To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network
It was a relatively short week at the capitol as most legislators went home on Wednesday in advance of the snowstorm.
However, on Thursday I spoke during a Senate subcommittee meeting to express the support of the Catholic Conference for expanding Medicaid (the government’s health insurance program for low-income people). Among other provisions, Senate File 71 would open the Medicaid program to everyone in Iowa whose income is less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. For a single person, that would be about $15,000. Currently the program is only open to adults with dependents or a disability.
The federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost for the expansion population (rather than the usual 60 percent federal/40 percent state for Medicaid) and then ratchet that down to 90 percent.
SF 71 is set to be considered by the full Senate Human Resources Committee this week. One of the ongoing challenges, regardless of any expansion of Medicaid, will be to hold down increasing health care costs as well as improving outcomes.
Gov. Branstad has said he does not support the expansion but will instead pursue an improvement of the IowaCare program, which currently limits hospital care to two hospitals: Broadlawns in Des Moines and the University of Iowa in Iowa City and reaches about half as many people as the full Medicaid expansion.
The Medicaid issue was one of the topics discussed by the four Iowa diocesan bishops during the annual Iowa Catholic Conference breakfast for legislators at the capitol last Wednesday. Other points of emphasis were the state DREAM Act, support for nonpublic school students, and restriction of “webcam” abortions.
I would like to thank the many legislators and board and committee members were attended our legislative breakfast. Thanks also to Senate leaders Sen. Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock) and Sen. Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), who met the bishops and discussed these issues.
We had the biggest turnout ever of legislators at the annual Rally for Life at the capitol on Monday. Dan McConchie, vice-president of governmental affairs from Americans United for Life, discussed helpful ways to work for additional restrictions on abortion. Thanks also to Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds for being a part of the event.
Your emails or phone calls are needed to encourage legislators to advance House File 173, which would outlaw webcam abortions. The first “funnel date” is coming up March 8. With some exceptions, bills have to be advance out of committee by that date to be eligible for further consideration.
Please go to our Action Center at www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd to send a message to legislators on Medicaid, webcam abortion and the state DREAM Act.
We’re still working on House and Senate bills to prohibit the shackling of pregnant inmates in Iowa. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports the bills for humanitarian reasons as the practice presents medical risks for the mother and baby and is uncomfortable for the mother. Eighteen states have laws restricting or prohibiting this practice. There are exceptions in the bill for situations when the inmate poses a danger to herself or others.
The Iowa Department of Corrections says they have put in place a new confidential policy regarding the restraint of pregnant inmates. Without seeing the rules, it’s hard to know if they’re adequate. Many states and the federal corrections system put their policies regarding pregnant inmates on their website. In any case, the new state rules do not apply to county or city law enforcement. Nothing would prevent the state from changing its confidential policy back to the way it was, whatever it was.
Rep. Linda Miller (R-Bettendorf), chair of the House Human Resources Committee, has said she doesn’t intend to advance the bill in the House, saying the department’s new policy solves the issue.
Bottom line, if you’re interested in seeing the bill advance, you should contact members of the subcommittee working on the Senate’s version of the bill (SF 134):
Sen. Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Nancy Boettger (R-Harlan) email@example.com
Sen. Robert Dvorsky (D-Coralville) firstname.lastname@example.org
The House debated the governor's education reform bill, HF 215, until midnight Tuesday night and passed the bill the next morning. The bill as amended would raise the minimum base salary for public school teachers to about $32,000. It would put in place a career pathway system for teachers that is optional for public school districts to use. The system would provide an opportunity for teachers to become leaders and mentors of other teachers without having to go into administration. We have remained officially undecided on the bill.
Rep. Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia) filed H1018, an amendment to HF 215 that would enact “Education Savings Accounts.” Under the proposal, the state would offer parents about $4,000 for every child enrolled in a nonpublic school. Any parent could use this money for tuition at a Catholic or other accredited nonpublic school or for homeschooling. We appreciate Rep. Forristall’s comments on the amendment during floor debate before withdrawing the amendment.
While there’s been much discussion in the media about the possibility of immigration reform, it’s far away from being a done deal. It’s important for Catholics to step up to the plate and call or email your Senators and Members of Congress now in support of compassionate and just reform. The easiest thing to do is send the Justice For Immigrants electronic postcard at bit.ly/VBM0Yo.
We’re also being asked to take five minutes and contact Congress in support of conscience protection in “must-pass” legislation.
The Church is opposed in conscience to providing insurance coverage for sterilizations, contraception, or abortifacient drugs, or to participating in or facilitating an abortion. Congress will soon be considering a "must-pass" bill that will fund the federal government. Congress can include conscience protection as part of that bill and solve this problem now. Call or click here to email your two Senators and Representative. You can also visit www.nchla.org.
VATICAN SECRETARIAT OF STATE COMMUNIQUE
Pope Benedict’s resignation takes effect this coming Thursday. The following message was sent from the Vatican yesterday regarding the election of a new pope . . .
“The freedom of the College of Cardinals, which, by law, is responsible for providing for the election of the Roman Pontiff, has always been strongly defended by the Holy See as the guarantee of a choice based solely on deliberations directed toward the good of the Church.
Over the course of the centuries, Cardinals have had to face many forms of pressures, exerted upon individual electors or upon the College of Cardinals itself, that sought to influence their decisions, following a political or worldly logic.
If in the past the so-called powers, i.e., States, sought to influence the election of the Pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion, which is often based on judgments that do not capture the typically spiritual aspect of this moment that the Church is living.
It is deplorable that, as we draw closer to the moment that the Conclave will begin and the Cardinal electors will be held - in conscience and before God - to freely express their choice, there is a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable, or even completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.
Never before as at this moment are Catholics focusing on what is essential: praying for Pope Benedict, praying that the Holy Spirit might enlighten the College of Cardinals, and praying for the future Pope, confident that the future of the barque of Peter is in God's hands.”
I encourage you to visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/iowacatholicconference and check out some photos from our Legislative Breakfast. Maybe you’ll see your own legislator.
Iowa Catholic Conference