Iowa: Newsletter

 

As you can probably tell from the shorter length of this newsletter, the list of issues being addressed by the Iowa Legislature is narrowing as we may be approaching the end of the session. In this issue, we’ll cover the following topics . . .
  • Standings bill is filed
  • Education reform efforts continue
  • Amendments to health and human services appropriations bill
  • Alerts from the U.S. bishops
  • Prayer cards for religious liberty available
One of the signs that we might be heading into the last couple of weeks of the legislative session is the introduction of this year’s version of the “standings” appropriations bill, House Study Bill 674. The standings bill is usually passed on the last day of the session and can end up like a Christmas tree with many amendments.
One of its many provisions is an allocation of about $7 million to reimburse public schools and/or parents for the transportation of students to nonpublic schools. This represents less than 80 percent of the cost of providing the service so we are working to get the funding increased.
Of course, as we saw last year, the session can still stretch on for a quite a while if agreements can’t be reached on the budget between the Governor, the House and Senate. Democrats control the Iowa Senate and Republicans control the House and Governor’s office.
Three issues that are still being negotiated include commercial property tax relief, a redesign of the state’s mental health care system from a county-based system to regional, and education reform. It’s a good sign that talks seem to be continuing on all three issues.
As you know the Iowa Catholic Conference has been involved in the education reform discussions. Since all of Iowa’s Catholic schools are accredited by the state, almost all education policy passed in Iowa affects the Catholic schools.
The Senate’s version of an education reform bill, SF 2284, passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee last week. As legislators have deliberated during the past three months, we have been consistent in supporting:
  • Flexibility for schools in offering competency-based education. It is more focused on what students can demonstrate they know, rather than progressing along on a particular timetable during the school year.
  • Shorter pathways into teaching for those who would prove to be qualified – this may be particularly helpful in finding math and science teachers.
  • Additional options for online learning.
I am still hopeful that the chambers will agree on a bill that includes these items and a focus on students being able to read before the fourth grade. There may a last-minute item or two that we may ask for your help with before a bill is passed.
In other news from the Iowa legislature:
We have been supporting several amendments to HF 2435, the health and human services appropriations bill. The bill has still not debated on the floor of the House as work on amendments continues.
A suggested message to legislators is still available in our Action Center. We support restoring some funding to the Department of Human Services for the hawk-i health insurance program for children as well as for staff to assist low-income families. The Iowa Catholic Conference also supports a proposal to prioritize government family planning dollars to reimburse hospitals that provide more comprehensive health services, and not send money to abortion providers.
House File 2390, supported by the Iowa Catholic Conference, provides for increased penalties relating to human trafficking. It passed both chambers this week and is going to the governor.
We also recommend your support of House Study Bill 665, which would make tax credits available for donations to nonprofit groups doing research in regenerative medicine. This would benefit the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Center Institute in Iowa. Since we’re entering into the last part of the legislative session there may not be enough time for both chambers to take action on the bill.
 
ALERTS FROM CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES AND JUSTICE FOR IMMIGRANTS
I wanted to draw your attention to two alerts from groups affiliated with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Catholic Relief Services is asking you to sign a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ensure that the administration is engaged in every way possible to bring about peace between Sudan and South Sudan. After South Sudan was peacefully established as its own country last year, tensions have risen during the last few months. For more information go to actioncenter.crs.org.
Justice for Immigrants (JFI) is asking President Obama to give work authorization to immigrants provided with prosecutorial discretion. “Prosecutorial discretion” means that some immigrants’ deportation proceedings were administratively closed if they had some compelling and mitigating factors that warranted administrative relief.
Currently, those individuals whose deportation cases were administratively closed under the new prosecutorial discretion guidance are not allowed to legally work in the country and, thus, unable to support themselves or their families. According to JFI, the vast majority of the potential recipients for prosecutorial discretion include individuals who came to this country as young children; parents with children; seniors; young adults seeking to complete post-secondary education in the United States; and various other vulnerable immigrants. The alert is atwww.justiceforimmigrants.org.
HHS MANDATE
Cards with a prayer for religious liberty are now available from USCCB. Go towww.usccb.org/conscience. The USCCB is also putting together a response to a new advance notice of rulemaking implementing the HHS mandate for non-exempt religious organizations. I think we’ll be asking you to weigh in on the rule soon.
AND FINALLY,
During the week of April 9, much of the early morning programming on radio station 1150 KWKY (www.kwky.com) will be focused on the work of the Iowa Catholic Conference. The signal covers much of Iowa and is streamed on the web. We hope you’ll have time to listen in.
In the meantime, I pray that you have a blessed Holy Week.
Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Iowa: Update

