By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
The second legislative deadline expired April 3, which means that only bills that have passed a committee in both chambers of the Iowa Legislature remain eligible — except for budget- and tax-related legislation. Several bills of interest to the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) died in the “funnel.” Here’s a list, including our position on the bill:
• HF 573, requiring an ultrasound procedure before an abortion. The bill, which the ICC supported, also called for the mother to have an opportunity to view the ultrasound. HF 573 passed the Iowa House last month, but was never considered by the Senate. Typically the Democratic-led Senate does not address abortion-related bills.
• SF 269, an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $8.75. The bill, which the ICC supported, passed the Senate but was not considered by the House. Last week the House Democrats used a procedure vote to try and put SF 269 on the calendar for floor debate but the measure failed 56 to 40.
• SF 450, a bill providing for additional human trafficking training and outreach. The bill, which the ICC supported, had passed the Senate but did not make it out of a House committee. Some legislators felt the training requirements for law enforcement personnel were too broad. Although the bill did not advance, the ICC probably hasn’t heard the last of the discussion on human trafficking at the legislature this year.
• SF 375, providing that employers treat an employee who chooses to adopt in the same manner as an employee who is the biological parent of a newborn child. This bill, which the ICC supported, passed the Senate and a House subcommittee but that was the end of it. The bill’s purpose basically was to give adoptive parents the same time off with their babies as biological parents. The Republican-led House is reluctant to pass bills that put additional mandates on businesses. In this case, there was no new mandate other than to provide adoptive parents the same bonding opportunities as birth parents.
• SF 447, extension of the statute of limitations for civil actions related to childhood sexual abuse. The ICC was undecided about this bill. SF 447 passed the Senate but didn’t move in the House.
• SF 334, prohibited sexual orientation change therapy for minors. SF 334, which the ICC opposed, passed the Senate but stalled in the House. The scope of the bill went beyond its intent and could prohibit speech regarding what the Church teaches about human sexuality and counseling young people to refrain from sexual activity. It also limited the treatment choices parents may feel would be helpful for their children.
• HF 598, payday loan regulation. HF 598 passed the House Commerce Committee but never reached the House floor. The ICC was undecided about this bill. It was a step in the right direction as it offered the opportunity of a repayment plan for people who can’t pay their payday loans. If customers failed to execute the repayment plan, they would be worse off than before.
• Senate File 460, debit card regulation. The bill, which the ICC supported, passed the Senate but was not addressed in the House. State law has not specifically regulated the growing use of debit cards for payment of wages. Some employees have found it difficult and more costly to check a balance and compare hours worked to pay. The bill would provide employees with an option not to be paid by a debit card. Our message to legislators is that the state should help assure that people are paid what they’re due (already state law) and can easily access the money they’ve been paid. Some provisions of this bill might be put back by the Senate in an amendment to HF 286, which relates to direct deposit of wages.
Some of these issues may come back to life through amendments to budget bills over the next several weeks. In addition, the ICC is working with its partners at the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education and the Iowa Association of Christian Schools on support for nonpublic school students. As a practical matter, public school funding issues will have to be settled first.
The ICC continues to work on other concerns at the legislature, for example SF 369, which would fund refugee support services. Since SF 369 is in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the bill is not subject to the funnel.
SF 227 went to the governor’s desk last week. The bill sets Aug. 23 as the earliest start date for public and private high schools in Iowa. So set your calendar!
The ICC is also monitoring House File 6, which includes all public school employees, not just teachers or coaches, in the section of Iowa Code prohibiting sexual exploitation in a school setting. The House passed the first version of the bill 97-0. The bill was amended last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee to include all public and private school employees, and volunteers with significant contact with students. The amendment also picks up one piece of SF 447 to extend the statute of limitations for bringing a civil suit related to sexual abuse by school staff (currently set at five years after the student last attended the school) to age 28.