Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, April 20, 2014

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

TAKE ACTION NOW

There’s still time to encourage legislators to help parents with adoption expenses. Last week the Iowa House passed House File 2468 by a vote of 95-1. The bill provides a refundable tax credit of $2,500 for adoptions. It will help make adoptions more affordable for parents, as agency fees can start at $12,000 and go up from there. The credit would also assist birth mothers because adoption agencies and adoptive parents help pay for their support during pregnancy. The Catholic Church has a long history of providing adoption services.

The bill is now under consideration by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Please contact members of the committee in support of the bill.

The education appropriations bill, Senate File 2347, has been sent to a joint conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate. Both chambers approved a $50,000 increase for textbooks/technology for nonpublic school students.

The House Appropriations Committee has approved HF 2473, the “standings” appropriations bill. It contains status quo funding of $8.56 million for the transportation of nonpublic school students, about $1.1 million short of full funding. Current claims are paid on a pro-rated basis because of the shortfall. If you haven't yet done so, please click here to send a message to ...

NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL 

Longtime readers of this newsletter are aware this is generally the time of the year the legislature works on budget bills. It’s rare that the Catholic Conference would support or oppose a budget bill. However, we pay close attention to individual provisions that relate to protecting the life and dignity of the human person. This is not as easy as it sounds because, for example, the budget bill for human services spends about $1.9 billion, all of it at least in theory directed toward the state’s effort to help take care of people.

So, as the appropriations process moves forward, we will highlight certain parts of the budget bills that we think would be of special interest to members of the Catholic community or directly affect programs run by parishes, schools or Catholic Charities.

We are studying the main Senate amendment (S5166) to HF 2463, the budget bill for human services which has passed the House. It will most likely be debated in the Senate this week. Among the amendment’s provisions we are reviewing:

  • Remember the bill we’ve discussed in previous weeks on child care assistance? Well, it’s contained in S5166. It allows recipients of child care assistance to count both work and school hours (rather than only one or the other) towards a “28-hour” requirement. In our opinion this more closely reflects the real-life experience of people who could use assistance with child care. It also allows recipients to qualify for the assistance once for an entire year.
  • Additional funds for juvenile drug courts, to help keep young non-violent offenders out of jail and hopefully on the road to recovery.
  • A tweak of the government-funded family planning services.

If you’re a policy nerd like me, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to read the whole bill yourself. It’s only 90 pages.

HF 2450, the justice appropriations bill, has also been sent to a conference committee. The Senate version contains specific language to ensure continued operation of drug courts and restores the House’s cut to domestic violence victim assistance grants.

The Iowa Catholic Conference is also monitoring HF 2471, a bill to provide for a checkoff on the state tax form for contributions to a “hunger fund” to address food insecurity in the state. The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill last week. It also eliminates the checkoff for political campaigns and provides for a study of income tax checkoffs.

Checkoffs on the tax forms allow for taxpayers to contribute money to certain causes. In the past, for example, we have supported a checkoff for funding of child abuse prevention services.

In other news, the Senate has unanimously passed SF 2350, which would regulate debit/pay cards as a form of payment for wages. 

As you may recall, last year the bishops of Iowa encouraged legislators to make health care coverage more readily available to low-income Iowans. The state announced last week that more than 90,000 people have been made eligible for the new Iowa Health and Wellness Plan. With approximately 50,000 previous IowaCare members transitioned, that means another 40,000 people have been enrolled since October 2013.

AND FINALLY,

We hope you have had a blessed Easter! Please keep praying for your legislators as they work to conclude the session.

 

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