- House File 576 - prevents government from subsidizing insurance for abortion
- Senate File 388 - Regulation of payday loans
- Support increase in Earned Income Tax Credit
- House Joint Resolution 6 - Marriage amendment
- House File 5 - Abortion prohibition/fetal pain
Read more . . .
- Senate File 113 – Regulation of payday loans
- House Joint Resolution 6 – Marriage amendment
- House File 8 – Iowa Opportunities Workforce Act
- House File 5 – Abortion prohibition/fetal pain
- House File 199 – Elimination of life sentence without parole for juveniles
- House File 192 – Protocol for medically-induced abortions
I would like to thank our bishops, board and committee members who participated in our Legislative Breakfast last Wednesday. There was substantial discussion on a variety of issues with legislators. You can take a look at some photos from the event on the Facebook page of the Diocese of Des Moines. The homily delivered by Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates for our Legislative Mass on Tuesday is available on our website at www.iowacatholicconference.org.
To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network
I hope you have had a blessed Christmas season. Now that we’re settling back into a daily routine, it’s time for our annual preview of the legislative session, along with some important upcoming dates.
At the request of Governor-elect Terry Branstad, there will be an interfaith Service of Dedication at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines on Thursday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. The cathedral is located at 607 High Street.
Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates, Cantor Linda Shivers, and Lt. Governor-elect Kim Reynolds' pastor from Osceola, Chuck DeVoss, will be part of the service. The public is invited. RSVPs are requested at www.governorbranstad.com.
The Prayer for Life event, co-sponsored by the Iowa Catholic Conference, will be held Tuesday, Feb. 8. The day kicks off at 9:30 a.m. at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Des Moines (601 Grand Avenue). Parking is available nearby in city ramps.
The main speaker is Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic manager who resigned after assisting in the performance of an abortion and viewing the baby on ultrasound. Since then, she has been traveling the country sharing her story and motivating others to continue the pro-life fight.
Following a training session and lunch, participants will be invited to go to the Capitol to meet their legislator and then participate in a rally in the rotunda at 3 p.m. There will be a suggested donation for lunch. Please RSVP by calling Iowa Right to Life at (515) 244-1012 or via email at iowa@iowaRTL.org.
The annual Legislative Mass of the Iowa Catholic Conference is also scheduled for Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. The Mass will be celebrated at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines. The public is invited to participate with the four diocesan bishops of Iowa. Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates will preside. The Mass is intended to bring Catholics together with state legislators to pray for wisdom in decision-making for all those who serve in government. We will also pray in thanksgiving for legislators’ service to the people of Iowa. The Iowa Catholic Conference legislative breakfast is Feb. 9.
LEGISLATIVE SESSION PREVIEW
Next Monday, Jan. 10 is the opening day of the 84th Iowa General Assembly. Gov. Chet Culver will give his final Condition of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 11.
To recap the election results, the Democrats hold a 26-23 edge in the Iowa Senate. A special election will be held Jan. 18 for the Senate seat formerly held by Larry Noble, a Republican from Ankeny, who has been appointed commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. The Iowa House is controlled by Republicans by a 60-40 margin.
On Jan. 3, the Iowa House Republican leadership pre-released a 59-page bill, the “Taxpayers First Act,” which they said would save the state’s budget about $500 million over five years.
Some items of interest in the bill include:
- creation of a “Tax Relief Fund” for the reduction of taxes when state surpluses occur
- eliminate funding for the state’s required “core curriculum” for schools with the intention of developing new standards
- eliminate the current “free” preschool program with the intention of expanding tuition assistance for preschool based on the parents’ income
- end all state benefits to adult unauthorized immigrants
- enforce residency requirements for all human services programs
- reduce the number of people who would be eligible to receive family planning benefits
- eliminate the Iowa Power Fund and Rebuild Iowa office
- require state employees to pay a minimum of $50 per month for their health insurance
- add $16 million for court-appointed attorneys for the defense of indigents
- provide a $25 million appropriation to eliminate mental health waiting lists in counties; and repeal the current county-based mental health system and put a new, more uniform, system be put in place
- reduce funding for the state’s health care coverage commission
This bill is the first volley of the session, which is set to end on April 29. It wouldn’t be surprising if it went longer because of differences of opinion between a Republican House and a Democratic Senate over the state budget.
