By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
It appears the Iowa House or Senate won’t be doing much floor debate this week as leaders negotiate policy, tax and budget issues to end the legislative session.
Some key issues yet to be resolved from the ICC (Iowa Catholic Conference) agenda include the Protect Life Amendment, the food stamp asset test and sales tax exemption for food banks, and assistance for parents of nonpublic school students.
Both chambers have introduced their own take on tax reform — SSB 1276 and HF 893. Both include the removal of triggers that have the effect of putting the income tax cuts passed in 2018 into effect sooner. On the positive side, both versions include parity in payments for mental health services provided by telehealth (a benefit for many counseling programs including Catholic Charities’) and increased tax credits for affordable housing development.
However, the House and Senate tax bills have some differences. HF 893 includes the sales tax exemption for food banks supported by the ICC, which exempts non-food items sold to a food bank from the state sales tax. As far as the Senate’s food stamp asset test, which would take many people off assistance, we know the House does not want to accept it but it is likely to be a subject of negotiations.
While the ICC does not have a position on the matters, the Senate version has the state take over non-Medicaid funding for government mental health services from the counties. It also ends the state’s payments to local government that help make up for previous property tax cuts.
Both the House and Senate have passed similar and effective versions of the “Protect Life Amendment,” but have not agreed upon a final version. It is disappointing. This constitutional amendment would not outlaw abortion but would allow it to be regulated. In 2018, the state Supreme Court found that abortion is a fundamental right in Iowa.
Last week the House passed HF 868, which includes a small increase in textbook funding for nonpublic school students as well as a last-minute amendment to enact an updated accreditation system for all schools. Both chambers are still working on improvements to the School Tuition Organization tax credit program, which helps more than 10,000 children receive a scholarship to attend a nonpublic school.
Sign the petition for no taxpayer-funded abortions
The bishops are rolling out a campaign to encourage Congress to keep current restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortions. The Hyde Amendment and similar laws have protected taxpayers from funding elective abortion for 45 years. Now, powerful members of Congress want to take away these laws that both Democrats and Republicans have supported for nearly half a century.
Go to www.notaxpayerabortion.com to sign the petition and learn more about the issue.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)