By Tom Chapman
The Iowa Catholic Conference approved a 2013 legislative agenda during its recent biannual board meeting Oct. 16-17. The conference added to its legislative agenda:
• Support for initiatives to protect religious liberty and the legitimate exercise of the freedom of conscience.
• Support for legislation that promotes and funds chastity and abstinence education.
• The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) also raised to a higher priority its opposition to disproportionate budget cuts to programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
The ICC is the public policy organization of the Catholic Church in Iowa. Its board of directors includes the bishops of Iowa and lay people, priests, deacons and religious Sisters. The bishops of Iowa are Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, of Dubuque; Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport; Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City; and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines.
Here is a look at specific legislative priorities:
• 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 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.
• Supports parental choice in education by broadening financial assistance to families through tax credits or other means to allow their children to attend the school of their choice.
• Supports parents as the first and primary educators of their children.
• Supports continuation of assistance for students enrolled in accredited nonpublic schools through technology and textbook appropriations.
• Supports full funding of the Area Education Agencies (AEAs).
• Supports on-site special education assistance through the AEAs.
Families and Children
• Supports amending the Iowa Constitution to recognize marriage only as a union of one man and one woman.
• Supports efforts to expand family strengthening programs, improve childcare programs and increase welfare payments to poor families and children in Iowa.
• Supports governmental assistance that strengthens families, encourages and rewards work and protects all vulnerable children, born or unborn, including those with developmental disabilities. Supports adequate funding for job training and child care.
• Supports legislation that promotes and funds chastity and abstinence education.
• Supports assistance for veterans returning from active duty from war zones.
• Supports legislation to ensure parental consent when free contraceptives are provided to their children.
• Supports efforts to provide comprehensive programs for domestic violence victims and for those who commit these crimes.
• Supports presumption of joint custody.
• Supports protection of human life and dignity as a foundational principle, including limitations on late-term and “webcam” abortions.
• Supports alternatives to abortion for women by providing funding to programs that assist women in crisis pregnancies.
• Supports efforts to provide women with a choice to be fully informed about abortion.
• Opposes any state efforts to legalize assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.
• Supports funding for research using adult stem cells.
• Opposes the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, human cloning or embryonic stem cell research, including funds allocated to those organizations that engage in or advocate for these practices.
• Supports legislation to promote adoption programs.
• Supports the reinstatement of a ban on human cloning.
• Opposes embryo creation and destruction for stem cell research.
• Supports disclosure of trafficking of human eggs and fetal tissue.
• Supports extending protections to unborn victims of violence.
• Supports updating the statistical reporting of abortions law to include procedure used, week of gestation and county where patient resides.
• Opposes the death penalty.
• Support initiatives that protect religious liberty and the legitimate exercise of the freedom of conscience.
• Restorative Justice
• 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.
• Opposes disproportionate cuts to programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
• 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 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, including 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.
• Opposes direct or indirect public funding of abortion.
• Supports the conscience rights of medical professionals and institutions.
• Supports efforts to create and preserve affordable housing units as well as rental assistance to low-income families. This includes shelter assistance and case management for homeless children and families, and rehabilitation of existing housing, both city and rural.
• 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, fair labor practices, 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 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 ICC supports incentives in rural areas for training and the creation of new jobs which provide living wages and safe working conditions.
• Supports strengthening agriculture, local food systems and family farms in Iowa.
• Supports efforts to secure a healthful food supply.
The ICC has a page on Facebook at www.facebook. com/iowacatholicconference and can be followed at “Iacatholicconf” on Twitter.