Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, Feb. 17, 2013

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

Check out our alerts by clicking “Take Action” at www.iowacatholicconference.org or on our Facebook page.

On to the news . . .

The Rally for Life is at the state capitol tomorrow (Monday), beginning at 1 p.m.

Pope Benedict’s surprising resignation led to many questions and speculation at the Iowa Capitol last week. I have found that no matter what people think about the Catholic Church, there’s a lot of interest in what’s going on within it!

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 many state legislators. Please take some time this week to pray for them.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

The main pro-life legislative focus of the Iowa Catholic Conference for now is House File 173, which would outlaw "webcam" abortions in Iowa, as has been done in several other states. Your contacts with legislators will help determine whether they will move the bill forward. You can find more information in our Action Center.

There were subcommittee meetings last week for Senate File 134 and House Study Bill 95. These bills would set restrictions on restraints to be placed on pregnant inmates. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports the bills for humanitarian reasons as the practice is presents medical risks and is uncomfortable for the mother. Eighteen states have laws restricting or prohibiting this practice. It should be noted that there are exceptions in the bill for situations when the inmate poses a danger to herself or others.

Representatives of local law enforcement are asking that local jails be removed from the bill, as they believe a restriction on restraints would be present safety issues for their personnel. The parties involved will be working on an amendment to the bill.

Legislators in the House have introduced House File 183, a version of the state DREAM Act which would qualify undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates at Iowa’s state universities. We have been working to support the Senate version, SF 80. It does not offer free college tuition.

The House Education Committee met until about midnight Wednesday night and passed the governor's education reform bill by a party-line vote, 13 Republicans to 10 Democrats. The bill as amended would raise the minimum base salary for public school teachers to $32,000, and would put in place an optional career pathway system for public school teachers. The system would provide a way for teachers to become leaders and mentors of other teachers without having to go into administration.

The bill is expected to be debated in the House this week. Most likely the Senate take up its own version of the bill emphasizing Democratic priorities.

Work continues on proposals to expand Medicaid in Iowa. One proposal would help nearly 150,000 low-income Iowans (at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level) receive health insurance. All low-income adults, not just those with disabilities or dependents, would now be eligible for Medicaid. For a single adult, that income limit would be $14,856.  For the first three years, the federal government would pay the entire cost of the expansion, then the match would gradually go to 90 percent federal, 10 percent state.

The main opposition comes from those who are concerned about the federal government's ability to fulfill its promise to fund the vast majority of the expansion. In addition, there have been questions raised about Medicaid’s effectiveness, although I think most would argue that some health insurance, however flawed, would be better than none. I anticipate there will be less-costly alternatives brought forward for consideration.

Coming up on at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6 is the annual Education Celebration sponsored by the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education. We are pleased that Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, will be the keynote speaker, along with Senator Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls), and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake). Anyone interested in celebrating private schools and parental choice in education is welcome at the capitol for this event.

CONGRESS URGED TO INCLUDE CONSCIENCE PROVISIONS IN FUNDING BILLS

Congress should incorporate two provisions that strengthen conscience protection in any proposed funding bills in the weeks ahead, said Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore in a Feb. 15 letter to Congress. Both provisions were part of the House draft of the Labor/HHS appropriations bill. An updated action alert is available at www.capwiz.com/catholicbishops.

The first provision supported by USCCB would extend longstanding federal policy on conscience to the new mandates for private health plans created by the Affordable Care Act. The other clarifies nondiscrimination laws to improve protection of individuals and institutions that decline involvement in abortion, allowing them to seek vindication in court.

AND FINALLY,

I encourage you to contact Iowa Right to Life at outreach@iowartl.org for more information on how to get a “Choose Life” license plate in Iowa. Each plate costs $25, or $50 for a personalized one. Only 135 more orders are needed to reach the minimum 500 which will permanently make these plates available throughout Iowa.

Tom Chapman

Executive Director

Iowa Catholic Conference

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