By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
“As Catholics, our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable … the principles of Catholic social teaching — dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity, freedom, participation, the common good, and care for the poor and most vulnerable among us — must define our positions on issues and should invite reflection on the best specific response.” Faithful Citizenship for Iowa Catholics
The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC), the official public policy voice of the bishops of Iowa, was pleased that the Legislature took steps to assist parents in nonpublic schools, including:
• Senate File 2417, the tax reform bill, included a $1 million increase in the School Tuition Organization Tax Credits to a total of $13 million. The bill also increased the number of students who could receive scholarships by increasing the family income limit to 400 percent from 300 percent of the federal poverty level. More than 10,000 nonpublic school students receive these scholarships every year. Another provision of the bill offers some tax benefit for paying K-12 private school tuition from 529 plans such as College Savings Account. We will provide additional information to parents but in the meantime — don’t make any changes without consulting your tax expert.
The ongoing impact of SF 2417 bears watching. It is expected to cut taxes by more than $2 billion during the coming years. Since Iowa’s annual budget is now about $7.5 billion, a key question is whether the tax cuts will allow for adequate revenues for public education, Medicaid, public safety, a strong safety net and other acts of government essential to the common good.
• We voiced principled opposition to Senate File 481, the new immigration enforcement law, and remain profoundly disappointed that it was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. We should be looking to help immigrants, not to harass them. We again call upon our Legislature and Congress to pursue solutions that help immigrants find a welcome, and, as a consequence, strengthen our communities with their families, enrich our social fabric by their faith and their cultural heritage and provide a good and stable workforce.
• Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 359 that prohibits abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, as well as trafficking in fetal body parts. It was scheduled to take effect July 1, but a legal challenge is ongoing. We support the life-affirming intent of the provision to stop abortions after a heartbeat can be detected. As Pope Francis has said, “Let us respect and love human life, especially vulnerable life in a mother’s womb.” We call upon the judiciary to once again recognize that all life should be protected from the moment of conception to natural death.
• Also, on the positive side, bills restoring the death penalty and legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide failed to advance. We will continue our work in opposition to these proposals.
• We were pleased that the final human services budget bill, Senate File 2418, included an amendment to limit “wrongful birth” claims. This prevents a parent from bringing a lawsuit against a doctor claiming a child should have been aborted because of a disability. We support another part of SF 2418 that stipulates oversight of managed care companies to ensure providers in the Medicaid program are paid in a timely manner. The Legislature also set the stage for increasing the availability of mental health services by defining additional core services.
• A utility deregulation bill, Senate File 2311, made some negative changes to Iowa’s energy efficiency requirements. “Laudato Si,” the 2015 encyclical by Pope Francis on the care of our common home, has raised awareness about how our future as human beings is connected to how we take care of the Earth. Energy efficiency is a relatively inexpensive way to help us address our energy needs while lessening our reliance on fossil fuels and the amount of carbon we put into the air.
• Finally, the Legislature again failed to raise the minimum wage. We hold the opinion that, in the current circumstances, an increase to the minimum legal wage would directly or indirectly benefit more Iowans than not. Therefore, we continue to advocate for an increase.
Signed by Archbishop Michael Jackels, Archbishop of Dubuque; Bishop Thomas Zinkula,
Bishop of Davenport; Bishop R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City; Bishop Richard Pates, Bishop of Des Moines.