Iowa Catholic Conference funnel week update

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

Last minute reminder – the annual Rally for Life is tomorrow (Monday). The event begins at 10 a.m. at St. Anthony Church in Des Moines and continues at 3 p.m. at the state capitol. If you can attend just one or the other location, that’s fine. The keynote speaker is Wesley Smith, one of America's leading experts in the area of bioethics. The focus will be on assisted suicide and end of life issues. For more information see the flier on our website at www.iowacatholicconference.org.

This Wednesday is the annual Iowa Catholic Conference legislative breakfast at the capitol. The bishops and several members of our board and committees will be meeting with state legislators. Please take some time this week to pray for them. 

On to the news . . .

This coming Friday is the "funnel” deadline when bills have to be voted out of their original committee or be set aside for the year. 

In a bit of a surprise, a bill regulating payday loans passed a House subcommittee last week and has a chance to advance out of the Commerce Committee. The installment plan called for in the bill, House File 382, would help customers avoid the debt cycle by allowing them to pay off the debt without repeat borrowing.

For the benefit of our new readers, a short explanation of the issue is in order.

Payday loans are short-term cash advances based on the borrower’s personal check held for future deposit (the next pay day), or on electronic access to the borrower’s bank account. Interest rates on payday loans can reach up to 400 percent.

Payday loans would not pose a concern if borrowers could typically pay off a loan with their next paycheck. Unfortunately, because of the fees and short terms, borrowers usually cannot both repay their payday loan in full and meet the rest of their monthly expenses. As a result, a typical payday loan borrower in Iowa has 12 payday transactions per year, usually on a back-to-back basis. Only one percent of loans are made to one-time borrowers. Therefore we believe the effective interest rates of these loans are unjust.

Here’s a link to the Commerce Committee – you may wish to contact the leadership and your nearest representative on the committee right away.

On Tuesday, the Iowa House passed a ban on webcam abortion by a vote of 55-42. This method of abortion is particularly impersonal and potentially harmful to the woman’s life and health.

The vote on HF 2175 was mainly along partisan lines, except for Tom Shaw (R-Laurens), who voted no, and Nancy Dunkel (D-Dyersville), Dan Muhlbauer (D-Manilla), and Phyllis Thede (D-Bettendorf), who voted yes. The bill moves to the Senate. We’ll plan on having a Senate alert in support of the bill ready after funnel week. 

Also on Tuesday, we were pleased to see that the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate File 2019 unanimously. The bill would require the state Department of Corrections to make rules limiting the shackling of pregnant inmates. The new number for the bill is Senate File 2190.

Some of you are hearing from legislators that the Education Savings Account bill, House File 2090, will divert funds from public schools. To be clear, there is nothing in the bill that "takes money from" the public school system. It is true that public schools would not receive the per-pupil state funding for a student who is no longer there.

A similar bill, Senate File 2154, has been introduced by Sen. Jerry Behn (R-Boone), with all 23 other Republican senators as co-sponsors.

As you recall, the bills would provide that the state deposit the average per-pupil aid into a savings account for nonpublic school students to help pay for tuition and other educational expenses. This year, it would be about $5,600. We believe the overall annual cost of the entire bill would be less than the annual budget increase now being suggested for public schools.

Education Savings Accounts are a big idea that will take some time for many legislators to get comfortable with. Accomplishing this goal may not be quick and easy, but we know we have great grassroots support. Thanks to the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education and the Iowa Association of Christian Schools for their work on the issue.

Don’t forget to come to the capitol on Thursday, March 6 at noon for the Education Celebration for school choice and nonpublic schools.

HF 2254, related to human trafficking, has passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. It would allow county attorneys to refer prostitutes who are minors to the Department of Human Services as a “child in need of assistance” in lieu of prosecution.

HF 2170 passed the House 97-0. It clarifies allowable instructional hours for schools and, importantly, allows non-public schools to receive same calendar waivers as public.

A new state tax credit for adoptions passed the House Human Resources committee 17-2. Since HF 2082 is a tax bill, it will now go to the Ways and Means Committee. 

Senate Study Bill 3146 has passed out of subcommittee. We support the bill as it eliminates lengthy mandatory sentences for juveniles and does not treat children as though they are equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development. Nothing in the bill prevents minors from being held properly accountable for their actions and remain in prison if necessary.

There’s been no movement yet on a temporary driver’s license for undocumented persons – SF 2087, or on bills to increase the state’s minimum wage, SF 2039 and HF 2011. You can send a message to your legislator from our Facebook page or Action Center

Following a subcommittee meeting last week, it looks like House Joint Resolution 4 will not move forward this year. The ICC opposes the suggested state constitutional amendment, which says that mandatory licensing, registration, or special taxation of guns would be prohibited. The Catholic bishops have consistently supported measures that will strengthen regulation of firearms and offer treatment for those in need who may become violent.

Later this week there is a subcommittee meeting scheduled for House Study Bill 598, which would create a civil cause of action (a possible lawsuit) when a mother loses her unborn baby due to the wrongful act of another. Iowa is one of about 10 states where that is not currently possible. Once a bill passes a subcommittee it advances to the full committee. 

AND FINALLY,

We are in the process of revamping our website. Please let me know if you think there are any items missing from the current website that might be helpful. 

Tom Chapman

Executive Director

Iowa Catholic Conference

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