The second session of the 87th Iowa General Assembly is set to convene on Monday, when legislative leaders will address the chambers to talk about their plans for the session. Coming up on Tuesday is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ first “Condition of the State” speech to the legislature. The Republicans have control of the Senate 29-20 (with one independent) and the House by a count of 58-41 pending a special election.  

It appears that the legislature may find it necessary early in the session to make some mid-year cuts in the state budget to make sure it’s balanced. Given the budget issues and the fact it’s an election year, signs point to fewer big or controversial initiatives being passed during this session. But you never know!

As for the Iowa Catholic Conference legislative agenda, our work begins with the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable. You can find our list of legislative priorities here.

These commitments are a natural development of the words we hear in Scripture. We are to love our neighbor as Christ has loved us (John 13:34). We are to bring “good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and to set the downtrodden free,” as Jesus says in Luke, quoting from the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1-2; 58:6). We look to Exodus, chapter 20, which tells us, “You shall not kill.”

For some advocacy tips, you can check out our toolbox at iowacatholicconference.org/action-center/lobbying-resources. Another way to stay in touch is to download the “Voter Voice” app on your iPhone or Android device. Once you enter your email you can search for “Iowa Catholic Conference.” That way you can respond to our alerts directly from your phone.

FEDERAL TAX CHANGES

Catholic schools have been receiving questions about the new “529 plan” provision included in the Tax Reform and Jobs Act passed by Congress at the end of the year. This will enable parents to put away savings for federal tax-free distribution to pay for K-12 Catholic school tuition. (Currently, 529 plans offer tax-free earnings growth and tax-free withdrawals when the funds are used to pay for college, whether public or private.)

We are investigating the possibility of changing state law to also allow for a state tax deduction on contributions to be used for K-12 private school tuition. Before you make any change to your 529 plan you should consult with your tax attorney.

After the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed the tax bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said, “The legislation achieves some laudable things, like doubling the standard deduction, which will help many struggling families avoid tax liability, expanding the use of 529 education plans, and increasing the child tax credit.

“However, the Act contains a number of problematic provisions that will have dramatic negative consequences, particularly for those most in need. Among other things, the Joint Committee on Taxation indicates that the bill will eventually raise taxes on those with lower incomes while simultaneously cutting taxes for the wealthy. This is clearly problematic, especially for the poor.”

DREAM ACT ALERT - NATIONAL MIGRATION WEEK 2018

For nearly a half century, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week, an opportunity for the Church to highlight immigrants, refugees, children, and human trafficking survivors. This year's theme, "Many Journeys, One Family," draws attention to the fact that all of our families have a migration story: some recent and others in the distant past. Regardless of where we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.

At the federal level, our main legislative priority is to secure passage of the Dream Act. Click here for our action alert and sample message to our members of Congress.

ARCHDIOCESAN CATHOLIC CHARITIES CLOSING REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM

 Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque is ending its 77-year-old Refugee and Resettlement ministry. “The primary reason for the program's closure is the US Department of State cutbacks which decrease the number of refugees who can legally seek refuge in the United States from 110,000 to 45,000 annually,” the archdiocese reported in a news release.

“Our faith guides us to believe in the dignity of all persons and the need to protect the most vulnerable, especially refugees and migrants. It is with a heavy heart that we announce the ending of this ministry,” said Archbishop Michael Jackels.

Catholic Charities of the Dubuque Archdiocese remains committed to supporting refugees and immigrants through their Immigration Legal Services ministry available in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Hampton, Marshalltown, New Hampton, Postville and Waterloo. 

UPCOMING EVENTS AT THE CAPITOL

The Iowa Prayer for Life will be held next Thursday, Jan. 11 beginning at 9 a.m. with a training session on lobbying followed by time to lobby your legislators. There will be a rally at 10:30 a.m. with comments by state legislators.

Lunch and a program will follow at Calvary Baptist Church (606 E. 9th, Des Moines). Speakers will be Dr. Donna Harrison, president of the American Association of Pro-Life OB/GYNs, and Catherine Davis of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition. The event is sponsored by the Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders and the Iowa Life Fellowship. Click here for free registration.

The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery (NAHT) will hold its 2018 legislative “Day on the Hill” on Wednesday, Jan. 17 at the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines. This second annual event will feature Gov. Reynolds speaking on the importance of public awareness of this heinous crime that takes place here in Iowa and across the nation and the world. For more information go to www.iowanaht.org.

AND FINALLY,

We are now returning to our usual weekly newsletter schedule during the legislative session. We would appreciate it if you could put the work of the Iowa Catholic Conference in your prayers from time to time. Thank you!

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