Welcome to the many new members of our legislative network! This is the first of our weekly updates during the Iowa legislative session, and several issues of importance are already moving.
School choice plan moving
There’s a public hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) in the Iowa House for House Study Bill 1, the governor’s school choice plan.
Supporters may submit comments to the public hearing online at: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/committees/publicHearings?meetingID=35789&action=viewOnlineSignup.
The Senate’s version of the bill, Senate Study Bill 1022, was passed by a subcommittee last Thursday and is eligible for consideration by the full Senate Education Committee.
Under the plan, parents who choose to enroll their child in an accredited nonpublic school would receive $7,598 from the state in an Education Savings Account to help pay for tuition. This is the same amount of money the state provides for each child who attends a public school.
For students currently attending a Catholic school, the plan will be phased in over the next two and a half years, focusing first on the families with the lowest income levels. After three years, an ESA would be available for every student.
The governor also proposed allowing public schools to use unspent school funds to increase teacher salaries, and supplemental funds would be made available to the public school for each student who receives an ESA.
If you’re interested in sending a message to your members of the House and Senate in support, go to: https://votervoice.net/ICC/Campaigns/99744/Respond.
Asset test for food stamps
House File 3 would change Iowa’s eligibility system for food stamps and Medicaid. Some of the changes might make the system more efficient – which would be good – but other changes would have negative effects, such as a new stricter asset test for food stamp recipients. We believe it would have the effect of knocking many off of benefits. If the verification system is too onerous, people who qualify for benefits will drop off anyway.
Interestingly, the bill would also narrow the list of foods you could buy with food stamps to the WIC (Women Infant Children) program list, which excludes beef, pork and poultry.
For more information go to https://www.iowahungercoalition.org/protect-snap/.
Criminal justice system
The Iowa Catholic Conference supports Senate Study Bill 1004, which would provide probation credits for those with a job or pursuing education so they can get off probation sooner. This should encourage people on probation to obtain education and vocational training, pursue and obtain employment, and fulfill the conditions of their supervision without undermining public safety.
Senate File 14 would reinstate the death penalty and the ICC is registered opposed.
The ICC participated in a bipartisan meeting with Representatives Jon Dunwell, Art Staed, Chuck Isenhart and Eddie Andrews regarding a proposal to help nonprofit agencies support refugees. It seems likely that a bill will be introduced. We’ll keep you posted.
Martin Luther King holiday
Today marks the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. In observance, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said: “Beyond remembering and quoting Dr. King today, we must act to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system, access to affordable housing and healthcare, and economic opportunities.” Because of the holiday, the Iowa Legislature is not in session today.
The website for the legislature is www.legis.iowa.gov. You can search for bills, watch committee meetings and see how your members voted on an issue.