The Iowa Catholic Conference has five committees. The Communications Committee helps us get the word out about what we’re doing. The other four committees are Education, Family Life, Pro-Life and Social Concerns. Many of our issues don’t fall neatly in one committee or another, but let’s take a look at some of the issues we’re likely to address during the upcoming session.
There is always a great deal of legislative activity regarding PreK-12 education in Iowa. Since Catholic schools are accredited by the state and generally must follow all the state’s regulations for schools, we pay very close attention to what’s going on legislatively.
We continue to support efforts to expand the School Tuition Organization program which helps low- and middle-income Iowans receive tuition assistance to send their children to the school of their choice.
As you read earlier, the state’s preschool program enacted in 2007 is being targeted for elimination by Republican leaders, to be replaced with a preschool voucher program for lower-income Iowans. We will take part in this discussion, as appropriate, with an eye toward supporting parents as the first and primary educators of children as well as sustaining the best interests of our Catholic schools.
Currently, many Catholic preschools receive funds from the local public school district to offer preschool that is tuition-free to the parents.
In addition, we will be working for additional funding for textbooks and full reimbursement for transportation of private school children.
The Iowa Catholic Conference continues to support an amendment to Iowa’s constitution which would recognize marriage only as a union between one man and one woman. While an amendment has good prospects in the Iowa House, the Senate Majority Leader, Michael Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), has said that he will not call an amendment up for a vote.
The Church teaches that the nature of marriage is such that it can only exist between a man and a woman. They are partners in expressing love for each other and for transmitting human life.
Prospects for legislation which would limit abortion are brighter than they have been in years. The threatened opening of a late-term abortion clinic in Council Bluffs has increased the attention on the need for such laws. There may be several bills introduced. These bills may provide for:
- prohibition of abortions after a certain gestational age due to fetal pain
- prohibition of abortions performed after a webcam consultation
- an informed consent process – 24 hour waiting period before an abortion, with an opportunity to view an ultrasound
Our Catholic faith calls us to seek the protection of the unborn. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always gravely immoral (The Gospel of Life, 57); its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family.
It is also possible that a reinstatement of the death penalty will be proposed. The Church opposes the use of the death penalty in our society. The state already imposes a life sentence without the possibility of parole for murderers.
An ongoing concern during the past couple of years has been the impact of the state’s budget shortfall on the safety net for the poor and vulnerable. Although the amount of the shortfall is debated, it is likely that it is several hundred million dollars.
It seems possible that state legislators will introduce an “Arizona-type” bill, or several bills, which would provide for additional local enforcement of federal immigration law.
Regular readers of this newsletter are aware that the fundamental concern of the Catholic Church is the protection of human dignity at all levels. Therefore we recognize and support the right and duty of nations to protect their borders, to prevent criminal and terrorist acts, and to safeguard culture and the rule of law. From the same principle, we also recognize the right of people to migrate, for both political and economic motives, and the obligation of hospitality for wealthier nations.
A state enforcement bill would affect community policing and the safety of the public. The use of police officers to enforce immigration laws can seriously undermine the relationship between local police and the communities in which they serve. Immigration law is extremely complex and local authorities would find it difficult to ascertain immigration status. Taking on the additional enforcement of federal law would be costly as well.
Any law that provides, or seems to provide, legal cover to racial profiling negatively affects all members of our communities, including legal residents and citizens. We believe our state would benefit from legislation that protects human dignity, encourages humane and charitable communities, and makes it possible for us to attract needed additional citizens and residents who can contribute to the life and economy of Iowa.
One such bill would be a proposal that in other states has been called the “DREAM Act.” This has been a long-time priority of the Conference. The legislation would allow undocumented high school graduates who are residents of Iowa to be eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities in the state of Iowa. The students would have grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble. We believe the legislation would be a good building block for positive immigration reform and help add talented, motivated, multi-lingual and multi-cultural people to our workforce.
The Iowa Catholic Conference continues to support the regulation of payday loans, which can carry interest rates of about 300 percent in Iowa. We encourage the legislature to limit the interest rate on payday loans to 36 percent.
