As the first legislative deadline approaches early next month, you are encouraged to contact your legislator on issues of concern, such as assistance to low-income people and the death penalty. Check out our Action Center with sample messages to your legislator.

LAST WEEK AT THE STATE CAPITOL

Senate File 389 would require the Iowa Department of Human Services to implement a new eligibility verification system for Iowans enrolled in public assistance programs such as Medicaid, CHIP (hawk-i), SNAP (Food Assistance) and TANF (Family Investment Program). In itself, the creation of a new verification system is not necessarily problematic. However, the bill also eliminates “categorical eligibility” for SNAP (food stamps) which, according to a proponent, would kick 50,000 people off of food stamps in Iowa. The ICC is working to change this provision and other provisions which could put up barriers to people who actually qualify for benefits.

Iowa is one of about a dozen states that provides additional unemployment insurance assistance to families based on the number of children. The ICC testified at subcommittee hearings in opposition to bills (Senate Study Bill 1172 and House Study Bill 203) which would cut back on those benefits to bigger families. Bigger families need more help – this is a good aspect of Iowa’s law compared to other states. The bills would also institute a new one-week waiting period before a worker could receive benefits. The House bill is scheduled to be considered by the House Labor Committee on Monday.

There was also a hearing on a bill (House File 515) to fund an online pregnancy counseling effort which would direct women to pregnancy resource centers in the state. The ICC has worked in support of similar bills before.

The ICC also testified in support of House File 377, which provides for a new committee on commutations to review life sentences in Iowa, as well as House Study Bill 143, a constitutional amendment proposal to allow people coming out of prison to vote.

There was a subcommittee meeting on the Senate side for the Senate Study Bill 1157 to allow the availability of “over the counter” contraceptive bills. The ICC is making the case for strong protections against minors being able to receive the drugs. The bill undermines the physician/woman relationship about medication that can have serious side effects.

ICC ADDRESSES HOUSING ISSUES

The Iowa Catholic Conference testified in support of a bill to provide additional protections to residents of mobile home parks. House File 442 extends the notice required before eviction to 90 days from 60. Unfortunately, the bill does not change the current law that a mobile home park owner does not have to show “good cause” to evict a resident. The bill also requires additional notice before a rent increase would take effect, and that landlords can’t charge in excess of the actual utility costs.

Unfortunately, the Senate passed Senate File 252 and sent it to the House. Under the bill, cities would no longer be allowed to prohibit landlords from refusing to rent out housing to people only because they use a federal housing assistance voucher.

AND FINALLY,

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Equality Act, which is being voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives soon, in many ways does the opposite. Instead of respecting differences in beliefs about marriage and sexuality, the Equality Act would discriminate against people of faith. Go here for the action alert: https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/80967/Respond.