By Barb Arland-Fye
Legislative priorities ranging from protection of human life and dignity to fair labor laws and school choice are among the Iowa Catholic Conference’s (ICC) priorities for the 2012 Iowa Legislature, which opens Jan. 9.
These and a host of legislative priorities were approved during the ICC’s biannual board meeting Oct. 19-20. In addition, the ICC approved a statement titled “Labor and the Common Good” in response to efforts in several Midwestern states to limit the collective bargaining rights of labor unions. (See the ICC’s website: www.iowacatholicconference. org.)
The ICC also voiced its opposition to disproportionate budget cuts to programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
As the official public policy voice of the bishops of Iowa, the ICC advocates for the common good and helps Catholics inform their conscience and participate in the political process. Membership on the board includes the bishops of Iowa, lay people, priests, deacons and religious Sisters.
“Since the Iowa Catholic Conference is made up of the bishops of Iowa, laity, religious and clergy there is as you might imagine diverse opinions and perspectives,” said Bishop Martin Amos of the Davenport Diocese. “It is wonderful to see how the corporate wisdom of the group calls forth the concerns and priorities each year. They sometimes reflect what is happening on the political scene and at other times come from deep convictions about the common good.”
Here’s a closer look at the ICC’s legislative priorities for 2012:
• Supports expanding tax credits for individuals, businesses, or financial institutions who contribute to a “school tuition organization” that provides scholarships to low- and middle-income children who want to attend a nonpublic school.
• Supports the equitable participation of nonpublic school children in federal- and state-funded programs.
• Supports full funding of public schools for the transportation of nonpublic school students.
Families and Children
• Supports amending the Iowa Constitution to recognize marriage only as a union of one man and one woman.
• Supports protection of human life and dignity as a foundational principle, including limitations on late-term and “telemed” abortions.
• Supports alternatives to abortion for women by providing funding to programs that assist women in crisis pregnancies.
• Supports legislation to promote adoption programs.
• Supports efforts to provide women with a choice to be fully informed about abortion.
• Supports funding for research using adult stem cells.
• Supports legislation that prohibits sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
• Supports sentencing reform that will emphasize community-based corrections for prisoners who are not a threat to the community.
• Supports sentencing reform that will give greater latitude to judges when deciding appropriate penalties.
• Supports legislation to limit predatory lending practices.
• Supports a progressive tax system, a just living wage, and fair and reasonable labor practices by employers.
• Opposes disproportionate cuts to programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
• Opposes legislation that would allow for additional taxes and/or fees for services to be imposed on not-for-profit organizations.
• Supports measures to provide effective programs for those who are poor and elderly, including health care, transportation, housing and nutrition.
• The conference is in support of development of programs which would provide for a full continuum of care for moderate and low-income families, from care in the home, assisted living care and nursing home care, etc.
• Supports measures to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the air, water and land in Iowa.
• Supports strict enforcement of present environmental laws and adequate state funding for this purpose. The conference favors local control.
• Strongly endorses legislation that requires industry, including large agricultural-related production operations, to be environmentally sound.
• Supports efforts to expand renewable sources of energy in the state of Iowa.
• Supports state initiatives which would make health care more readily available and affordable to all Iowans, including immigrants and their children.
• Supports prohibition of abortion funding and mandates in the implementation of federal health legislation.
• Supports the conscience rights of medical professionals and institutions.
• Supports the basic human rights of documented and undocumented immigrants and refugees. This includes fair treatment under the law for all workers including legal representation during deportation proceedings, a just living wage, safe working conditions, and humane treatment of children and families.
• Opposes efforts to make state and local police responsible for the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
• Supports legislation allowing 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.
• Supports legislation providing for a provisional driver’s permit for undocumented immigrants.
• Supports full restoration of benefits to permanent legal residents.
• Supports reduction from a felony to an aggravated misdemeanor for undocumented immigrants carrying false papers to secure a driver’s license or work.
• Supports the creation and growth of small business in Iowa’s rural communities. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports incentives in rural areas for training and the creation of new jobs which provide living wages and safe working conditions.