By Tom Chapman
There are reports of progress being made on some of the biggest issues left during the 2012 Iowa legislative session: reform in the areas of education, mental health services, and property taxes. This week might be the last one of the session — we’ll see!
The legislature came within one vote last week of refusing to distribute government family planning dollars to abortion providers. The proposal would redirect such dollars to public and private clinics that provide more complete primary health care. This amendment to SF 2336, the state’s human services budget, passed the House 57-37 and failed in the Senate on a tie vote, 25-25. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) believes it does not serve the common good to send taxpayer money to organizations that assist in the taking of human life.
In other provisions of the bill, the ICC has supported funding for outreach efforts for the hawk-i health insurance program for children as well as for Department of Human Services staff to assist low-income families. One piece of good news is that the House has moved closer to the Senate’s numbers for these programs. At first the House had proposed some major cuts, now the cuts in the House version are much smaller.
It is anticipated that SF 2336 will bounce back and forth between the House and Senate and be assigned to a “conference committee,” which will work on a compromise bill that can be voted on by both chambers. The ICC will continue to ask legislators to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children as well as include a provision to reprioritize family planning funds. An action alert with a sample message to your legislators is available on our website at www.iowacatholicconference.org.
The education reform bill, SF 2284, is now in a conference committee. Please go to our Action Center or Facebook page to contact key members of the committee in support of these provisions:
• No expansion of the core curriculum (current sections have not yet been fully implemented and evaluated)
• Retain religious liberty language related to the core curriculum
• Retain alternative licensure provisions for teachers
• Retain competency-based instruction language
These provisions of the bill affect Catholic schools because they are accredited by the state.
The ICC also opposes House File 2462, which would require a public school start date of no earlier than the fourth Monday of August. Although the bill itself only mentions public schools, it would also affect Catholic schools because many need to follow the local district’s calendar. I think the bill itself is dead but it may resurface as an amendment to another bill.
It is looking like the last bill of the session will be House File 2465, the standing appropriations bill. Often, legislative initiatives that do not advance earlier in the session get tacked on the standings bill. We’ll keep you posted on any issues of interest that pop up.
(Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)