Current legislative alerts from the Iowa Catholic Conference

The first legislative deadline or “funnel,” at the State Capitol has passed. During the next couple of weeks, the House and Senate will be focusing on debating bills passed by one of their committees.

This week we’re focusing on several bills of interest that are eligible for debate, including enforcement-only immigration bills, a bill defining an unborn child as a person for the purpose of Iowa’s criminal code (except for abortion), and religious liberty.

The ICC is opposing several bills that are pursuing state solutions to migration policy, including:

  • HSB 703 and SF 2340 – creating a state crime of “illegal entry into the state by an alien.”
  • HF 2112 – creating the state crime of “smuggling of persons.”
  • HF 2320 – stopping state universities and community colleges from offering in-state tuition to residents of Iowa unless they can prove “lawful presence”
  • SF 108 – mandating use of the federal e-verify system by employers in the state

The House Judiciary Committee passed HSB 621. The bill protects unborn human life in the criminal code in contexts other than abortion or medical procedures. In other words, it deems an unborn baby to be a person when offenders attack or otherwise harm a pregnant woman.

This is solid legislation with a long record of effective enforcement in many other states. In fact, Iowa is one of only 11 states that does not treat the killing of an unborn child (excluding abortion) as a form of homicide. We encourage you to contact your member of the Iowa House in support.

 In addition, a committee in each chamber has passed a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act bill supported by the ICC. Twenty-five states have a very similar law, and nine states have a similar provision due to court action.  RFRA creates a balancing test in the courts to weigh a person’s right to act consistent with their religion against the government’s desire to pursue its interests in a way that violates that right. This has proven to be a sensible test that gives religious freedom a fair hearing in court.

Other committee action last week:

The House Health and Human Services Committee passed HSB 642, allowing “over the counter” contraceptives. The ICC opposes the bill. We were pleased the committee also passed HSB 643, which extends coverage to moms on Medicaid to a full year after the birth of the child. We’re still working to keep the income eligibility of moms at 375% of the federal poverty level, rather than lowering it as HSB 643 does.

The restructuring of regional Area Education Agencies are still a topic of discussion. AEAs are groups which partner with schools to provide special education and other support services. The House Education Committee passed its own version of a reorganization bill, HSB 713. The early reaction to this bill is much better as it appears to leave the current funding structure of AEAs for special education essentially in place. It also addresses several of ICC’s concerns regarding children with special needs in Catholic schools.

Also in the education arena, the ICC has been working in support of bills to provide additional funding for children in poverty who attend the public preschool programs. SF 2383 was passed by the Senate Education Committee; the House version didn’t make it.

The House Judiciary Committee passed HF 2114, requiring that the age verification filter on a phone be turned on at the time of sale, and HF 2255, providing for parental consent for children to create social media accounts. We’ll be working to see if we can help get these bills to the floor for debate.

Surprisingly, majority Republicans held a subcommittee hearing for a bill sponsored by Democrats – HF 488, regarding so-called “ghost guns.” The ICC supported the bill, which required firearms parts that can be assembled to have a serial number. It did not pass out of the subcommittee, but the hearing provided an opportunity for many members of the public to express their opinion.

Finally, we were pleased to see a bill to bring back the death penalty, SSB 3085, failed to come up for debate in committee.

Just so you know, the proposal to restructure or eliminate many state boards has been passed by committees in both chambers. You can look up SF 2377 and HF 2550.