Last Friday was the first legislative “funnel” deadline when bills needed to be passed out of committee in order to be considered for the rest of the year. This does not apply to budget or tax-related bills.

ACTION ALERTS

Death penalty

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A bill to bring the death penalty back to Iowa passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7. All Democrats and two Republicans voted no. Senate File 296 would provide for the death penalty for murder in the first degree offenses involving kidnapping and sexual abuse offenses against the same victim who is a minor.

Please contact your Senator in opposition. There is an alert and sample message at

www.votervoice.net/ICC/campaigns/64121/respond. The ICC’s resource page on the death penalty is at www.iowacatholicconference.org/issues/human-life-and-dignity/death-penalty/.

Education Savings Accounts

For the first time an Iowa legislative committee has passed an Education Savings Account (ESA) bill. The Senate Education Committee approved SF 547 on March 6 to provide ESAs in the amount of about $4,000 for parents of children with special needs. Thanks for Sen. Jerry Behn (R-Boone) for shepherding the bill through committee.

ESAs allow parents who choose not to enroll their children in a public school to receive a deposit of public funds into a savings account set up by the state. This money could be used by parents for Catholic school tuition and some other education expenses including tutoring.

The action alert for the bill is at www.votervoice.net/ICC/Campaigns/64148/Respond. Please send a message to your Senator today.

IN OTHER ‘FUNNEL WEEK’ ACTION …

Regarding some bills the ICC supports:

  • SJR 21, proposing that the Constitution of the State of Iowa does not secure a right to or require the funding of abortion, passed the Senate State Government Committee
  • HSB 68, to return voting rights to people who are released from prison after a felony conviction, passed the House Judiciary Committee
  • The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, SF 508, passed the Senate Local Government Committee
  • SF 523, providing for additional penalties for pregnancy termination in contexts other than abortion (people attacking pregnant women), passed the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • SSB 1038, a bill to address racial profiling in Iowa’s justice system, did not move out of committee despite some last-minute efforts from NAACP and other advocates
  • HF 455 would prohibit government from using hotels that do not receive certification on the prevention of human trafficking. There was a hearing on Wednesday but the bill didn’t make it out of committee.
  • SF 476 passed out of the Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee. It requires employers to treat adoptive parents the same as biological parents for the first year of life.

Regarding some bills ICC opposes:

  • HF 648, legalizing sports betting, passed the House State Government Committee.
  • SF 516, relating to the employment of unauthorized aliens and mandating use of the federal “e-verify” system, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • SF 513 and HSB 214, bills to provide contraception without a prescription, were advanced out of committees in the House and Senate.
  • HF 636, carrying guns in public places, passed the House Public Safety Committee.
  • SF 406, which would collect data on all crimes committed by non-resident aliens, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. This new bill adds a new section to the “anti-sanctuary” cities law the ICC opposed last year.
  • SF 538 passed the Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee. It puts additional work requirements on many Medicaid recipients. Obviously people should work if they are able, but the main concern with this legislation is that the additional requirements will cause families to lose their health care coverage.

You can comment on these or other bills by contacting your legislator at www.votervoice.net/icc/home or through the VoterVoice app.

ASKING FOR REPEAL OF THE ‘PARKING LOT TAX’

Ecumenical and interfaith leaders have renewed their call to urge Congress to repeal a change to the Internal Revenue Code that will tax nonprofit organizations, including houses of worship, for the cost of parking and transit benefits they provide to their employees. Section 512(a)(7) has been commonly referred to as the “parking lot tax.”

The letter states, in part: “This provision effectively creates an income tax on churches for the first time in U.S. history,” and it expresses concern “about the troubling precedent this sets by entangling the IRS with houses of worship.” Click here for an action alert on the issue.

EDUCATION FREEDOM SCHOLARSHIPS UNVEILED

The federal Department of Education held a press conference last week to introduce Education Freedom Scholarships legislation. The bills would create a new dollar for dollar, non-refundable tax credit for contributions to scholarships similar to Iowa’s School Tuition Organization program. States would have to “opt-in” to the program and the money could go to public and private school uses.