Iowa Catholic Conference update on state legislation bills


By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger


The second legislative “funnel” deadline was March 15, by which time a bill is required to have passed one chamber and through a committee in the other chamber to remain eligible for further consideration. The deadline does not apply to appropriations or tax legislation. Here’s our funnel report:

Addressing migration issues

The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) was pleased to see that House File (HF) 2608, the “human smuggling” bill that had passed the House was dropped from the agenda of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Other immigration enforcement bills have been set aside in the Iowa Legislature as well but (at press time) a proposal that does not align with our principles remains alive for consideration.


Senate File (SF) 2340 has passed the Iowa Senate and been sent to the House. SF 2340 and its companion bill, HF 2567, would create a state crime of “illegal entry into the state by an alien.” We believe these bills are pre-empted by federal law and the U.S. Constitution. It is problematic that these bills would explicitly allow state officials to prosecute an individual for state immigration crimes, even if that person’s application for immigration relief is pending before federal authorities.

Catholic social teaching recognizes a country’s right and responsibility to manage its borders in accordance with the common good. However, sacred Scripture and Catholic social teaching compel serving newcomers – a core ministry of the Church. Under federal law and the U.S. Constitution, only the federal government has the authority to investigate immigration policy violations. 

Working on school safety

The legislature is continuing to work on proposals with a goal of making schools safer in the wake of the shootings in Perry. The Senate Education Committee voted to advance HF 2586, which provides a grant program to help pay for school resource officers and legal immunity for public school staff who receive a professional permit to carry weapons in school.

HF 2652 passed the Iowa House last week and was sent to the Senate. It contains a grant program for public schools to purchase weapons and for school staff to obtain a professional weapons permit. All schools, public and nonpublic, would be required to obtain a public safety radio, paid for by a separate grant program.

Technically speaking, we believe it is already legal for a school to purchase weapons. The Catholic bishops do not support the initiative making it easier for schools to buy weapons. The bishops support helping public schools pay for school resource officers and having public safety radios in schools.

Other issues relating to human life and dignity 

Unfortunately, HF 2575, a bill defining an unborn child as a person for the purpose of the state’s criminal code other than abortion, did not make it to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda due to concerns about in vitro fertilization (IVF). About 40 states treat the killing of an unborn child as a form of homicide, including the states bordering Iowa. We believe the bill would not have affected the legality of IVF procedures. The Church offers pastoral care to people struggling with infertility but does not support IVF procedures. 

The Senate Education Committee passed legislation requiring middle and high schools to show a three-minute video showing fetal development. HF 2617 passed the House late last month. 

The ICC supports legislation to increase the tax credit for adoptive parents to $20,000. HF 2637 passed the House last week by a unanimous vote, 99-0, and goes to the Senate.

We were also pleased that the Senate Commerce Committee passed HF 2276 before the deadline, which would allow maternity group homes to be zoned as residential properties. This proposal will help the group homes to avoid “not in my backyard” problems when they purchase a home.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved HF 2319, which prohibits local governments from testing universal basic income programs. Legislators supporting the bill expressed concern that people will stop working if they receive money with few obligations attached to it. The ICC opposes the bill. While universal basic income (UBI) programs may not necessarily be the answer to poverty, they are being researched in different parts of the country. Catholic social thought does not exclude the possibility of UBI programs being a good idea.

During a subcommittee hearing for HF 2319, ICC staff discussed the importance of work in Catholic social thought. Work does not only mean paid labor for wages. Our tradition also upholds the dignity of “caregiving” work and argues that caregiving work in the home deserves “economic compensation in keeping with that of other types of work.” Contact your Iowa legislators on any of these issues (

(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops of Iowa. Visit the website at

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