Iowa Legislature update
By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
Feb. 21 was the deadline for non-budget or tax bills in the Iowa Legislature to win committee approval. Unfortunately, some key items didn’t make the cut. For example, the Education Savings Account bills in the House and Senate did not advance. As you recall, the bills would provide that the state deposit about $5,600 annually into a savings account for nonpublic school or home school students to help pay for tuition and other educational expenses. (For those interested in pursuing this issue, an Education Celebration supporting school choice and nonpublic schools will be held March 6 at noon at the state capitol.)
Other legislation of interest that failed to advance past the funnel date:
• Regulate payday loans to help break the cycle of debt for customers;
• Provide for a temporary driver’s license for people who are undocumented (see more information at www.iowasafe roads.com);
• Create a civil cause of action (a possible lawsuit) when a mother loses her unborn baby due to the wrongful act of another.
Some items that the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) supported made it through the committee deadline, however, including legislation that:
• Raises the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour;
• Allows a judge to make an individualized determination on sentences for juveniles;
• Creates a pilot program to support refugees;
• Provides additional flexibility for people who receive child care assistance (currently recipients must choose between full-time work or full-time school, not a combination).
• Keep an eye out for alerts directed to Iowa senators regarding support for a ban on so-called “webcam” or “telemed” abortions where the abortion-causing medication is provided during a videoconference. This bill has already passed the House. Important budget items will soon be coming to the fore as well.
Other news of interest:
Bad weather caused many to miss the Rally for Life in Des Moines last week, which was disappointing because the content was excellent. The keynote speaker was Wesley Smith, one of the country’s leading experts in bioethics, on the topic of assisted suicide. He said that empowering physicians to kill those who are suffering is not a good way to end suffering. Smith is also concerned that “relief from pain” is becoming the defining end of society.
No current legislation on physician-assisted suicide in Iowa has come to the fore, but the ICC wants to be ready. See the U.S. Catholic bishops’ page on assisted suicide (www. usccb.org) for more information. It is important to help people understand that individuals can live their last days in dignity with proper care.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)