Last Friday at the State Capitol was the first legislative “funnel” deadline. If a bill has not been passed by a committee, it is considered dead for the session. This rule does not apply to budget or tax related bills.

The ICC encourages the Senate to pass the constitutional amendment, HJR 14, which would enable people who have committed felonies to vote once they have completed their sentence. The amendment passed the House last year by a 95-2 vote. Click here to send your Senator a message on the issue. A rally was held at the State Capitol in support of the amendment last week.IMG_3121 voting rights rally smaller

A bill to define “completion of sentence” (SF 2348) passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Word is the Senate will not vote on the amendment until the House passes SF 2348. The bill would require the payment of all restitution to victims before rights are restored. The payment of restitution is just; however, rich people coming out of prison would get the right to vote back sooner than poor people. The ICC would like to see a bill with fewer obstacles to voting move forward.

Iowa is the only state that by law permanently strips people with a felony conviction of their right to vote. The governor can return the right with an executive order.

The ICC supports House File 2259, which was approved by the House Public Safety Committee this week. It would prohibit government from giving business to hotels that do not receive certification and training on the prevention of human trafficking.

Senate File 2366, imposing new work requirements on Medicaid recipients, was passed by the Senate Labor Committee last week. The bill is opposed by the ICC. Under the bill, for example, a mother who currently works only between 10 and 20 hours a week – because her employer does not want to pay benefits – and has a child over the age of one would no longer qualify for Medicaid. She would need to get another job, participate in a work training program or get additional volunteer hours.

Amendments were added to improve SF 2366. One would address the child care assistance “cliff effect,” and another eliminated a section on “categorical eligibility” that would have kicked thousands of Iowans off SNAP (food stamps).

Another problem area is that the bill would prevent the state from issuing a waiver for work requirements during times of economic downturn. Senate passage appears likely as the Senate leader announced that this bill (among several others) continues to be a priority.

LEGISLATIVE DEADLINE CLAIMS SEVERAL BILLS

The ICC was pleased that legislation to collect data on offenses by “nonresident aliens,” and the proposed legalization of assisted suicide, did not advance past the funnel deadline.

Unfortunately, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and additional regulations on mobile home owners didn’t make it past the deadline either. The mobile home bill was created to address recent situations where out of state companies bought up mobile home parks and drastically increased the rent on the lots. Many residents faced eviction. The mobile home issue could come back as an amendment to a future bill to address “good cause” for eviction as well as extended notification for rent increases.

The ICC also testified last week at a subcommittee meeting in support of HF 2433 to create a “life imprisonment review committee.” In Iowa, a life sentence means life in prison. The only way to get out is by commutation or resentencing.

Although the bill didn’t make the cut, it would have given the governor or the court additional information to take another look at a life sentence. Our Catholic tradition supports the community’s right to establish and enforce laws that protect people and advance the common good. But our faith also teaches us that both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice and restoration, not just punishment.

PUBLIC HEARING ON ABORTION AMENDMENT

There is a public hearing scheduled on Tuesday, Feb. 23 (tomorrow) at 6 p.m. regarding HJR 2004, the “Protect Life Amendment,” clarifying that our state Constitution does not contain a right to abortion. The bill does not ban abortion in Iowa.

The hearing will place in Room 103 at the State Capitol. If you’re interested, come on down to the Capitol. You can send a message to your member of the Iowa House in support of the bill.

Other abortion-related bills such as regulation of abortion clinics, proper disposal of fetal remains, and consent for medication abortion/abortion pill reversal were passed by the House Human Resources Committee last week in advance of the first legislative deadline.

The Iowa Prayer Rally for Life takes place on Monday, March 2. The rally in the rotunda begins at noon. We hope to see you there! Click here for more information.

At the federal level, your help is needed to protect unborn children from late-term abortions and children who survive abortions from infanticide. Apparently both the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 3275) and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 311) will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote this week.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has called on Congress to enact both of these human rights reforms. Please click here for sample messages to our Senators in support of the bills.