the students associated with the “A Spectrum of Faith” project, along with their professor, Dr. Timothy Knepper, will share some of their experiences and impressions as a part of the event. Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese will open the short program after Dowling Catholic High School students sing the national anthem. Go to www.iowareligiousfreedomday.org for more information. You can also download the event flier here.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, welcomed the State Department’s April 4 announcement that it will withhold federal funding from the U.N. Population Fund (“UNFPA”) because UNFPA monies go to Chinese agencies that perform forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations. The Administration’s decision invokes the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment against funding organizations involved in coercive population programs. Millions of taxpayer dollars will now be redirected to maternal health and non-abortion reproductive health programs in developing countries.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the USCCB, and Bishop Oscar Cantú, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, have issued a joint statement calling for renewed peace efforts in Syria.
The statement is excerpted here: “Our Conference of Bishops decried the chemical attack in Syria as one that ‘shocks the soul.’ The use of internationally banned indiscriminate weapons is morally reprehensible. At the same time, our Conference affirmed the call of Pope Francis to attain peace in Syria ‘through dialogue and reconciliation.’ The longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution. We ask the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.”
In these uncertain times for immigrants and refugees in our communities, the end of Lent and the rebirth of hope that Easter brings can help inspire us in speaking up for immigrants and refugees and their families. The U.S. bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign has prepared some resources you can use to contact members of Congress during their Easter break from today through April 23. The resource is available here.