Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, April 27, 2014

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

It looks like the legislative session will conclude in the next few days. In the meantime there are still several issues of interest being discussed.

You are encouraged to contact your Senator in support of House File 2468, which would provide a $2,500 state tax credit for parents with adoption expenses. The bill passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee last week and is eligible for debate in the Senate. If it passes the Senate it goes to the governor. Making a contact in the next day or two is very important as there is a real opportunity for the bill to become law. You can send a message from our Action Center.

Last week the House and Senate passed the justice appropriations bill (HF 2450) which funds drug courts in the state along with a statement that it’s the intent of the legislature for the judicial districts to maintain drug courts. Some judicial districts did not choose to fund these drug courts in the past.

The goal of a drug court is to offer non-violent offenders with addictions an opportunity to change their lives with the help of an intensive treatment and rehabilitation program. The offender can avoid prison time if successful in completing the program. Catholic Charities assists with these programs in some parts of the state. If offenders can be rehabilitated without prison this also saves the state money.

HF 2450 did not contain a proposed cut in domestic violence victim assistance grants. 

Both chambers of the legislature have passed a $50,000 increase for textbook/technology funds for nonpublic school students. The current version of HF 2473, the “standings” appropriations bill, 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 ... There are about 33,000 students in accredited nonpublic schools in Iowa.

The state’s human services budget bill, HF 2463, is now being considered by a joint House/Senate conference committee. One of our legislative priorities is to support adequate funding for child care assistance. Several times during this session we have discussed a proposal allowing recipients of child care assistance to count both work and school hours (rather than only one OR the other) towards a "28-hour" requirement. This proposal is part of the Senate amendment to HF 2463.

Another part of the Senate amendment is a provision to make permanent the “family planning waiver” passed several years ago. It provides government-funded pregnancy prevention services for men and women who are under 55 years of age with an income of up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. It seems unlikely that the House would agree to changing the status quo.

Because of propane supply problems and high prices this past winter, the state’s LIHEAP, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, spent a great deal of money on emergency propane deliveries to help keep people warm. The community action agencies are now asking for an one-time $2 million appropriation to LIHEAP to help replace funds used during our long winter and be able to pre-purchase propane when it’s cheaper this summer. If you’re interested, contact your legislator on the issue by using our Action Center at www.votervoice.net/icc/home. Currently there is an all-time record amount of money past due from customers to investor-owned utilities in Iowa.

Senate File 2311 was signed by the governor last week. The new law enhances penalities against people engaged in human trafficking, creates a fund for victims and allows county attorneys to refer prostitutes who are juveniles to the Department of Human Services as a child in need of assistance.

Human trafficking is a crime against the fundamental rights and dignity of the human person. According to a statement made by the Vatican and other religious leaders, “Modern slavery and human trafficking are crimes against humanity. The physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemns 30 million people to dehumanization and degradation.”

At the federal level, the House of Representatives is expected to begin work on the FORTE Act (H.R. 3344) this week. Your support for this legislation can help stop human trafficking. For talking points and a sample message, click here. You can also call 1-866-562-8232 to speak with your Representative. The bill aims to reduce the vulnerability of temporary workers in the U.S. to labor trafficking. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops support this legislation.

AND FINALLY,

According to the Vatican Information Service, about half a million people attended today’s canonization ceremony of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. To explore the meaning of their lives, click here to go to a specia....

 

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