Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter - April 14, 2013

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

Last Monday was an important day for the Catholic Conference as it brought both the appointment of a new archbishop for Dubuque (who serves as the chair of our board) and the passage of one of our main priorities in the Iowa House.

Wichita Bishop Michael Jackels has been appointed by Pope Francis to succeed Archbishop Jerome Hanus of Dubuque. Archbishop-designate Jackels will be installed on May 30.

The Iowa House passed House File 625 by a vote of 96-2 last Monday. We support the bill as it increases school tuition organization tax credits to $12 million, which helps raise scholarship money for low-income nonpublic school students.

HF 625 has gone to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, so it’s time to contact your Senator in support of the bill. Your messages were critical to the bill’s success in the House! Go to www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd for our current action alerts.

The legislature is in the process of deciding how to expand health care coverage for low-income uninsured Iowans. Our Catholic tradition has said that access to decent health care coverage is a basic human right. Unfortunately many people are still going without coverage because of its cost.

Currently Medicaid is only available to very low-income adults with dependents or a disability. The Iowa Senate has passed a proposal to expand Medicaid as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act and cover about 150,000 additional people by covering everyone whose income is less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $15,000 for a single person). The federal government would pay for 100 percent of the cost of this expansion for the first three years. Then the federal match would step down to 90 percent and the state would pay 10 percent. The Catholic Conference supports this proposal.

Last week the House held its first subcommittee meeting to consider the governor’s alternative “Healthy Iowa” proposal. There will be a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the House chambers.

The Healthy Iowa proposal, being considered by the House as House Study Bill 232, would expand eligibility for Medicaid to all making less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level (covering about 90,000 people). The governor has so far opposed the Senate’s proposal because of concerns about patient outcomes in Medicaid as well as the federal government’s ability to pay. It is anticipated that the federal government would pay for 60 percent of the Healthy Iowa proposal and the state would pay for 40 percent.

One specific item we are working to change in the House bill is that it only includes citizens, not refugees and long-term legal permanent residents as does Medicaid.

You can use our system at www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd to send a message to your legislator.

A new bill to restrict payday lending was introduced and moved out of subcommittee last week. Senate Study Bill 1250 would cap the maximum interest rate for payday loans at 36 percent. Currently interest rates can reach up to 400 percent. We believe the interest rates of these loans are unjust.

Payday loans are short-term cash advances, usually for $300 to $500. Unfortunately, in practice, payday loans prove to be a long-term debt trap. 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.

You can help reform payday lending for all Iowans. Please send a message to your Senator in support of SSB 1250 by visiting www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd.

A conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate are still meeting to discuss the education reform bill, House File 215. If the negotiations are successful the committee will produce a bill that cannot be amended on the floor. The House Republicans made an offer to support four percent allowable growth for public schools for the next two fiscal years in an effort to get the Senate Democrats to go along with their bill. So far the Democrats have not agreed to the Republican proposal.

The bills would increase beginning teachers’ pay and either mandate (Senate) or make voluntary (House) a new career pathway program for public school teachers.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY CHAIR BACKS LITIGANTS OPPOSING HHS MANDATE

A statement by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed “deep gratitude” and  “solidarity and appreciation” for litigants challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, which forces employers to pay for contraceptive services even over their religious and moral objections.

In voicing his support for bishops and other Catholic entities, he noted that “Their goal is nothing less than securing the freedom of the Church to continue to obey the Lord’s command—and, in turn, to serve the common good—by providing charitable ministries in health care, education, and service to the poor, all without compromising Catholic beliefs.” He also expressed “deep gratitude to the scores of people and organizations—from various denominations and walks of life—who have challenged the HHS mandate in federal courts around our country over the last year.

NEWS FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC RURAL LIFE CONFERENCE

The National Catholic Rural Life Conference is joining with other sustainable agriculture and family farm groups to endorse the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act that was introduced this week by Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine.

The goal of the legislation is to expand opportunities for farmers and ranchers, and increases consumer access to healthy foods. The legislation addresses production, processing, marketing, and distribution barriers that limit growth in local and regional food markets. The bill also makes targeted investments in programs that create jobs and spur economic growth through food and farms.

ADMINISTRATION URGED TO EXPEDITE REVIEW OF ARMS TREATY

Signing the Arms Trade Treaty is an “important step,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. In his April 11 letter, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, urged the Obama administration to expedite a thorough review of the treaty so the President can sign it in early June.

“The Catholic Church has a longstanding commitment to protecting human life and dignity and supporting arms control as a means to this end,” wrote Bishop Pates. “As a world leader and a major arms exporter, our nation should set a positive example for other nations to follow in efforts to reduce the flow of weapons into situations that violate human rights and cause terrible suffering.”

AND FINALLY,

It is expected that the U.S. Senate “Gang of 8” will produce an immigration reform bill soon. To find out more about the Catholic bishops’ support for immigration reform, go to www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Tom Chapman

Executive Director

Iowa Catholic Conference

 

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