 

ICC Newsletter
To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network
In this issue, we’ll have news on:
  • The HHS mandate
  • What’s happening at the Iowa legislature
  • Last week’s Prayer for Life
  • U.S. bishops’ work on the budget and Farm Bill
  • An opportunity to petition the President
HHS MANDATE
It looks like the U.S. House of Representatives is not going to take up the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act soon. While disappointing, in one sense it’s really not surprising in the sense that the bill was recently defeated in the U.S. Senate. Many hundreds of thousands of messages were sent to Congress on the issue thanks to people like you.
We are really trying to stay out of the overheated partisan rhetoric around this issue, as it does not lend itself to people understanding the core issue of religious liberty. In the coming weeks, the U.S. bishops will be providing additional teaching materials on the Church’s teaching on religious freedom for all. I anticipate there will be legal action to report on as well.
This is all in reaction to the federal Health and Human Services Department issuing a regulation under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forcing employers, including many religious institutions, to provide coverage for sterilization and contraceptives even when they violate an individual’s or a church organization’s religious beliefs.
The issue that has not been finally answered is “how far can the government go in coercing organizations to act against their religious beliefs?” The fact that many states already have mandates around contraceptive coverage makes it no less an intrusion on our religious beliefs. For more info, see www.usccb.org/conscience.
IOWA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
This coming Friday is the final date for Senate bills to be reported out of House committees and vice versa.
It looks like HF 2380, the House’s education reform bill, will be debated Tuesday. We are working on some amendments to the bill. It’s too soon to tell but we may be making some last-minute requests for your help Monday night.
The ICC does not support the expansion of the core curriculum found in the bill. Implementation of the current core subjects of English, math, science and social studies still needs to be completed and evaluated.
We support additional opportunities in online learning, competency-based instruction and an alternative path to teacher licensure. Unfortunately HF 2380 either weakens or totally eliminates each of these areas compared to previous versions of the bill.
We also support all forms of school choice but to implement additional charter schools without an equal measure of nonpublic school choice, as HF 2380 does, is problematic. In other states, charter school initiatives have led to the closure of private schools, as parents see an alternative to the regular public school that is “free.”
I have one more reminder about the “Education Celebration” for nonpublic schools in Iowa. It will be held at the state capitol on Wednesday, March 21. The main event will be held at noon on the first floor rotunda. Speakers will include Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and Sen. Daryl Beall (D-Fort Dodge). The event is sponsored by the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education. Please make plans to attend if you can.
The House is scheduled to debate HF 2429 on Monday. We oppose the bill, especially the provisions which create a new crime, stealing the identity of a fictitious person (a person who does not exist), and increase existing penalties for all identity theft violations to a felony. While identity theft is an extremely serious matter, this bill would have the effect of automatic deportation of some migrants for crimes against a person who does not exist.
I anticipate the bill will pass the House but there’s not much time for the Senate to get the bill out of committee by Friday.
The Senate plans to debate SF 2275 on Monday. We oppose the bill as it legalizes poker over the Internet sponsored by casinos in Iowa. We believe this is an unwarranted expansion of gambling in the state that will result in more problem gamblers and therefore more problems for families. Once again, if it passes, there would not be much time for the House to get the bill out of committee by Friday.
 
