By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
Friday is the second “funnel” deadline for non-money related bills to be passed by one chamber and approved by a committee in the other chamber. There’s still time to contact your legislator on some key issues.
Senate File 269 would increase the minimum wage in Iowa to $8.75. The bill passed the Senate back in February.
House File 573 is the ultrasound before an abortion bill. It would require that prior to performing an abortion a physician must certify that the woman has undergone an ultrasound imaging of the baby and that the woman was given the opportunity to view the ultrasound image. The bill passed the Iowa House on March 12 and is now in the Senate.
Senate File 450, regarding human trafficking. This bill would require the state to conduct outreach programs to help the public recognize and report incidents of human trafficking, as well as require training for law enforcement. The bill passed the Senate earlier this month and needs to pass a House committee this week. Two helpful grousp with resources on the issue are Braking Traffik (in the Quad Cities) at www.brakingtraffik.org and Attacking Trafficking at www. attackingtrafficking. com.
Senate File 448 passed the House Judiciary Committee last week. Committing a Class A felony typically means life in prison without parole. SF 448 provides other sentencing possibilities for juveniles who commit Class A felonies (such as first-degree murder), and the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) supports that effort. This position is related to principles of restorative justice, which include assistance for victims, crime prevention and the promotion of genuine rehabilitation. Offenders need to be held accountable for their crimes and the pain that victims and their families feel cannot be ignored. However, the law should carefully take into account the moral and cognitive development differences between a juvenile and an adult. The ICC opposes a provision of SF 448 that still permits a life sentence without parole for juveniles.
House File 598, regarding regulation of payday loans, is eligible for debate on the House floor. The bill is a step in the right direction as it offers the opportunity of a repayment plan for people who can’t pay their payday loans.
More bi-partisan support from more legislators about addressing the payday loan problem is encouraging. The issue is moving in the right direction.
The House and Senate approved a bill that sets Aug. 23 as the earliest start date for public and private high schools in Iowa. It also outlaws year-round high school. The ICC’s position has been to support the ability of schools to set their own start date in accordance with local needs. In a procedural move, the Senate majority leader filed a “Motion to Reconsider” on the bill after it passed the Senate last week. It still seems likely that SF 227 will end up on the governor’s desk.
In other news, a particular sticking point at the legislature right now is a fight over public school funding and specifically what is called “supplemental state aid.” This is one of the main funding sources for public schools, another being local property taxes.
The GOP is suggesting a 1.25 percent increase in supplemental state aid for the 2015-16 school year (about $85 million) while the Democrats are suggesting a 4 percent increase (about $200 million).
There are about 475,000 public school students in Iowa. Since such a big portion of Iowa’s budget goes to public K-12 education (a little over 40 percent), it makes it harder for the legislature to work on other parts of the budget until education is settled.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)