New action alerts from Iowa Catholic Conference, March 2, 2014

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

TAKE ACTION TODAY

We encourage you to contact your legislator today on three issues of concern. For a sample message to your legislator and background information on the issues go to our Action Center. It can be reached through our website and Facebook page by clicking on “Action Center” or “Take Action”.

The issues are:

Stop “webcam” abortions – bill has passed the Iowa House and is now in the Senate

Increase the minimum wage – bill has passed a committee in the Iowa Senate

Limit the shackling of pregnant inmates – bill has passed the Iowa Senate and is now in the House

As we approach the second legislative funnel deadline in a couple of weeks, timing is critical. Messages from just a few constituents can make a difference with a legislator!

Here’s the news from last week …

We were pleased by the Senate’s passage of House File 2170, which clarifies what can be counted as instructional time in schools. The bill also allows nonpublic schools the ability to request a waiver for an earlier start date than September. A drafting error in last year’s education reform bill made this bill necessary. HF 2170 now goes to the governor for his signature.

The Senate has passed a bill to help provide flexibility to persons who receive state assistance with childcare expenses. Senate File 2251 would allow a combination of both work and school to count towards a required 28 hours. Currently recipients must choose between full-time work OR full-time school, not a combination. The Senate bill also allows recipients to remain qualified for a year. The House has a bill which addresses the “required hours” issue in a similar way through a smaller pilot project.

A bill to set up a pilot program to assist refugees, Senate File 2270, has been sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. The bill would allocate about $2.2 million to help community organizations train refugees to help other refugees access community resources. 

A little background on the situation:

First, refugees are present in the U.S. legally. They are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and who meet the United Nations’ criteria of having a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Every year the President of the United States authorizes the admission of a certain number of refugees into the country. In recent years, the U.S. has accepted between 50,000 to 75,000 refugees per year.  Each refugee undergoes an extensive interviewing, screening and security clearance process.

As you can imagine, refugees’ initial needs are many: food, clothing, shelter, employment, English language training, and orientation to a new community and culture. In the first 90 days, the U.S. government provides transitional assistance.

Catholic organizations around the country resettle about 30 percent of the refugees who enter our country every year. Catholic Charities here in Iowa will most likely resettle about 250 people this year.

While the details of the bill might need a little work, refugees in Iowa really could use some additional assistance.

Both chambers passed different versions of bills to address the trafficking of human beings. House File 2254, related to human trafficking, would allow county attorneys to refer prostitutes who are minors to the Department of Human Services as a “child in need of assistance” in lieu of prosecution. The Senate’s version, SF 2311, does the same thing while also setting up a trafficking victims’ fund and authorizing an application for wiretaps when it may provide evidence of a felony offense involving human trafficking.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a great resource for recognizing and reporting human trafficking at www.usccb.org/about/anti-trafficking-program/identifying-traffickin...

EDUCATION CELEBRATION

You’re invited to attend the Education Celebration for school choice at the state capitol this Thursday, March 6 at noon. Catholic schools from around the state will be represented. The event is sponsored by the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education. It will be a great opportunity to visit with legislators throughout the day and attend the noon rally.

PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

It seems like peace in the Middle East is always a topic of discussion and in need of prayer. In a letter to the Catholic community last week, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, invites us to pray regularly during Lent for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He notes that the U.S. is now making a concerted effort to reach a framework agreement as a basis for resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pope Francis and the Holy See have expressed support for this initiative.

AND FINALLY, 

There is still an opportunity to listen to some of the key presentations from last month’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, D.C. Go to www.usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/catholic-so....

Tom Chapman

Executive Director

Iowa Catholic Conference

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