By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
The second legislative funnel deadline is April 2, when a bill needs to have passed one chamber and a committee in the other chamber to remain eligible. This deadline does not apply to tax- or budget-related bills.
Late last week, the Iowa House passed and sent to the Senate several bills supported by the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC), including:
• HF 847 — doubles the tuition and textbook tax credit for nonpublic school parents, increases a tax deduction for teachers, provides additional options for private and public schools to submit innovative education plans and has additional open-enrollment options for public school parents.
• HJR 11 — constitutional amendment that allows people coming out of prison to vote.
• HF 724 — requires employers to treat employees who adopt a child up to the age of 6 in the same manner as those with a biological child.
• HF 819 — acknowledges fundamental rights for parents in the care and custody of children. Presumes a parent to be fit and requires clear and convincing evidence to overcome that.
Due to the funnel deadline, HF 724 and HF 819 would have to clear a Senate committee by next Friday. If nothing else, the bills will be eligible for consideration by the Senate next year.
In other legislative action:
• The Senate passed HF 756, the weapons omnibus bill, last week. It goes to the governor.
• The Senate Ways and Means Committee passed SF 587, which would have the state’s General Fund pay for Iowa’s mental health regions rather than local property taxes. Funds raised through county property taxes are currently just one source of funding for mental health services in Iowa. Other funding of services would continue from commercial health insurance and the federal government.
• SF 587 also stops more than $150 million in “backfill” payments from the state to cities and counties and removes state revenue triggers so income tax reductions can take place sooner.
• HF 678 is on the House debate calendar. The ICC supports the bill, which provides an evidence-based credit system to decrease the amount of time spent on probation and reduce recidivism — in other words, restorative justice.
• A legislator has filed an amendment to the “Back the Blue” bill, SF 534, to bring back the death penalty. SF 534 has been sitting dormant in the House Public Safety Committee and we are monitoring the situation closely.
• The ICC has asked the governor to veto SF 252, which would allow landlords to reject applicants who use federal Housing Choice (formerly Section 8) vouchers. Technically, SF 252 would prevent cities from passing “source of income” ordinances, which prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to applicants who use the federal housing vouchers. Three cities — Marion, Des Moines and Iowa City — currently do so.
From the perspective of Catholic Charities, helping people find affordable housing was a priority before the pandemic. Since then, the need has only increased. At the end of a recent month, Catholic Charities in just one city was helping eight families who were being evicted that very day. We believe over time, some tenants with unscrupulous landlords could lose their housing as a result of the bill.
If you would like to ask Gov. Reynolds to veto the bill, go to https://governor.iowa.gov/contact and click on “Register an Opinion.”
• Finally, the ICC continues to work in opposition to HF 434, which would provide over the counter contraception. Go to www.iowacatholicconference.org/voter-voice/ for all of our action alerts and suggested messages for legislators. Thanks for your participation in our legislative network!
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)