Payday loans would not pose a concern if borrowers could typically pay off a loan with their next paycheck. Unfortunately, in practice, payday loans prove to be a long-term debt trap, not a quick financial fix. Because of these high fees and short terms, borrowers usually cannot both repay their payday loan in full and meet the rest of their monthly expenses.
A typical payday loan borrower in Iowa has 12 payday transactions per year, usually on a back-to-back basis. Unfortunately, only one percent of loans are made to one-time borrowers. It only takes a few months for the amount of fees to cost more than the loan itself.
A debate is shaping up over health care. There is a group of legislators who are interested in keeping the state from cooperating with the new federal health care law. There is another group interested in preparing for the 2014 implementation of the law as quickly as possible.
The Iowa Catholic Conference, as well as the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, has consistently supported initiatives to make health care more readily available and affordable to all Iowans, including immigrants and their children.
At the same time, we want to prohibit the state from including (and financially supporting) abortion coverage in any health insurance plans offered through a new “health care exchange.” With a few exceptions, it has been the longtime policy of the state to avoid financially supporting abortions.
We also support the rights of medical professionals and institutions to decline to participate in procedures they find immoral.
There may be efforts in the legislature to follow up on the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Graham v. Florida” decision, which eliminated the possibility of a life sentence without parole for juveniles who commit a crime other than murder. The Iowa Catholic Conference has supported bills which would eliminate a life sentence without parole for juveniles for all crimes. Such a bill would not require their release at any time.
While we believe in responsibility, accountability and legitimate punishment, we also believe that a juvenile who commits a crime may not have the benefit of a fully-formed conscience. They may not be fully aware of the seriousness of their actions. Therefore their culpability may be lessened.
However, offenders who commit very serious crimes when they are juveniles may gain, with maturity, an understanding of the gravity of their crime and be able to rejoin society under some conditions.
Developments in society during the past few years have given rise to concerns about the ability of individuals and religious institutions to exercise their religious liberty and conscience rights.
Religious organizations and individuals should not be forced to violate their deeply-held beliefs. Without religious conscience protections, the ability of religious organizations to live out their teachings will be diminished. We are especially concerned about the provision of social services as well as the educational ministry of Catholic schools. Examples would be: required curriculum on marriage and sex education, rental of facilities, hiring of staff, denial of access to government benefits and requirements for adoption programs.
The State of Iowa has a long history of protecting religious freedom as a fundamental right. We anticipate that a Religious Conscience Act will be introduced during the next session with the support of the Iowa Catholic Conference. We believe that respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion ensures all of our freedoms.
Thanks for taking the time to go through this lengthy update. At the end of next week we plan to return to our usual weekly newsletter schedule which we provide during the legislative session.
I would also appreciate it if you could put the work of the Iowa Catholic Conference in your prayers from time to time. We are always in need of assistance in our discernment of the effects of legislation and the path of prudence.
Iowa Catholic Conference
P.S. Don’t forget to let us know when you get a new email address. Click on “Join the Network” at www.iowacatholicconference.org.
First, I’d like to welcome the new subscribers to our Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network. This fall I’ve had the opportunity to speak in several parishes around the state and encourage those in attendance to sign up for our legislative alerts. I hope you find them useful.
ELECTION DAY AND FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP FOR IOWA CATHOLICS
During these last days before an election I have had many contacts from people who are looking for more information before they vote. One of the places I always direct them toward is the “Faithful Citizenship for Iowa Catholics” flier on our website at www.iowacatholicconference.org. I urge you to review it again.
I’ve posted on our website an opinion piece I wrote for the Des Moines Register in support of a constitutional convention.
Let’s get out and vote on Nov. 2nd! If you vote – the choice is yours. If you don’t vote – the choice is theirs.
RECAP OF IOWA INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL ACTION
Many thanks to those who attended the 2011 Iowa Institute for Social Action earlier this month. For a few photos of the event, check out the “Iowa Institute for Social Action” group page on Facebook.
Last Friday I attended the Iowa Board of Medicine’s public hearing on telemedicine and the issue of “telemed” abortions. These abortions are conducted by video conference, where the woman is on one end of the connection and the doctor on the other. The doctor dispenses two abortion pills by pushing a button and a drawer opens on the other end. The woman takes one pill right away and one later. The woman generally delivers a dead baby later at home.