The Iowa Catholic Conference recommends your support of House Study Bill 665, which would create a tax credit for 20 percent of a taxpayer’s contribution to a nonprofit regenerative medicine clinic in the state. The bill was introduced last week and would be of benefit to the Pope John II Stem Cell Research Center, which focuses on reducing the barriers of translating basic stem cell research into clinical research for curing disease.
Along with the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking, we support HF 2390, which would, among other provisions, expand the definition of human trafficking. It would include knowingly purchasing or attempting to purchase services involving commercial sexual activity from a victim or another person engaged in human trafficking.
One of the things I took away from last fall’s human trafficking conference at Iowa State was that while forced labor and sexual exploitation continues overseas, it is much more prevalent in Iowa than you might think. We also heard how trafficking in persons is the fastest-growing criminal activity and is on the same scale of gun-running and drugs.
Please go to our Action Center at www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd and send a message to the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership in support of the bill. HF 2390 passed the House unanimously last week.
We are continuing to ask our Senators to consider House File 657, the late-term abortion ban, and HJR 6, a state constitutional amendment to recognize marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Your messages to Senators on these bills would be appreciated.
The ICC recommends your opposition to House Joint Resolution 2010, a proposed state constitutional amendment which would require a balanced budget in Iowa and a 60 percent vote of the legislature before changing the state income or sales tax. The Conference has opposed this proposal several times over the last decades.
Iowa currently is required by statute to have a balanced budget. The statute has proved effective. In addition, this amendment would make it more difficult for legislators to act when a tax increase or decrease might be called for to serve the common good.
PRAYER FOR LIFE
About 200 people turned out for the Prayer Rally for Life event last Monday in Des Moines. Walter Hoye II gave an excellent message both at Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church and at the capitol. He talked about the impact of abortion on the black community, as there are more than 1,000 abortions of African-American children every day. He also discussed his experience of going to jail for simply holding a sign near an abortion clinic in California. For some photos from the event, go to our Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/iowacatholicconference.
U.S. BISHOPS: FEDERAL BUDGET SHOULD AFFIRM HUMAN LIFE AND DIGNITY
Congress should base decisions on the federal budget on whether they protect or threaten human life and dignity, whether they put the needs of the hungry, the homeless and the unemployed first, and whether they reflect the shared responsibility of government and other institutions to promote the common good of all, especially “workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times,” said the two U.S. bishops who lead the justice and peace efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“In the past year, Congress and the Administration have taken significant action to reduce the federal deficit, while attempting to protect programs that serve poor and vulnerable people,” wrote Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a March 6 letter. “Congress will continue to face difficult choices about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs. We fear the pressure to cut vital programs that protect the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable will increase. As Catholic bishops, we have tried to remind Congress that these choices are economic, political, and moral.”
Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates chair the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.
The bishops voiced support for moves to strengthen programs that help the poor and vulnerable, such as Pell Grants and improved workforce training and development. They also opposed moves negatively impacting poor families such as increasing the minimum rent that can be charged to families receiving housing assistance and a proposal to eliminate funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. The bishops also made the case for protecting programs that help the poor internationally.
FARM BILL
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference are asking for support of a Farm Bill that provides for poor and hungry people both at home and abroad, offers effective support for those who grow our food, ensures fairness to family farmers and ranchers, and promotes stewardship of the land. They also urge that this Farm Bill target limited resources, such as subsidies and direct payments, to those farmers and ranchers who truly need assistance to be competitive and successful.
Go to the National Catholic Rural Life Conference’s website at www.ncrlc.com for the full letter.
NUCLEAR FORCE REDUCTION
While possession of a minimal nuclear capability may deter the use of nuclear weapons by others, the Church urges that nuclear deterrence be replaced with concrete measures of disarmament based on dialogue and multilateral negotiations. As Pope Benedict XVI stated in in his 2010 World Day of Peace Message, “I firmly hope that … concrete decisions will be made towards progressive disarmament, with a view to freeing our planet from nuclear arms.”
Now is a opportunity to make our voices heard by pressing President Obama to make good on his commitment to “put an end to Cold War thinking” and pursue further, dramatic steps that would make us all safer from the threat of nuclear weapons. If you’re interested, before March 31, you can join thousands of Americans by adding your name to a petition. Go towww.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22EXJL487Q5.
AND FINALLY,
You can continue to review our Action Center at www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd and click on the links to current legislation and alerts to check on the status of bills we are working on. For more information on the legislative process, you can visit the General Assembly’s website at www.legis.iowa.gov. Thanks for your participation in the political process!
Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Iowa: Newsletter

 

