By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
Senate File 481, the immigration enforcement bill, passed the Iowa House and Senate last week and was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds on April 10. The Iowa Catholic Conference opposed the bill. Among other provisions, the bill requires local jails to comply with all requests from ICE (immigration control) to hold immigrants, even when federal law does not require it. People would be held for possible deportation when they otherwise normally would get released. The bishops had asked Gov. Reynolds to veto the legislation.
There was no movement last week on Senate File 359. It would stop trafficking in the fetal body parts which remain following an elective abortion. There is an amendment to the bill which would prohibit abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected as well.
In his encyclical letter “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis has called us to protect creation and care for our common home. Energy efficiency is a relatively inexpensive way to help us address our energy needs while lessening our reliance on fossil fuels. Senate File 2311, now in the House, makes many changes to regulation of public utilities. Some of these changes will impact energy efficiency programs, including weatherization programs that benefit low-income people. We are asking legislators not to undermine Iowa’s current energy efficiency policies.
Here in Iowa, our long-standing energy efficiency programs have been helpful in keeping energy costs low. Iowa has been ranked at the third-least expensive state overall for energy prices. Utility customers are charged a fee for energy efficiency programs. SF 2311 would make participation in energy efficiency programs optional, which would likely reduce participation, and therefore reduce the level of investment utilities are required to make in energy efficiency programs. This in turn will reduce financial support for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
WAP reduces the heating and cooling costs for low-income persons, particularly the elderly, disabled and children, by improving the energy efficiency of their homes, thereby reducing the households’ energy bills. The program improves the health and safety of low-income homes.
If you are concerned about this issue, please write up a short message to your state representative asking him or her not to undermine Iowa’s current energy efficiency policies.
The Iowa House scheduled a public hearing April 9 regarding HSB 671, the governor’s tax reform bill being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee. The tax legislation remains on hold at press time.
The annual Iowa Religious Freedom Day event will be held at noon today (April 12) at the State Capitol. A short program will highlight the importance of living faith in the family. Singers from Dowling Catholic High School are scheduled to perform. The ICC is a co-sponsor of the event with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Des Moines Area Religious Council.
Finally, legislators stop getting paid on April 17. The end of the legislative session typically comes around that time, but this year it seems unlikely. None of the state department budget bills have been introduced, and work has not been completed on tax reform bills, a priority of the Republican leadership.
(Tom Chapman is the executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)