By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
The Iowa Legislature reached its second funnel deadline last week. Bills originating in one chamber needed to pass a committee in the other chamber to stay alive. (The deadline does not apply to budget or tax bills.)
House File (HF) 754 and Senate File (SF) 492 are on the unfinished business calendar. This is a procedural move to keep the bills alive. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) opposes the bills, which would cut unemployment insurance benefits for bigger families and put in place a one-week waiting period before they can receive benefits. Visit the ICC website at iowacatholic
conference.org to express opposition to the bill.
A few bills the ICC supports survived the funnel deadline by passing a committee last week:
• HF 302 establishes a graduated eligibility phase-out for state child-care assistance to help prevent a “cliff effect.” This addresses the problem that can result when a person starts making more money and loses all of their government child-care assistance, resulting in a net loss of income.
• HF 819 acknowledges the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions in the care and custody of children. Iowa courts recognize these rights but we don’t want to depend on court rulings.
• HF 318 is a pilot program to provide preschool funding for some “younger” 5-year-olds.
Other bills that the ICC supports remain eligible for consideration. These include:
• HF 847, a bill that increases the “tuition and textbook” tax credit for school parents.
• SJR 2/HJR 5, the Protect Life Amendment to Iowa’s Constitution.
• SSB 1254, tax exemption for purchase of equipment by food banks/pantries.
• SF 295, affordable housing measures.
• HF 369, doubling the tax credit for adoptive parents.
• HF 452 and SF 388 to provide authorities with additional resources to complete investigations of trafficking in humans.
• HF 724 and SF 362 to require employers to treat employees who adopt a child up to the age of 6 in the same manner as those with a biological child.
Bills no longer eligible for consideration:
• HJR 11, a constitutional amendment that allows people coming out of prison to vote.
• HF 678, to decrease the amount of time spent in probation.
• HF 294, which requires insurance companies to pay the same rate for in-person and telehealth mental health services. Catholic Charities’ counseling programs provides telehealth services.
• SF 522, not addressed by the House Judiciary Committee. It would have outlawed elder abuse in the areas of theft, consumer fraud and neglect.
• HF 833, which would offer additional legal protections for mobile home park residents.
The ICC opposed these bills that died in the funnel – thanks to those of you who contacted legislators in opposition:
• SF 339, requiring businesses to use the voluntary federal e-verify system to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
• HF 434, providing a statewide standing order for “over the counter” contraception.
• A proposed amendment to SF 534 to bring back the death penalty.
• SF 389, creating a new asset test for food stamps, which would have made many current recipients ineligible.
You can always contact your legislators by visiting the ICC Action Center (www.votervoice.net/icc/home)
As of press time, Gov. Reynolds has not signed SF 252, a bill to allow landlords to reject renters solely on the basis of their using a federal housing voucher. You can ask her for a veto by visiting https://governor.iowa.gov/contact and clicking on “Register an Opinion.”
Vaccines becoming more available:
During a news conference last week, the governor mentioned her efforts to work with the Catholic dioceses and Catholic Charities to offer vaccination clinics in different parts of the state for underserved groups.
Gov. Reynolds reiterated that all adult Iowans would be eligible for the vaccine beginning April 5. We have found that www.
vaccinefinder.org can be a good resource for scheduling.
People who are over the age of 65 or have other health challenges, and also lack technology or have language barriers, can call 2-1-1 for assistance with scheduling.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)