ICC update on migration, death penalty and education


By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger

Legislative committees in the Iowa Legislature will be busy the next couple of weeks as the first funnel deadline approaches. La­ter this month, the Iowa Cat­holic Con­ference (ICC) will post some action alerts as debate on bills begins on the floor of the chambers.


The House Judiciary Committee passed HF 2128, which would forbid state universities from offering in-state tuition rates to students who can’t prove legal presence in the state. Keep in mind that we may have already invested thousands of dollars in the education of these young people for many years and, in some cases, this bill might stop us from getting a return on our investment.

It was a good sign that the Iowa House’s version of an E-Verify mandate bill failed in a House subcommittee last week, although the Senate version, SF 108, also passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would mandate the use of the optional federal E-Verify system. It is the ICC’s  opinion that this bill is duplicative in part because the federal government already is authorized to investigate employment violations in this context.


Also, last week, the “smuggling of humans” bill, HF 2112, passed a House Judiciary subcommittee. We are working to improve the bill.  The Church does not encourage illegal immigration but is concerned that the bill as drafted may cause some to interpret it as criminalizing the provision of basic charity to immigrants.

A bill to bring back the death penalty (SSB 3085) passed a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. The ICC spoke in opposition. A cycle of violence should be broken without taking yet another life, especially since innocent people have been executed. During the meeting, the subcommittee chair stated an intention to amend the bill to narrow its effects to those who kill peace officers.

Both the House and Senate had subcommittee hearings for the bills revamping Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs). The House subcommittee did not advance the bill and Senate members of the subcommittee, while passing it, made it clear that substantial changes would be made. There is a feeling among many legislators that it would be helpful to review how AEAs use their funding and provide services. Nonpublic schools and many special education students in nonpublic schools receive services from AEAs. Stay tuned. 

The House’s version of the Iowa MOMS “fix-up” bill, HF 2267, has passed the Health and Human Services Committee. SSB 3114 also passed a Senate subcommittee. The bills would expand the number of organizations that could receive funding to aid pregnant women. 

Subcommittee meetings are scheduled this week to consider Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to make sure that mothers with Medicaid coverage can receive care for a full year after the birth of their child. Currently, mothers have coverage for 60 days after the birth. The ICC supports the bills. Medicaid is the primary payor for births in Iowa.

The Senate State Government Committee passed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” religious liberty bill, SF 2095. The same bill on the House side, HSB 614, passed a House subcommittee last week. RFRA creates a balancing test in the courts to weigh a person’s right to act consistent with their religion against the government’s desire to pursue its interests in a way that violates that right.

(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)

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