Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter: March 29, 2018

The second legislative deadline - called the “second funnel” – was last Friday. Only bills that have passed a committee in both chambers remain eligible, except for budget- and tax-related legislation.

Senate File 359 made it past the deadline. The bill, passed by the Senate last year, has been on our priority list. It would stop trafficking in fetal body parts which remain following an elective abortion. The bill advanced out of the House Human Resources Committee last Thursday only after the committee added an amendment to the bill which would prohibit abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected.

Several bills the ICC supported didn’t make it past the funnel deadline, including:

  • House File 2405, a bill that would have prevented a “cause of action” that allows a parent to bring a lawsuit against a physician claiming a child should have been aborted because of a disability. The “wrongful birth” claim did not exist in Iowa before it was allowed by the Iowa Supreme Court last summer.
  • Senate File 2344, a bill which would have clarified that campus student groups, including religious ones, could choose their own leadership. Currently the University of Iowa is in court because it deregistered a group for Christian business students, BLinC, after a student filed a complaint against the group. This bill would protect student groups from a state university requiring them to change their belief system to remain registered.
  • Senate File 2338, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill was very similar to the federal RFRA law that has been in place since the early 1990’s. It said 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 bill died mainly because of opposition from the business community.

Bills that may be coming up for debate this week include:

  • House Joint Resolution 2009. The ICC opposes this proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution which would subject any restrictions of the right of the people to keep and bear arms to “strict scrutiny.” The ICC recommends opposition because it would have the effect of making future regulation of firearms more difficult and may put current state law regarding background checks and permitting at risk. The amendment would have to pass both chambers this year, and then again next year, before going to a vote of the people of Iowa in 2020. 
  • Senate File 481, the so-called “anti-sanctuary cities” bill. The ICC opposes the bill. Among other provisions, it requires local jails to comply with all requests from ICE (immigration control) to hold immigrants, even when federal law does not require it. People would be held for possible deportation, even for relatively minor offenses, when they otherwise normally would get released. This may cause the separation of families and imposition of a penalty that is out-of-proportion to the wrong that has been done.
  • Senate File 2311, a bill which eases regulation of public utilities. An amendment passed in the House Commerce Committee last week would cap charges for energy efficiency programs at two percent of a customer’s bill. While that might seem like a good idea, it would also have the effect of reducing financial support for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). This program helps low-income people save on their utility bills by reducing energy usage. Energy efficiency is a relatively inexpensive way to help us address our energy needs while lessening our reliance on fossil fuels. Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter “Laudato Si,” has called us to protect creation and care for our common home.

You can let legislators know what you think about the above bills by going to www.votervoice.net/icc/home.

We were pleased to see the House unanimously pass Senate File 360 last week. The bill now goes to the governor. It updates Iowa “Safe Haven” law by allowing parents to surrender a baby up to 30 days old to EMS and other first responders. Currently babies can be surrendered at health care institutions. Mothers are able to give up a child without a criminal charge if they feel they can no longer care for the baby. An estimated 30 babies have been helped through this program since 2001.

U.S. BISHOPS URGE SUPPORT FOR THE ‘FIRST AMENDMENT DEFENSE ACT’

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave their strong support for the First Amendment Defense Act, which was recently introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) in the U.S. Senate: “FADA is a modest and important measure that protects the rights of faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. For example, in a pluralistic society, faith-based charitable agencies and schools should not be excluded from participation in public life by loss of licenses, accreditation, or tax-exempt status because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government’s view.

“The leadership of the Catholic Church will continue to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good. The Church will also continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear of government discrimination.”

 

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