The Board of Medicine is reviewing its policies on telemedicine. It seems unlikely that the board will take any action soon to address concerns about standards of care. For our part, the Iowa Catholic Conference opposes all abortions, no matter the method. However, if these abortions are to take place, the safety and informed consent of the women involved should be among the chief concerns.
REVIEW OFFERS ROAD MAP FOR RENEWAL OF CCHD
A new document affirms the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s Catholic foundations and priority for the poor. “The Review and Renewal of CCHD” also responds to concerns about CCHD funding policies and makes 10 commitments to strengthen CCHD as a faithful and effective expression of Catholic teaching and the Gospel mandate to defend the lives and dignity of those who are poor in our nation.
Established in 1969, CCHD provides self-help grants to groups of low-income people who are working to overcome poverty by addressing its root causes in their own lives and communities. The executive summary and full report, along with additional material, are now available online at: www.usccb.org/cchd/reviewandrenewal.shtml. Many dioceses will be taking up the CCHD collection in November.
NATIONAL SOCIAL MINISTRY GATHERING IS FEB.13-16
The 2011 theme for the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC, is “Protecting Human Life & Dignity: Promoting a Just Economy”. You can join social ministry leaders and a score of Catholic national organizations as they explore common issues and concerns of global and domestic policy on human life, justice and peace that challenge our nation and world.
This annual event includes a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with your elected officials and discuss issues in the light of Catholic social teachings. For more information visit www.catholicsocialministrygathering.org.
Very soon after the election we will follow-up with an announcement of the Iowa Catholic Conference 2011 legislative concerns. Thanks for being a part of our legislative network!
Iowa Catholic Conference
IOWA INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL ACTION
FUNDING FOR EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH STRUCK DOWN
SUPPORT FOR LAW PREVENTING FEDERAL FUNDING OF ABORTION
CALIFORNIA MARRIAGE AMENDMENT STRUCK DOWN
“FAIR SENTENCING FOR YOUTH” CONFERENCE
The 83rd session of the Iowa General Assembly concluded on March 30th. The session was shortened by about a month to save money, which meant that most of the focus was on budget -related bills and less time was spent on policy matters. As it turned out, K-12 education received a very small increase in funding and human services received smaller cuts than expected because of the use of one-time monies (such as federal stimulus appropriations or state “rainy-day” funds). Education and human services are the two biggest parts of the state budget.
Welcome to the new members of our legislative network. Thanks for joining!
The second "funnel" deadline was today (Friday). Except for finance or leadership bills, legislation that has not passed one chamber and through a committee in the other chamber is no longer eligible for consideration.
We were pleased that Senate File 2178 passed out of the House Education Committee 19-3 on Wednesday. We appreciate the work of Rep. Gene Ficken (D-Independence), vice chair of the committee, and Rep. Polly Bukta (D-Clinton), chair of the bill's subcommittee, for their help in shepherding the bill through the committee.
The bill would allow textbook funds appropriated for nonpublic school students to be used for laptop computers. In the committee meeting, more than one legislator mentioned how this bill would not take away any dollars from public schools.
I would like to thank you for the many emails and phone calls in support of the bill. They made a huge difference. We are now working to get the bill debated on the floor.
Finally, last week we discussed our concern about possible efforts to legalize online poker tournaments sponsored by Iowa casinos. That idea is apparently being dropped.
We're still waiting to see legislation which might propose cutting back on tax credits available for donations to school tuition organizations (STOs) in the state. Donors receive a 65 percent tax credit for their contribution. The STOs use the donations to provide scholarships for low-income children to attend the school of their choice.
There are currently $7.5 million in tax credits annually, but the governor's tax credit panel suggested cutting the program by a third. We are working to keep the status quo as we believe cutting that program actually could cost the state money (if people leave the private school and enter the public school system).
Senate File 2356 passed the Iowa Senate 45-5 last Monday after being scaled back significantly. As amended, the bill:
- enables IowaCare patients to receive care at a clinic closer to home (not just Des Moines and Iowa City as is currently the case)
- provides some reimbursement to Iowa hospitals for emergency care of IowaCare patients
- sets up a web information portal on health insurance options in Iowa.
IowaCare is the state health insurance program of last resort, covering people who make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level but are not eligible for Medicaid.
