To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network
The Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee has passed the first version of the “standings” appropriations bill, Senate File 452. There’s some good news in the bill. It increases the funding of transportation services for nonpublic students to about $8.6 million, up from $7 million last year. The appropriation would start to backfill a cut made several years ago. This money reimburses public schools or parents, depending on who provides the transportation.
The ICC supports another provision in the bill that would increase the amount of funding for “limited English proficient” learners in public schools. Currently public schools receive additional funding for four years for each of these students for whom English is not their first language; the bill would provide additional funding per students and extend the funding to seven years.
Although the standings bill is usually the last one of the session, the end of this year’s session is not imminent. SF 452 is scheduled to be debated in the Senate tomorrow.
We are still working to get House File 625 out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill increases the amount of tax credits for school tuition organizations (STOs) to $12 million. This helps the STOs offer scholarships for low- and middle-income Catholic school students.
If you could send a message to your Senator we would greatly appreciate it. Go to www.iowacatholicconference.org and click on “Take Action.”
The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up tomorrow afternoon the Medicaid expansion bill, Senate File 296, and the human services budget bill, Senate File 446. The Iowa Catholic Conference has supported expanding Medicaid as a step in the right direction. In addition, we’ll be looking to retain and strengthen current restrictions on abortion funding. Once again, you can contact your legislator through our website or Facebook page.
Among the causes that contribute to poverty are “inadequate measures for guaranteeing basic health care” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 447). It is in this spirit we reiterate our Catholic tradition that teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity.
There wasn’t any discernable movement last week on House File 625, the education reform bill.
The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment has posted an updated Action Alert urging the inclusion of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940) in upcoming "must-pass" legislation. See: www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=292.
The Administration’s contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization mandate will begin to be enforced against nonprofit religious schools, charities and health care providers on August 1. In the days to come, Congress must decide whether to address this problem through must-pass legislation before that deadline. Even if you have already contacted your representative in support of H.R. 940, it is important that members again hear of the need to pass this legislation.
I would also like to thank Gov. Terry Branstad for sending a letter to federal Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius advocating the importance of protecting an individual's right to conscience in the HHS implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
You’re going to be hearing about immigration reform from the U.S. Catholic bishops during the next several weeks. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said in a press conference April 22 that “now is the time” to fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
“As we speak, persons are being deported and an untold number of families are being divided. Human beings continue to die in the American desert. This suffering must end,” Cardinal Dolan said.
A large majority of Catholics support immigration reform legislation that provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, according to a recent survey sponsored by the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs of the USCCB. Overall, 77 percent of Catholic voters support a proposal that allows earned citizenship through meeting requirements like registration, paying a fine, paying taxes and taking English classes, the survey shows.
FEDERAL BUDGET ISSUES
The heads of two committees of the USCCB urged Congress in April 22 letters to both chambers to weigh decisions surrounding the budget by how they impact human life and dignity, serve "the least of these" and reflect government's shared responsibility to protect the common good. The bishops' letters followed President Obama's 2014 budget proposal.
The full text to the letters to the House and Senate are available online. House: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budg.... Senate: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budg...
The Fortnight for Freedom, which we celebrated for the first time last year, takes place this year from June 21 - the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More - to July 4, Independence Day. Last year, there was a great diversity of events promoting religious freedom across the country.
Iowa Catholic Conference