Iowa Legislature advances bills on ‘human smuggling,’ ‘fetal homicide,’ tax issue

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By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger

Chapman

The Iowa House was particularly busy with floor debate last week as the second legislative deadline approaches. The House passed House File (HF) 2608, creating a new state crime of “human smuggling,” by a vote of 60-32. It goes to the Senate, where it would have to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee by Friday (March 15) to beat the deadline. 

By a vote of 34-16, the Senate passed Senate File (SF) 2340, which creates a new state crime of illegal entry for someone who is not authorized by the U.S. to be in Iowa. The measure goes to the House. Check out our action alert on immigration bills opposed by the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) at (votervoice.net/ICC/Campaigns/112022/Respond).

The House also approved a “fetal homicide” bill supported by the ICC, HF 2575, by a vote of 58 to 36. The proposal defines an unborn child as a person for the purpose of the state’s criminal code other than abortion (think a drunk driver killing a mom and the unborn baby). It now goes to the Senate and has to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee this week to remain eligible. About 40 states treat the killing of an unborn child as a form of homicide, including our surrounding states.

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HF 2523 passed by a vote of 88-6 in the House. It requires parental consent before children can acquire a social media account. There is an exemption for video gaming companies. 

The Iowa House also passed HF 2319 by a vote of 55-43. Opposed by the ICC, it would forbid local governments from funding and evaluating guaranteed income programs. These provide individuals with monthly payments, usually for a defined period. While it is not settled that guaranteed incomes are an answer to persistent poverty, research is ongoing. 

Catholic social teaching says we have a responsibility to work if we are able. But that doesn’t only mean paid wage labor. Our tradition also upholds the dignity of “care” work and specifically frames it as work; it also argues that caregiving work in the home deserves compensation in keeping with that of other types of work (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2004).

The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved SJR 2003, adding an amendment to the state constitution on taxes. The ICC is opposed to the bill, which would require a supermajority (two-thirds) approval of the Legislature for tax increases. 

 The amendment also requires a “flat” income tax, which would prohibit the state legislature from adopting a lower tax rate for lower-income people. The amendment says nothing about making it more difficult to raise sales taxes, which might end up requiring low-income people to pay a greater percentage of their income for necessities. The amendment would have to be passed by both chambers this year and again sometime during the next two sessions before it could go to a vote of the people.

During the subcommittee hearings, ICC staff spoke about “contributive” and “distributive” justice and our responsibility to contribute to the common good (see editorial on Page 8).

(Tom Chapman is the executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops of Iowa, www.iowacatholicconference.org)


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