By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messeger
The Iowa Catholic Conference is pleased to report that two of its legislative priorities moved forward last week.
House Study Bill 138, regulating payday loans, was introduced and passed a subcommittee on Feb. 19. The ICC supports the bill, which would help customers avoid the debt cycle by allowing them a 90-day period to pay off the debt without repeat borrowing. Next step: convincing the House Commerce Committee to move on the bill.
Senate File 269 increases the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.75. The bill passed the Senate Labor Committee and will soon be eligible for debate in the Senate. The current minimum wage falls short for its failure to provide sufficient resources for individuals to form and support families. More than 75 percent of Iowa workers that would be directly affected by an increase are age 20 or older.
Another bill the ICC supports, Senate File 144, would start a pilot program to train refugees to provide direct assistance to their refugee communities, and fund current English-language instruction programs.
If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to send a message to your legislator on these bills, go to www.votervoice.net/icc/ home. If you have sent a message, thank you very much!
At a subcommittee meeting last week the ICC expressed concerns about Senate File 31. The intent of the bill is to outlaw sexual orientation “conversion therapy” for minors. The ICC is concerned that the scope of the bill as drafted is so broad it would make counselors reluctant to work with issues of sexuality with young people.
The ICC is also concerned it could prohibit speech regarding what the Catholic Church teaches about human sexuality and counseling young people to refrain from sexual activity.
Senate File 239 has been introduced. The bill would reinstate the death penalty for certain crimes. The ICC opposes the bill because of the belief that society can defend itself against unjust aggressors without having to use the death penalty.
As the Iowa bishops said in 1998, “We oppose reinstatement of the death penalty to send a message that we can break the cycle of violence, that we need not take life for life.”
The bill is unlikely to advance. If you’re interested in national efforts against the use of the death penalty, go to www. catholicsmobilizing.org.
Another bill having to do with sentencing policies, Senate Study Bill 1185, was introduced last week. Under current Iowa law, a minor who commits first-degree murder must serve a life sentence without parole.
The ICC has opposed this because of the belief that juveniles should not be treated as if they were equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development.
Their culpability may be lessened. In addition, 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.