ICC Newsletter
To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

At press time, it seems the congressional “Super Committee” will fail to meet its deadline of Nov. 23 to come up with a plan for deficit reduction.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has offered several criteria to help guide difficult budgetary decisions, including:
  • Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
  • A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
  • Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.
Regardless of the Super Committee, budget discussions will continue. Please go towww.capwiz.com/catholicbishops to send a message. Thanks for your help!
On to other news …
In the special election for state Senate District 18 near Marion, Iowa, the Democratic candidate, Liz Mathis, defeated Republican Cindy Golding. This will leave the Senate under Democratic control, 26-24, the same as the past session.
Congratulations to Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates on being elected chair of the USCCB Committee on International Peace and Justice. The election took place during the U.S. bishops’ meeting earlier this month.
Several updated web resources were announced during the bishops’ meeting.Catholics seeking reliable information on what the Church teaches about marriage can visit www.marriageuniqueforareason.org, which features an extensive FAQ section on the meaning of marriage, a compilation of Catholic teaching on marriage, a blog, and videos, “Made for Each Other” and “Made for Life.”
The www.hopeafterabortion.org website has also been updated following a report to the bishops on the Project Rachel ministry. Project Rachel is the post-abortion healing ministry of the Church. Unfortunately, 30 percent of American women are expected to have an abortion over the course of their life.
The date has been set for the 2012 Prayer Rally for Life. The event will be held Monday, March 5 in Des Moines, and the keynote speaker will be Walter Hoye II, the founder and president of Issues4Life. More details will follow in the coming months.
IOWA CAUCUSES WILL BE JAN. 3
The Iowa party caucuses have been scheduled for Jan. 3, 2012. Most of the focus is on the Republican side as they choose a candidate for president.
The Church does not support or oppose candidates for office. However, the Iowa Catholic Conference strongly supports your involvement in the political process. If you plan to attend a caucus, we encourage you to consider some important principles before selecting a candidate. The list of national policy positions beginning with paragraph 63 in the Faithful Citizenship document atwww.faithfulcitizenship.org is a good source of information.
We also encourage you to bring forward local issues of concern to your meetings. The key is to be organized with like-minded others in your precinct. We’ll discuss some specific suggestions next month.
MSGR. MOTTET OF DAVENPORT TO RECEIVE ‘SERVANT OF JUSTICE AWARD
The Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors has announced Msgr. Marvin Mottet, of the Diocese of Davenport, as the 2012 recipient of the Roundtable Servant of Justice Award for his exemplary contributions to the achievement of the Catholic vision of social justice.
For more than 50 years, Msgr. Mottet has been a leader with a profound commitment to social justice and an inspiration to many Roundtable members and others furthering the Church’s social mission. His accomplishments are too many to list here, but I want to share a couple of examples:
Msgr. Mottet developed the “Two Feet of Social Action” approach (charity and justice). His “Two Feet” illustration remains relevant to this day as others seek linkages to current papal teaching. I use this regularly in presentations.
In 1978, Msgr. Mottet was appointed the Executive Director of the national Campaign for Human Development, a post he held until 1985. Afterward, he returned to Davenport and was a founding leader of Quad Cities Interfaith, a congregation‐based organization to address the causes of poverty locally. At age 81, Msgr. Mottet continues to advocate for the poor. Thanks for your work, Monsignor!
CARDINAL DINARDO URGES SENATE TO STRIKE PROVISIONS IN APPROPRIATIONS BILLS THREATENING HUMAN LIFE
The U.S. Senate should vote to remove four provisions that pose a direct threat to human life from a package of three appropriations bills, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. In a Nov. 14 letter, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston urged the Senate to support amendments to H.R. 2354 that would correct each of these provisions.
“At a time when Congress is tempted to reduce even vitally important programs that serve the poorest and neediest people here and abroad, the moral wrong of expanding subsidies for direct violations of human life and dignity is especially egregious,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote.
He highlighted four areas of concern:
  • A provision of the Senate’s Financial Services bill that “completely eliminates Congress’s longstanding provision against federal funding of health plans that cover elective abortions in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP),” which means “Congress will directly use taxpayers’ funds for elective abortion coverage – contradicting repeated assurances by supporters of the health care reform law of 2010 that Congress had no intent of doing so.”
  • A second provision in the Financial Services bill that would allow congressionally appropriated funds to go to elective abortions in the District of Columbia.
  • Report language accompanying the State /Foreign Operations bill that “recommends $40 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), despite that agency’s continued support for a brutal program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.”
  • Section 7086 of the State/Foreign Operations that would permanently ban restoration of the Mexico City Policy, a policy of the Reagan and Bush administrations that prevented U.S. funding of foreign non-governmental organizations that perform and promote abortion as a method of family planning.
BISHOP BLAIRE CITES IMPORTANCE OF GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP, CLEAN AIR
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said that people praise, honor and serve God “when we care for all living beings by protecting the air, which is God’s gift to us,” in a Nov. 7 address to interfaith leaders. Bishop Blaire spoke at the Festival of Faiths conference in Louisville, Kentucky, the theme of which was “Sacred Air: Breath of Life.”
“As stewards of God’s creation we can live more simply, using the earth’s resources wisely, reducing our consumption, working to eliminate air pollution and reducing our carbon footprint,” said Bishop Blaire. “In the end it just makes good sense to want to have clean air for our children and families to breathe and for future generations.”
In his address, Bishop Blaire highlighted the specific threat of mercury and other toxic air pollution to children’s health.
“Children, inside and outside the womb, are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and exposure to toxic pollutants in the environment,” he said. For this reason, he noted, the USCCB is working to “raise awareness about the need for a national standard that would significantly reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants and would protect our unborn and young children.”
AND FINALLY,
An updated webpage from the U.S. bishops has a wealth of information about how to get involved in the political process. Go to www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/get-involved/get-more-information/.
Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference
P.S. Make sure that you log on to our web site and update your e-mail address when it changes. Just click on “Join the Network” and go to the bottom of the page to update your address. We don’t want to lose you as a reader!

