The first Iowa legislative deadline is coming up. Any non-budget bill has to pass out of a committee in one chamber by Friday to remain eligible.

Legislation addressing one of the ICC’s major priorities was introduced last week by the chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls).

House Study Bill 651, the “Iowa Student Opportunity Act,” would offer state-funded Educational Savings Grants for some parents to help them choose the educational option that best fits their child’s unique needs, regardless of income or address. The parent could use that money to help pay for nonpublic school tuition. The bill would also set up increased availability of charter schools. A subcommittee hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning on the bill.

For many decades it has been the teaching of the Catholic Church that because parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children, they have a right, in justice, to access some of their tax dollars to help them exercise that duty.

For the school year starting July 1, 2019, Education Savings Grants (ESGs) would be available for pupils:

  • eligible to enroll in kindergarten
  • grade 1-12 who have attended a public school for the equivalent of the two immediately preceding semesters
  • who received an ESG for the immediately preceding school year. (In other words, once in, you’re in every year.)

Obviously, we would like to see a bill that would help current Catholic school parents, but this legislation would expand choice to many more Iowa families and is a solid foundation on which it can grow to additional families.

We encourage you to send a message to your member of the Iowa House in support at https://www.votervoice.net/ICC/campaigns/56859/respond.

Our other alerts are available at www.votervoice.net/icc/home. These include a sample message opposing Senate File 481, which would, among other provisions, require local jails to comply with all requests from ICE (immigration control) to hold immigrants, even when federal law does not require it. People would be held for possible deportation, sometimes for relatively minor offenses, when they otherwise normally would be released. This may cause the separation of families and imposition of a penalty that is out-of-proportion to the wrong that has been done. The bill is now eligible for consideration by the full House Public Safety Committee.

There is also a sample message urging members of Congress to work together on a solution to help “Dreamers” and the DACA program. Interestingly, a recent Des Moines Register poll showed that Iowans overwhelmingly support citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, not just Dreamers who are undocumented but brought here as children.

The following bills of interest are scheduled to have subcommittee hearings this week:

Senate Study Bill 3134, reinstating the death penalty in Iowa. Last week the Iowa Catholic bishops issued an updated statement opposing the death penalty.

Senate Study Bill 3171, a bill to provide a standard of review for the court when there’s a conflict between the First Amendment’s protection of free exercise of religion and a state law. It says that government should not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it can be demonstrated that applying that burden is a compelling government interest and the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Thirty-one states have a similar provision by state legislative action or court action. ICC supports the bill. There will also be a proclamation celebrating religious freedom signed by Gov. Reynolds on Wednesday.

Senate File 2194, which would re-prioritize federal Title X family planning funds away from abortion providers. The ICC supported a similar bill last year than addressed another family planning program.

During last week’s legislative action:

A bill to prohibit “wrongful birth” claims passed out of a House subcommittee with our support. House File 2165 would limit lawsuits against physicians by parents who claim a child should have been aborted because of a disability.

Senate Study Bill 3143 passed out of subcommittee. This bill would prohibit abortion after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected. Here’s the ICC statement to the subcommittee.

Senate Study Bill 3120 passed out of subcommittee. It intends to secure free speech and public expression at state universities. The ICC particularly supports the section of the bill which would allow student religious groups to choose their own leadership.

Senate Study Bill 3155 passed out of subcommittee. It is a proposed state Constitutional amendment to subject any restrictions of the right of the people to keep and bear arms to “strict scrutiny.” The ICC recommends opposition to the bill because it would have the effect of making any regulation of firearms difficult and may put current state law regarding background checks and permitting at risk. The Catholic bishops of the United States have been a consistent advocate of reasonable regulation of firearms for many years.  A House version has also passed out of subcommittee.

You can use our VoterVoice system to send messages to your legislator on any of these bills. Go to  www.votervoice.net/icc/home and put in your address. It’s that easy to get started!

FEDERAL ISSUES

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, thanked the Trump Administration following release of its six-month report showing early signs of successful implementation of an expanded Mexico City Policy aptly renamed Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance. “U.S. tax dollars have no business going to organizations that are unwilling to pursue health outcomes for every person and instead insist on promoting and imposing their abortion ideology on women and children,” said Cardinal Dolan.

In addition, the Bipartisan Budget Act passed by Congress and signed by the President included the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act, which codifies fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

AND FINALLY,

Next week we’ll have a full report on what happened at the legislative deadline. Thanks for being part of our legislative network!