Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ vision for Iowa includes priorities that mirror some legislative concerns of the Iowa Catholic Conference, such as the right to life for the unborn and restoration of voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences. Missing from the governor’s priorities, which she released in her Condition of the State report last week, are other issues that the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) supports for the flourishing of all people in Iowa.
You’ll read more about those priorities later in this editorial, but first the governor’s priorities:
Gov. Reynolds’ centerpiece is the Investment in Iowa Act. She said the bill would significantly cut income taxes, create a sustainable funding source for the state’s mental health system, reduce the property tax burden and fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust.
Tom Chapman, the ICC’s executive director, said it’s too early to comment on the impact of the proposed law, which must wind its way through the lawmaking process. Details could change as legislators negotiate their own priorities.
Among the governor’s priorities that mesh with the priorities of the ICC, the public policy arm of Iowa’s Catholic bishops:
• A state constitutional amendment to clarify that the right to abortion is not guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution. The amendment would require passage by two successive General Assemblies and ratification by a majority of Iowa’s voters in an election.
• A sustainable funding source for our state’s mental health system.
• Expansion of broadband (high-speed internet access), a critical resource for people to thrive in our technology-driven world.
• Access to computer education for every student in Iowa.
• Increased funding for the work-based learning initiative.
• Increased funding for Iowa’s schools.
• Increased funding for the Last Dollar Scholarship and Employer Innovation fund.
• Expansion of Early Childhood Tax Credits to make childcare affordable and accessible for more families.
• Elimination of the child-care cliff so that families are not punished as they continue on a path to self-sufficiency.
• A state constitutional amendment to restore felons’ voting rights after they’ve served their sentence.
• Waiving of license fees for persons with low incomes.
The ICC’s legislative concerns which do not appear in Gov. Reynolds’ Condition of the State Address include support for an Education Savings Account program and enhancement to the School Tuition Organization tax. The ICC also supports initiatives to make health care more readily available and affordable to all Iowans, greater availability of palliative care and hospice service, and addressing pornography as a public health concern.
The ICC supports assistance for resettlement of refugees, legislation providing a provisional driver’s license for undocumented immigrants, an increase in the state’s minimum wage, availability of affordable housing, and the need to address food insecurity.
Protecting residents from racial profiling, strict enforcement of environmental laws and passage of legislation enabling gun violence restraining orders are also ICC priorities.
The ICC opposes: legislation restricting the state’s ability to regulate weapons; authorization of state and local police to conduct additional enforcement of federal immigration laws; legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.
For Catholics, some of these issues are divisive. Our faith calls us to be engaged in the political process. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to our moral obligation to vote. That duty includes the “responsibility to be informed about issues so as to vote conscientiously,” our Iowa bishops say in their 2018 document, “Faithful Citizenship for Iowa Catholics.”
We are responsible, individually and collectively, to care for all people, especially the most vulnerable. We may disagree about how people access these basic human needs — productive work, fair wages, food, shelter, education, health care and protection from harm — but not the right to these things.
Make a commitment to continue reading each week’s Messenger and to follow legislative alerts on the Iowa Catholic Conference’s website (iowacatholicconference.org) to become and remain informed. Plan to attend legislative forums in your community. Contact your state representatives and senators at legis.iowa.gov to support bills that serve the common good. Together, we can shape Iowa’s vision to assure the flourishing of all of us — from womb to tomb.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor