By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
This Friday is the first legislative funnel deadline when bills need to be passed out of committee in order to be considered for the rest of the year. However, this does not apply to budget or tax-related bills. Some failed bills are also brought back as amendments.
Status update on bills of interest
The ICC supports:
• A proposed amendment to make our state Constitution “abortion-neutral.” SJR 9, is expected to pass the Senate State Government Committee this week. Without this amendment, if or when Roe v. Wade is struck down or federal law is modified, abortion will remain a fundamental right in Iowa.
• The House version of the campus “free speech/religious liberty” bill (HF 276) was scheduled to be debated March 4 in the House Judiciary Committee. The Senate version, SF 274, already passed in committee.
• Constitutional amendments to provide voting rights for people who have committed a felony after their sentence is completed, SSB 1046 and HSB 68, have not moved out of the Judiciary committees.
• SF 414 passed a Senate committee. The bill eliminates a five-year waiting period so women who are pregnant and need medical care can qualify for Medicaid immediately.
• HF 455 would prohibit the government from using hotels that do not receive training on the prevention of human trafficking. The subcommittee meeting on this bill was scheduled to take place March 6.
The ICC opposes:
• The House’s version of the bill to legalize sports betting cleared the State Government Committee. A majority of Iowans oppose legalizing sports betting on professional or college sports, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.
• HSB 214 and SF 348 are the governor’s bills that provide for contraception to be provided by pharmacists without a visit to a physician. A statewide standing order would be provided by the medical director of the state Department of Public Health. SF 348 was scheduled for a committee vote on March 4.
You can always comment on these or other bills by contacting your legislator at www.votervoice.net/icc/ home or through the VoterVoice app by searching for “Iowa Catholic Conference.”
Federal pro-life issues
The federal Department of Health and Human Services has announced a new final rule regarding Title X, the federal program that subsidizes preventive care and family planning services for low income families. The new “Protect Life Rule” requires both physical and financial separation between recipients of Title X funds and facilities that perform abortions. Abortion providers are now ineligible for Title X funding, a loss estimated at $60 million per year.
Last week the U.S. Senate failed to advance the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — legislation that prohibits infanticide by ensuring that a child born alive following an abortion would receive the same degree of care to preserve her life and health as would be given to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.
The Iowa Catholic Conference has action alerts with sample messages to legislators at https://votervoice.net/ ICC/home regarding three pieces of legislation:
• SF 296 would reinstate the death penalty in Iowa for murder in the first degree involving kidnapping and sexual abuse offenses. This alert is targeted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, so only constituents with Senators on the committee can send a message. In a message last week to the World Congress Against the Death Penalty, Pope Francis said the right to life is the “source of all gifts and of all other rights” that must be protected. “The death penalty is therefore a serious violation of the right to life of every person.”
• Constitutional amendments to make the right to keep and bear arms a fundamental right, SJR 18 and HJR 13. This alert is targeted to all members of the Legislature because the bills have already passed out of committee.
• SF 372, an Education Savings Account bill. While the bill would provide ESAs for essentially all nonpublic school students, if it is brought up in committee next week, we expect it will be amended to address a much smaller group of parents. The action alert is targeted towards Senate Education Committee members.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)