The Iowa Catholic Conference supports the bill. It will help make health care more readily available to low-income Iowans in rural areas of the state. We also believe that an "apples to apples" comparison of health care insurance plans in Iowa will help consumers in making the right choice for their family. You can go to our Action Center at www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd to send a message to your member of the Iowa House.
We had been working for an amendment to keep the status quo on state payment for abortions. Our concern proved to be moot because the "IowaCare Plus" part of the bill was amended out due to concerns about cost and people leaving private insurance to get on an expanded state plan. IowaCare Plus would have expanded eligibility for Iowans up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
On the national scene, there are efforts going on to reconcile the House and Senate health care reform bills. Stay tuned as we may be asking for your contacts encouraging health care for all that respects the life and dignity of each person from conception until natural death. For more information about the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' teaching on health care reform, visit www.usccb.org/healthcare.
HF 2475 is still waiting to be debated in the Iowa House. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports this legislation, which would require the provision of deliverable fuels between Nov. 1 and April 1 for customers who have cash or are eligible for LIHEAP (federal low-income energy assistance program). The state in a similar way already protects those who heat with other fuels during the winter months. There is a sample message for legislators on our website on this issue as well.
FAMILY PLANNING WAIVER
Senate File 2219, an expansion of the current Medicaid "family planning waiver," is advancing through the legislative process. Generally speaking, we object to government-funded contraception programs. The Catholic Church does not consider those programs to be true "health care."
While proponents believe that contraceptive programs save the state money, as a practical matter, these projects do not seem to reduce the abortion rate or the number of children born to unmarried mothers. In addition, we object to minors being able to receive contraceptives without the knowledge of their parents, as this undercuts the parent-child relationship.
House File 2474 would establish a financial literacy education program in the state treasurer's office. We are hopeful that this program will help consumers get the information they need to make good financial decisions. The program would be administered within the current appropriation for the treasurer's office.
REAUTHORIZATION OF D.C. SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Efforts are being made in the U.S. Congress to reauthorize funding for scholarships for students from low-income families to attend private schools in the District of Columbia. Many of those schools are Catholic schools. Without the passage of additional legislation, this valuable program has a bleak future. Under current legislation no new students can be offered scholarships, so the number of students who can be assisted would decline each year. Please contact Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley in support of the legislation. The U.S. Senate switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.
The message is: "Please support the bi-partisan Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act so that the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program can continue to provide more educational opportunities for low-income children in the District of Columbia. Do not force families to have students in separate schools because no new students can be added to the program."
Thanks for your help with this issue.
Don't forget to become a fan of our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter at "iacatholicconf". You'll be the first to find out about how our issues are faring at the legislature.
Iowa Catholic Conference
Legislative leadership released their "budget targets" last week so committees can begin putting together the major appropriations bills. This means that debate on the state's budget will begin in early March. The targets anticipate more than $200 million less in estimated expenditures compared to the current fiscal year. The biggest hit is to the Health and Human Services department, which includes Medicaid.
The last bill of the session, called the "standing appropriations" bill, is not included in the target amounts; therefore we don't know what the total budget will be.
Earlier in the week, the House passed the state reorganization bill 98-0. The bill, Senate File 2088, is estimated to save the state more than $250 million. Since it was amended in the House, the bill returns to the Senate.
As we reported last week, the bills providing conscience protections for religious organizations regarding marriage did not make it out of committee. Some legislators oppose the bill because they are not interested in addressing the marriage issue or religious freedom at all; others oppose it because they believe the bill would legitimize same-sex marriage. Many other legislators support the bills as a way to continue Iowa's long-standing traditions of religious freedom.
It is our position that mitigating the damage to religious freedom from same-sex marriage should be supported, as we continue to work for an amendment to Iowa's constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Sometimes people ask, "What's the real problem? Why does the church care?" A perfect example came last week as Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C. was told that the agency would be ineligible to continue its 80-year-old foster care and public adoption program because it will not place children with same-sex couples. The District of Columbia's new same-sex marriage law is scheduled to go into effect next month.
I have to ask: Why is it that here in Iowa, the chairs of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Committee both introduced religious conscience bills to take care of problems like this, but could not receive a hearing?
Please use the sample message on our website at www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd or call on your legislator to help.
