Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter: First legislative deadline report, Feb. 19, 2018

The first legislative “funnel” deadline was last Friday. That means any bill that has not passed out of a committee by now is, in theory, dead for the session, with the exception of budget and tax bills. However, nothing is dead for certain until the legislature adjourns.

Here’s some updates on issues of concern …

The Iowa Catholic Conference has been working for many years on legislation to help parents be able to afford the most appropriate education for their children. House Study Bill 651, the Education Savings Account bill, passed out of a House subcommittee on Tuesday but failed to get out of the full Education Committee later in the week. We appreciate that so many of you contacted your legislator in support of the bill.

The good news is that there is still time in the session for the House and Senate to pass meaningful school choice legislation. We will keep you informed about our progress and most likely will be asking for your help in contacting legislators again.

While a Senate subcommittee advanced a bill last week to bring back the death penalty, the bill was not brought up for a vote in the full committee. We are happy to report that the death penalty bills in both chambers are dead for the session. Here’s a link to the statement on the death penalty from the bishop....

A bill to prevent “wrongful birth” claims, House File 2165, passed out of the Judiciary Committee. The ICC supports the legislation. It would stop parents from bringing lawsuits against physicians claiming a child should have been aborted because of a disability. These claims were never allowed in the state until an Iowa Supreme Court decision last summer. Contrary to the opposition’s rhetoric, the bill explicitly does not protect doctors who are grossly negligent in providing care.

The Senate Local Government Committee passed Senate Study Bill 3171, the Iowa Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill is very similar to the federal RFRA law that has been in place since the early 1990’s. It provides a standard of review for a court when there’s a conflict between exercise of religion and a law. The bill says that government should not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it can be demonstrated that applying that burden is a compelling government interest and the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. The ICC supports SSB 3171, although suggest removing the exemption for the Department of Corrections found in the bill. It is still important for the state prison system to respect the religious liberty of inmates.

Senate Study Bill 3120 passed out of the Senate Education Committee. It intends to secure free speech and public expression at state universities. The ICC supports the section of the bill which would allow student religious groups to choose their own leadership. The University of Iowa is in court because they did not allow a Christian business group to choose their leadership.

Senate Study Bill 3155 and House Joint Resolution 2009 have passed their respective Judiciary Committees. They are proposed state Constitutional amendments to subject any restrictions of the right of the people to keep and bear arms to “strict scrutiny.” The ICC recommends opposition to the bills because they would have the effect of making any regulation of firearms difficult and may put current state law regarding background checks and permitting at risk. The Catholic bishops of the United States have been a consistent advocate of reasonable regulation of firearms for many years. The amendment would need to pass both chambers of the legislature in two successive General Assemblies before being submitted to a vote of the people.

House Study Bill 592 passed the House State Government Committee. The bill would legalize betting on sports once the federal government allows it. The Catholic bishops of Iowa oppose attempts to increase the kinds of gambling allowed. The Church recognizes that gambling can be a legitimate recreational activity in an atmosphere of moderation and control.

Other bills that are still eligible:

We are encouraging the House to take up Senate File 359, which would stop any trafficking or use of fetal body parts obtained by elective abortions. Our position is that use of the fetal tissue in question is unethical because it is obtained as a result of an abortion.

It is being reported that Senate File 481, the immigration “sanctuary cities” bill, will be a priority for the House. Click here for a sample message to your member of the House Public ....

On these and other issues, you can send a message to your legislator by visiting our Action Center at www.votervoice.net/icc/home.

IOWA SUPREME COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS ON WAITING PERIOD

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week on a case challenging Iowa’s “three-day waiting period before an abortion” law. The ICC has provided a written brief arguing that our state Constitution does not contain a right to an abortion. A decision is expected in the coming months.

FEDERAL ISSUES

The U.S. Catholic bishops are planning a national “Call-in Day to Congress” on Monday, Feb. 26. Your advocacy will be critical to help the nearly 1.8 million Dreamers, young people who were brought into the United States by their parents as children. They may face deportation as soon as March 6 unless Congress reaches a bi-partisan deal to protect them. We’ll provide more information in next week’s newsletter.

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