Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, March 9, 2014

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

Here’s the news from last week …

The two parties have agreed on total General Fund spending of $6.92 billion for the 2015 fiscal year, about a seven percent increase compared to this year. Now the discussions will begin on exactly how to allocate this amount among the various state departments. This is the earliest I can remember that the two parties have agreed to a total budget number. I think it’s an indication the leaders intend to end the session ahead of schedule in April.

The annual Education Celebration for nonpublic schools was held at the capitol on Thursday. Speakers at the event included Michael Chartier, State Programs and Government Relations Director of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, and sponsors of the Education Savings Account bills, Rep. Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights) and Sen. Jerry Behn (Boone). The event was sponsored by the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education.

It was great to see so many school personnel and students who participated and talked with their legislators about Education Savings Accounts. Check out the photos on our Facebook page.

We’re still working on legislation that would provide additional flexibility for people who receive Child Care Assistance (CCA). This helps pay for the care of a child while the parent or caretaker works or attends school.

The CCA Program is available for the children of eligible parents with income at or below 145 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. In addition, recipients need to be working full-time, considered to be 28 hours a week, or going to school full-time.

The Senate has unanimously passed a bill, SF 2251, which would allow a combination of both work and school to count towards the 28 hours. SF 2251 also allows recipients to remain qualified for a year rather than re-qualifying every six months.

However, making these types of changes is estimated to increase the state’s costs by about $4 million, so the House is likely to amend the bill to simply address the “flexible required hours” issue through a smaller pilot project.

We continue to encourage legislators to address the “cliff effect” for individuals receiving child care assistance. Currently there are circumstances where a person would get a pay raise or a new job, start making more money, and lose all of their child care assistance, resulting in a net loss. This is a negative incentive to people improving their financial situation through work.

TAKE ACTION TODAY 

This coming Friday is the second funnel deadline for non-budget or tax-related bills to be approved by one chamber and passed out of a committee in the other chamber. There is still time to contact your legislator on some key issues. There are some links for a sample message and background information:

I would like to mention two other bills are not affected by the funnel but I think are worthy of your attention . . .

Many are having trouble paying their energy bills during this tough winter. There is a proposal, SF 2110, which would allocate an additional $2 million to LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program). The bill has passed the Senate and currently sits in the House Appropriations Committee.

Because of propane supply problems and high prices this winter, the state’s program has spent a lot of money on emergency propane deliveries to help keep people warm. Some of the extra money would be used to help pre-pay for propane when prices are lower this summer, and to continue to help people with non-propane heating needs. People are eligible for LIHEAP if their income is 150 percent of the federal poverty level or less. Go to http://www.dcaa.iowa.gov/bureau_EA/whos_eligible.html for more information. The federal government has allocated about $54 million to LIHEAP in Iowa this year. Here’s a link to the House Appropriations Committee to let them know what you think.

We are still working to get House File 2268 passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would establish a $2,500 state tax credit for adoption expenses. The amount would be $5,000 for a harder-to-place child. The tax credit is refundable, which would allow low-income families who might not have enough tax liabilities to take advantage of the credit. As you know, adoption is relatively costly and this would help parents who make this rewarding choice.

Here's a list of the House Ways and Means Committee members. If you live in one of these districts, or simply would like to email the leadership of the committee, please consider showing your support for HF 2268. 

AND FINALLY,

If you’re interested in seeing Wesley Smith’s presentation on end of life issues at the Rally for Life, go to bit.ly/1g6kMGJ.

Tom Chapman

Executive Director

Iowa Catholic Conference

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