Legislators address human trafficking, adoption, energy assistance, other issues

By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
DES MOINES — As the legislative session enters its final weeks, the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) is engaged on several issues.
The bill tweaking Iowa’s law against human trafficking is headed to the governor for his signature. Last week the House accepted the Senate’s changes to Senate File 2311. The bill creates a fund for victims and allows county attorneys to refer prostitutes who are juveniles to the Department of Human Services as a “child in need of assistance.”
The Iowa Senate has passed the education department/state universities budget. It spends a little less than a billion dollars, and includes a $50,000 increase for textbook/technology funding for nonpublic school students (to a total of about $650,000).
The first version of the standing appropriations bill, House Study Bill 688, was released last week. It contains status quo funding of about $8.6 million for the transportation of nonpublic school students. Full funding of all transportation claims would require about $9.7 million.
The House Ways and Means Committee has passed a bill providing for a state tax credit of $2,500 for adoptive parents. The credit also indirectly assists birth mothers by helping adoption agencies and adoptive parents pay for their support during pregnancy. The ICC is hopeful that the bill continues to receive bi-partisan support.
The ICC also is encouraging legislators to move forwards on a pilot program to assist refugees who are resettling in Iowa.
Because of propane supply problems and high prices this past winter, the state’s LIHEAP, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, spent a lot of money on emergency propane deliveries to help keep people warm.
As you might expect, many people are having trouble paying their energy bills. A proposal in the legislature would allocate an additional $1 million to LIHEAP to help pre-pay for propane this summer when prices are lower, and to continue to help people with non-propane energy needs. People are eligible for LIHEAP if their income is 150 percent of the federal poverty level or less. The federal government has allocated about $54 million to LIHEAP in Iowa this year.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee passed a bill to regulate pay cards as a relatively new form of payment of wages. Some abuses of pay cards are being reported. SF 2350 is now eligible for debate on the Senate floor.
The best way to take action and contact your legislator is to go to the ICC Action Center at www.votervoice.net/icc/
home. You can also leave messages at the House switchboard, (515) 281-3221, or the Senate switchboard at (515) 281-3371.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)

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