Friday was the deadline for Senate bills to be reported out of Senate committees and House bills out of House committees. Let’s take a look at how some issues of interest to the Iowa Catholic Conference fared:
We were pleased that House File 2269 did not make it out of committee. The bill would have required require all schools, public and private, to offer “comprehensive” sexuality education each year from kindergarten through high school. We opposed requiring Catholic schools to offer instruction that is quite likely to be in opposition to the church’s moral teaching. I would like to thank those who contacted their legislator about this issue – you made a big difference!|
- Governor’s budget message
- Regulation of payday loans
- Iowa Workforce Opportunities Act
- Technology for nonpublic school students
- Marriage amendment
- Health care reform – national and state
- Pro-life rally
- Medicaid Family Planning Waiver
- Woman’s Right to Know Act
Read more . . .
- This week’s preview
- “Race to the Top”
- Governor delivers Condition of the State message
- Marriage and pro-life bills introduced
- State health care commission makes legislative recommendations
- Upcoming dates
- Help for Haiti
Read More . . .
As you dig out from the latest snowstorm, I'd like to give you a preview of the 2010 legislative session in Iowa. Sorry for the length this time, but there's a lot to cover. This is the first of what will normally be weekly updates during the session.
The second session of the 83rd Iowa General Assembly will convene this coming Monday, Jan. 11. The leadership has decided to cut the number of days that legislators will be reimbursed for expenses from 100 to 80. Since the end of the session typically comes close to when the "per diem" ends, that would put the end of the session around March 31. This timeframe will make it more difficult to advance issues other than the budget and other priorities of the leadership, but we'll be ready to work from day one.
The Iowa Catholic Conference has five committees. The Communications Committee helps us get the word out about what we're doing. The other four are Education, Family Life, Pro-Life and Social Concerns. Let's take a look at the issues we're likely to work on from these committees.
There is always a great deal of legislative activity on education in Iowa. Since Catholic schools are accredited by the state and generally must follow all the state's regulations for schools, we pay very close attention to what's going on.
There is already an unfortunate recommendation to cut the Educational Opportunities Act (EOA) tax credit program, which help nonpublic schools raise private money for scholarships. The problems with the Iowa Film Office tax credits have put all tax credit programs under scrutiny. We agree that all tax credit programs should be reviewed for their usefulness to the state.
The governor's tax credit review panel on Friday called for keeping the EOA tax credits but capping them at $5 million rather than $7.5 million, and reducing the credit percentage to 40 percent rather than the current 65 percent. This would be mean fewer dollars for scholarships and making it more difficult to raise those dollars.
We will definitely be working to keep the status quo with the Educational Opportunities scholarships. The tax credits are already capped (unlike some other programs), the program helps low-income children, and the citizens of Iowa know exactly what benefit they receive - great student achievement. In addition, every child who attends a nonpublic school saves the state money, because the state and local governments do not have to pay for their education.
We are also very concerned about cuts in funding for services for nonpublic school students, particularly in the area of textbooks and transportation. The reality is that funding for textbooks is less than what was appropriated in 1992. Transportation funding for nonpublic school students is about the same as in 1992 and falls more than 20 percent short of what is actually needed.
Finally, we will be working to make a change in the Iowa Code allowing state textbook funds to be used for instructional technology.
The main issue from our Family Life Committee is asking the legislature to pass an amendment to Iowa's constitution which would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. We believe that the people of Iowa should be able to vote on such an important issue, and that can only take place if the legislature passes the amendment in two successive sessions.
The legislative leadership is adamant that the debate on this issue is over and that an amendment will not reach the floor. In fact, the debate is not over and there will be efforts to get this bill on the floor. We encourage you to contact your legislators by email or phone, even if you have previously done so. This is a new session! You can go directly to our website at www.iowacatholicconference.org to download a flier with questions and answers on the issue and click on "Action Center" to send a message to your legislator.
We also have concerns about the religious conscience aspects of the issue and its effects on the church. In the past, state laws have largely been in harmony with the church's view of marriage. Now, as in other states, we believe that same-sex marriage will be an occasion for conflict. We are concerned about requirements for benefits, the provision of the church's moral teaching in Catholic schools, denial of access to government benefits, and the licensing of adoption services, among other areas.
In his most recent encyclical letter, "Charity in Truth," Pope Benedict XVI said, "States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character."
