Thanks to those of you who were able to call Congress in support of Dreamers. More than 48,000 calls were made to the DC offices of U.S. Senators and Representatives. Also last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the government's request to hear its “appeal before judgment” on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) cases. This means that DACA renewals remain available to those who currently have DACA status. Otherwise young persons with DACA status could be deported because they here without papers.
Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, said:
“Monday’s Supreme Court decision does not reduce the urgency of finding an immediate legislative solution for Dreamers, people who were brought to the United States as children and have known only our country as their home … My brother Bishops and I continue to call upon Congress to work towards a bipartisan and humane solution as soon as possible."
Back here in Iowa, the Iowa Catholic Conference is working in opposition to Senate File 481, an immigration enforcement bill. SF 481 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 deportation, possibly for relatively minor offenses, when they 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.
There are reports about the bill being amended in the House Public Safety Committee this week. That could be a good thing. We’ll keep you posted.
LAST WEEK AT THE STATE CAPITOL
House File 2405 passed the Iowa House by a vote of 59-40 and moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The ICC supports the bill, which stops parents from bringing lawsuits against physicians claiming a child should have been aborted because of a disability. The bill is in response to last summer’s Iowa Supreme Court decision which allowed these claims for the first time. The bill does not protect doctors who are grossly negligent in providing care.
Senate File 2281 has passed the Senate by a vote of 30-20. The bill would stop abortions after the heartbeat of the baby can be detected. The bill now moves to the House. The ICC supports the life-affirming intent of the bill and we appreciate legislators for their efforts to advance the protection of unborn children. We are helping with efforts aimed at resolving questions regarding the bill’s constitutionality.
As you recall, last week we reported on Senate File 2383, a bill to cut taxes in Iowa by more than a billion dollars. The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday by a vote of 29-21. The bill also includes a $1 million increase in the STO credit. We expressed our concerns about whether this bill will allow adequate revenues for public education, Medicaid, public safety, a strong safety net, and other acts of government essential to the common good.
In the Iowa House, leaders have decided to work off of the governor’s tax reform bill, House Study Bill 671. It passed out of subcommittee Thursday. The chair of the subcommittee, Rep. Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines), reported that the House Ways and Means Committee would not take action on the bill for a couple of weeks.
HSB 671 is significantly different than the Senate bill. HSB 671 would cut taxes by $1.7 billion over five years. After an initial tax cut, future cuts would only take place if state revenues do not fall below certain levels. The bill does not address corporate tax rates or tax credits. A greater share of taxes paid will be shifted from the income tax to the sales tax, which typically falls more heavily on lower-income people. Here’s some information we provided legislators about the bill.
The House bill does not contain an increase in the STO tax credits. However, the Senate and House will be negotiating on these provisions during the next several weeks.
The “free speech on college campuses” bill, Senate File 2344, passed the Senate along party lines last week by a vote of 29-20. The bill requires the Board of Regents and the boards of directors of the community colleges to adopt policies regarding free speech on campuses.
The ICC is working in support of a provision of the bill that allows student religious groups on state university campuses to 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 all student belief-based groups from a state university asking them to change their belief system to remain registered.
House File 2448, a bill to enable sports betting in Iowa when federal law allows, advanced out of a subcommittee. The Catholic bishops of Iowa opposes attempts to increase the kinds of gambling allowed in the state. The Church recognizes that gambling can be a legitimate recreational activity in an atmosphere of moderation and control.
House File 2456 is intended to increase the availability of government-funded mental health services in Iowa. A key provision of the bill defines the following as core services to be funded, primarily by Medicaid:
The bill passed the House unanimously on Thursday.
ENCOURAGE HHS TO PROTECT CONSCIENCE RIGHTS
Conscience protection is a civil right guaranteed by numerous federal laws that too often haven't been enforced. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is taking administrative action through a proposed rule to ensure that these laws are enforced. The U.S. Catholic bishops’ pro-life arm, Human Life Action, is urging you to convey your support to HHS for their action by submitting comments in support of the proposed rule. For more details please click here.
Photos from our annual Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Breakfast at the State Capitol are available on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/iowacatholicconference. Following the breakfast, the bishops met with Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and several legislative leaders. Among the topics addressed were pro-life issues, school choice, gun control and immigration.