Typically Holy Week is a slower week at the State Capitol. That was true this year as well. Three issues of interest did not see any floor or committee action last week:
The good news is that Senate File 481, immigration enforcement, was not debated last week in the House. We believe advocates’ efforts are having an impact and slowing the bill down. There’s still time to contact your legislator.
Senate Study Bill 3206 passed out of subcommittee last week but has seen no further action since then. The bill would offer some parents Education Savings Grants to help them afford nonpublic school tuition. Thanks to the many of you who have contacted your Senator in support of the bill! We hope to see you some of you at the Education Celebration in support of school choice at the Capitol on Wednesday.
In addition, there was no action yet on the House floor on Senate File 359. It would stop trafficking in the fetal body parts which remain following an elective abortion. There is an amendment to the bill which would prohibit abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected as well.
House File 2456, which provides for additional core mental health services, was signed by the governor last week. These services are not yet fully funded but the law sets up a framework for when funding streams become more available. The bill will help address practical problems, for example, when deputies need to find a mental health bed for someone who has been in jail. As it is now they may have to drive two or three hours to find an institution who can admit the person.
The 5th annual Iowa Religious Freedom Day will be marked at the State Capitol on Thursday, April 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The public is invited to attend this non-partisan event to learn about the value of religious diversity and religious freedom.
This year’s theme is “Why Our Faith Matters: Perspectives from Our Diverse Religious Landscape.” Susie Flood, a parent from Dowling Catholic High School, and Matthew Bishop, a student at Dowling Catholic, will be among the speakers. The Iowa Catholic Conference is a co-sponsor of the event with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Des Moines Area Religious Council. Go to www.iowareligiousfreedomday.org for more information. You can download the event flier here.
U.S. BISHOPS SPEAK OUT ON REFUGEE PROGRAM, MLK
Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, sent a letter last week to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State urging dialogue on the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
Despite the continued global need, the number of refugees resettled by the United States has plummeted this year. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, our country set an annual goal to admit 45,000 refugees, the lowest target in the history of the refugee program. According to the U.S. bishops, it is deeply concerning that at the halfway point of FY 18, the U.S. has resettled a mere 9,616 refugees. At this rate, the program is not even on pace to reach 20,000 refugees, half of the year’s low refugee admissions target.
More than 1600 Catholic organizations, women and men religious and lay leaders, including the Iowa Catholic Conference, also voiced their concern over the state of the USRAP. That letter can be found here: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/2016site/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Letter26March2018inclSigners2.pdf.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Administrative Committee late last week issued the following statement marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Administrative Committee serves as the Board of Trustees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The statement said, in part:
“’No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn 15:13). April 4th marks 50 years since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. On this day, as we reflect on his life and work, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to build the culture of love, respect and peace to which the Gospel calls us. What are we being asked to do for the sake of our brother or sister who still suffers under the weight of racism? Where could God use our efforts to help change the hearts of those who harbor racist thoughts or engage in racist actions? … We can best honor Dr. Martin Luther King and preserve his legacy by boldly asking God – today and always – to deepen our own commitment to follow His will wherever it leads in the cause of promoting justice.’”
We hope you have a very blessed Easter season! We especially pray for those in difficult family situations.