By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
DES MOINES — The second “funnel” deadline in the Iowa Legislature is approaching. To survive, a bill must have passed one chamber and through a committee in the opposite chamber by April 5. (This does not apply to appropriations or tax-related bills). Several bills of interest to the Iowa Catholic Conference are bumping up against the deadline, including:
Senate Joint Resolution 21, a state constitutional amendment to establish that there is no right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution. The bill is eligible for debate by the Senate. In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court discovered a fundamental right to an abortion in the State Constitution, which makes it nearly impossible for the Legislature to regulate it. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) supports the amendment.
House Joint Resolution 14, which would provide that people who have committed felonies and served their sentence could vote. The bill is eligible for debate by the House. There is some reluctance by legislators to support this because they don’t like to look like they are “going easy on crime.” The ICC supports the amendment.
Senate File 588, which would bring back the death penalty to Iowa for certain crimes. The bill is eligible for debate in the Senate. The ICC opposes the proposal.
Senate File 547, which would provide Education Savings Accounts for students with special needs to help them pay for tuition at an accredited nonpublic school. The bill is eligible for debate in the Senate. The ICC supports the bill. You can also support nonpublic school students by attending the Education Celebration at the State Capitol at noon on April 2.
Go to www.votervoice.net/ icc/home for ICC action alerts, which provide more information on these bills and sample messages to legislators.
Last week at the state capitol
A bill to legalize sports betting continues to make its way through the Legislature. House File 648 passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee. It still includes the ability to bet by mobile app. Legislators seem to be slowly working through disagreements about the bill. Both Democrats and Republicans voted for and against the bill in committee.
Legislation to improve Iowa’s “concurrent enrollment” system, Senate File 488, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously last week. “Concurrent enrollment” is when school districts contract with community colleges to offer college-level courses to eligible high school students. Currently nonpublic schools are able to contract with school districts to enroll students in the classes if there is space available. The ICC supports the bill because, among other provisions, it allows nonpublic schools to enter into agreements directly with community colleges for classes. Since the bill is an appropriations bill it is eligible the rest of the session.
Senate File 538 passed the Senate. It would put additional work reporting requirements on many Medicaid recipients and require an expensive new system to track participants’ work hours and exemptions. The ICC opposes the bill because of concern that the additional reporting requirements will cause people to lose their health care coverage, even if they meet the work requirements. Following passage of similar legislation in Arkansas, thousands of people lost their Medicaid benefits. The bill now goes to the House.
Congress will soon vote on H.R. 5, the Equality Act, that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the definition of sex throughout federal law. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the legislation. In a letter to Congress, the bishops said the bill “does not accomplish what its supporters assert, but rather creates new difficulties and will hurt more people than its designers want to help.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)