Iowa: New Newsletter

 

ICC Newsletter
To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

The board of the Iowa Catholic Conference approved its 2012 legislative agenda and a statement entitled Labor and the Common Good during its recent biannual board meeting on Oct. 19 and 20. Our board includes the bishops of Iowa and lay people, priests, deacons and religious sisters.
The board approved additional items to its legislative agenda regarding the protection of human life and dignity, and opposing disproportionate budget cuts in programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
The statement on labor issued by the full board follows efforts in several Midwestern states to limit the collective bargaining rights of labor unions. The document reads, in part, “… the Church has steadfastly upheld that workers deserve just wages and benefits, decent working conditions and the opportunity to organize. Workers retain their right of association whether they work for a private employer or for the government. Workers should also retain the free choice of whether to join a union, and remain free of coercion from employers or unions in making this choice.”
The document can be found by clicking “Statements” on our website atwww.iowacatholicconference.org. The legislative agenda can be found on the website as well.
BISHOPS REAFFIRM ‘FORMING CONSCIENCES FOR FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP’ AS GUIDING TEACHING IN POLITICAL LIFE
In advance of next year’s election cycle, the U.S. bishops have reaffirmed their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, as the “continuing teaching of our Bishops’ Conference and our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy.”
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), joined the chairs of nine USCCB committees in offering an introductory note to the document. You can see the document with the note at www.faithfulcitizenship.org.
“We urge our Catholic pastors and people to continue to use this important statement to help them form their consciences, to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue, and to shape their choices in the coming election in the light of Catholic teaching,” the bishops wrote. “It does not offer a voter’s guide, scorecard of issues or direction on how to vote. It applies Catholic moral principles to a range of important issues and warns against misguided appeals to ‘conscience’ to ignore fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological or personal interests.”
This is one of the guiding documents for the work of the Iowa Catholic Conference and I encourage you to read it when you have a chance.
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL URGES GLOBAL FINANCIAL REFORM
A document released last week by the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice (a department of the Vatican), called Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority, has caused some debate. It calls for a global political authority to gradually reform international financial and monetary systems to put these systems in greater service of the common good. The document notes that while the world has become a better place for many during the past century, the distribution of wealth has also worsened in many areas.
It is hard to imagine anyone looking at the current global financial system and deciding there is no need of reform. An unofficial translation of the document is available at www.news.va/en/news/full-text-note-on-financial-reform-from-the-pontif. A news story on the document is also at www.catholicnews.com.
ACTION REQUESTED
The USCCB is requesting action on several issues. You can go towww.capwiz.com/catholicbishops to send a message.
You are encouraged to make a contact with members of Congress regarding the “Super Committee” efforts to reduce the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years. Programs that serve poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad are in danger of receiving devastating and disproportionate cuts. The U.S. bishops recently acknowledged that reducing future unsustainable deficits is important, and reminded the Super Committee that their decisions are “profoundly moral, and they have enormous human consequences.”
The USCCB has offered several criteria to help guide difficult budgetary decisions, including:
  • Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
  • A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
  • Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.
The Super Committee’s deadline for making a proposal is Nov. 23. We’ll see if they are able to reach any agreement. Thanks for your assistance with this issue.
Bishops encourage ‘no’ vote on repealing DOMA
The Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate has scheduled a hearing on Thursday to vote on a bill that would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (known as DOMA). DOMA was passed in 1996 by a wide bipartisan margin and signed into law by then-President Clinton. DOMA defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and requires federal agencies to apply this definition to all federal policies.
Repealing DOMA would allow the Administration to redefine marriage as the union of any two adults and invite the courts to impose this new definition on the states. Thus the repeal of DOMA would have a national impact. As it happens, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
CHURCH TEACHING: Marriage is not only a spiritual good authored by God but it is also a unique and fundamental public good. Its unchangeable definition as the union of one man and one woman is based on sexual difference and the unique complementarity between man and woman, which enables only them to unite as spouses. Every child has the right to be reared and loved by both mother and father, and unparalleled social benefits accrue from the bond of husband and wife. The family, founded upon marriage as the union of a man and a woman, is the key cell of society. Protecting marriage is essential to upholding the common good.
On another note, Sen. Grassley was one of two Republicans to vote yes on S. 1301, the reauthorization of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The bill was voted out of committee 12 to 6. Thanks to those who kept up the pressure on the Senator and encouraged a yes vote!
Last Wednesday, I attended the first statewide conference on human trafficking, held at Iowa State University. Francis Buk, anti-slavery activist, told the story of his abduction at the age of 7 in Sudan. He worked as a slave for 10 years before he was able to escape (on his third attempt).
One of the main things I took away from the conference is that while forced labor and sexual exploitation continues overseas, it is much more prevalent in Iowa than you might think. We also heard how trafficking in persons is the fastest-growing criminal activity and is on the same scale of gun-running and drugs.
I also sat next to a police officer from a small Iowa town who told me the story of a man who was working for a restaurant in the town. The man had not been paid for three months but apparently received enough sustenance to survive for that long. The police started investigating the crime but the man disappeared.
PASSAGE OF PROTECT LIFE ACT WELCOMED
The Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the USCCB has welcomed passage in the House of the ‘Protect Life Act’ (H.R. 358). Sponsored by Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and 144 co-sponsors, the Protect Life Act would apply longstanding federal policies on abortion funding, and conscience rights on abortion, to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed in 2010. Late on Oct. 13, the House passed H.R. 358 by a bipartisan vote of 251 to 172.
AN ABUNDANCE OF FOOD AND HUNGER
Many wonder why there appears to be an abundance of food produced and yet many people still go hungry. In response, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference has produced a series of commentaries that will introduce you to the complexities and problems of our current global food system. Go towww.ncrlc.com/page.aspx?ID=154 for more info.
FACEBOOK ALERTS
You might want to check out our Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/iowacatholicconference. We now have the capability of putting our state legislative alerts in a link on the left side of the page where it says “Take Action.” We don’t have any alerts there now but you can be sure we will in January when the legislative session begins.
AND FINALLY,
I would like to thank Deacon Dennis and Sarah Luft for their service on the Family Life Committee of the Iowa Catholic Conference. They retired earlier this month as the staff of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Des Moines.
Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Iowa: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