There will be a bill introduced called the "Women's Right to Know Act," which provides for an informed consent process of at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed. Women would have the right to view an ultrasound if they wished. There is an exception in the informed consent bill for an abortion that would be required in a medical emergency.
Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the practice of abortion has been exempt from many medical standards, including informed consent.
You are invited to participate in the Prayer for Life Day 2010. Nationally-known neuroscience and bioethics expert Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk is coming to Des Moines on Feb. 8. He is presenting workshops on stem cell research and end-of-life issues/euthanasia beginning at 10 a.m. at the Catholic Pastoral Center. Reservations are required to attend the morning educational workshop and lunch. Please call (515) 237-5016 by Feb. 3.
Later that day, everyone is invited to a "Lobbying 101" workshop in the Legislative Dining Room on the ground floor in the Capitol at 2:30 p.m. It will be followed by a Prayer for Life Rally at 3:30 p.m. Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates will offer a prayer.
One of our major concerns will be the impact of the state's budget shortfall on the safety net for the poor and vulnerable. There is estimated to be a shortfall of about a billion dollars. About half of that will be made up through leftover stimulus and rainy days funds, but it will still be a difficult budget year.
You may have seen a story in the news this week about the Iowa Catholic Conference support for regulation of payday loans, which can carry interest rates of 400 percent. We are encouraging the legislature to limit the interest rate on payday loans to 36 percent. We believe the current situation is unjust especially since these loans appeal to people who are in a precarious financial state to begin with. Only one percent of these loans are made to one-time borrowers. There will be legislation filed to deal with this issue and we'll be asking for your help when the time comes.
There are also plans to introduce a bill that in other states has been called the "DREAM Act." This has been a long-time priority of the Conference. The legislation would allow undocumented high school graduates who are residents of Iowa to be eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities in the state of Iowa. The students would have to have grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble. We believe the legislation would be a good building block for immigration reform and help add talented, motivated, multi-lingual and multi-cultural people to our workforce. Several states including Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois and Kansas have this policy.
At the national level, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced steps on Jan. 6 to push for the enactment of immigration reform legislation in 2010. Bishop John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah, and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, bishop of Albany, New York, and chairman of the International Policy Committee of the USCCB, made the announcement.
"It is our view, and that of others, that the American public, including the Catholic and other faith communities, want a humane and comprehensive solution to the problems which beset our immigration system, and they want Congress to address this issue," said Bishop Wester.
Steps announced by Bishop Wester include:
- The launch of a nationwide postcard campaign under the Justice for Immigrants campaign, with 1.5 million postcards already ordered;
- The launch of two Web sites, a new Justice for Immigrants website with tools for parishes (www.justiceforimmigrants.org), and the National Migration Week website, which provides other resources (www.usccb.org/mrs/nmw/index.shtml); and
- A nationwide action alert asking for Congress to enact immigration reform as soon as possible. The alert is located on the Justice for Immigrants website.
Bishop Hubbard, chairman of the International Policy Committee, spoke to the root causes of irregular migration and how the long-term and humane solution to the problem is integral human development.
UPCOMING ICC DATES
Feb. 1 - Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Mass, 7 p.m. at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines. Everyone is invited. Dubuque Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB will be presiding. The Mass is intended to bring Catholics together with state legislators to pray for wisdom in decision-making for all those who serve in government. We encourage everyone to come to the legislative Mass to pray with our legislators. We will also pray in thanksgiving for their service to the people of Iowa.
Feb. 2 - Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Breakfast at the Capitol.
Feb. 8 - Prayer for Life Day at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Des Moines and at the Capitol. See the flier on our website for more information.
Some of you have asked about the Iowa Institute for Social Action conference. There is not an Institute being held this month, but there are ongoing discussions regarding the scheduling of a conference later this year. You will hear more about this later.
Those of you who are Mediacom customers (as I am) did not receive the December newsletter because we could not get it delivered. Don't hesitate to check our website or email me for updated information. You can also update your email address with us.
Iowa Catholic Conference
The stated purpose of payday loans is to offer a solution to families who face a short-term crisis. But only one percent of these loans are made to one-time borrowers. On the average, Iowans who take out one payday loan end up with 12 loans. This creates an economic dependency and high long-term debt for consumers. Interest rates can approach or exceed 400 percent.
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