By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DES MOINES — Bishop Thomas Zinkula and his fellow Iowa bishops breakfasted with state legislators from both parties earlier this month during the annual Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Breakfast to share thoughts about current issues and legislation.
“My topic was the mobile home regulation bill” (also known as manufactured homes), Bishop Zinkula told The Catholic Messenger. “It would treat mobile home tenants more like apartment renters. One provision would be that park owners would have to show good cause to evict a tenant. Another provision would require a six-month notice of a rent increase.”
That proposed bill didn’t make the legislative “funnel” last week. However, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Zach Wahls, hopes to work out a compromise with fellow legislators to keep it in consideration, according to a Feb. 23 article in the Quad-City Times.
“It is good to rub shoulders with the legislators and get to know each other. Many of them want to know the bishops’ position on various bills and why we think that way about them,” Bishop Zinkula said. “They spoke highly of Tom Chapman (executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Iowa’s bishops). Our presence gives him even more legitimacy.”
Chapman said the annual breakfast provides an opportunity for “our board and committee to chat informally with legislators about issues. Several members of our board and Human Life and Dignity Committee and Education Committee attended, including the four bishops.”Legislators dropped in and out during the hour-and-a-half-long event. Chapman estimated more than a third of the legislators stopped by for the breakfast in the State Capitol.
“Attendees were free to bring up whatever issues they wanted. However, among the topics discussed were the abortion constitutional amendment (stating that Iowa’s Constitution does not provide a right to abortion), support for Catholic school students, protection for people in mobile home parks, migration and refugees, and criminal justice reform/voting rights for people coming out of prison,” Chapman said.
Kent Ferris, director of the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action Office and Catholic Charities, also attended the legislative breakfast. “I find it inspiring that the bishops are modeling our responsibility as faithful citizens to engage elected officials on issues that are important to us as people of faith.”
He said the legislative breakfast also “affords the opportunity for the bishops to thank those willing to serve in public office while also asking for support on particular pieces of legislation. In their travels within their own dioceses for the celebration of sacraments and other milestones, the bishops of Iowa hear whatever lays heavily on the hearts of local parishioners. That input is critical for state legislators, particularly because of the number of Catholics in Iowa.”
In addition to specific issues on the radar of the Iowa Catholic Conference, it is inspiring to see “our bishops interacting with those elected to represent us. They model civility in public discourse,” Ferris said.