 

ICC Newsletter
To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

During this time of the year, my job takes me to different parts of Iowa. What a beautiful fall season we’re having as the skies are clear and the leaves are turning. It’s the best weather of the year. I need to remember this when it’s 32 degrees with a glaze of ice on the streets.
On to the news …
The committees of the Iowa Catholic Conference have been meeting to prepare a draft of the 2011 legislative concerns for board approval later this month. Typically these concerns do not change much from year to year.
You can go on our website at www.iowacatholicconference.org and check out last year’s list. We’ll put the 2012 list up after it’s approved.
Speaking of our website – we now have a “Mobile Capwiz” site that is accessible from your smartphone. Just go to www.capwiz.com/iowanasccd or click on “Action Center” on our web site. There are no state alerts there right now because the legislature is not in session, but you will be able to send action alert messages more conveniently from your phone.
We’re also close to announcing to another innovation in our online efforts. Stay tuned for that next month.
EDUCATION REFORM PLAN RELEASED
Gov. Terry Branstad released his education reform package on Oct. 3, called “One Unshakeable Vision: World Class Schools for Iowa.” Our Education Committee, made up of the diocesan superintendents of Catholic schools, is reviewing the blueprint. Here are some of the provisions in the plan:
  • Raise starting pay for teachers and raise the bar for teacher candidates
  • Alternative paths into teaching
  • Large pay increases for exceptional teachers who become mentors
  • All 11th graders take college entrance exams (ACT or SAT)
  • Value-added measures for evaluating students, teachers and schools (don’t rank only according to achievement, but by measuring growth in achievement and what has been added by the teacher and school in the context of the student’s family and community)
  • Ensure that kids can read before being promoted to 4th grade
  • Competency-based education (focus on outcomes of learning, rather than “time in the seat”)
It does not seem to address private schools specifically in any way so far. We will be watching for the specifics of the legislation after it is introduced for good and bad impacts for not only Catholic school students, but all students. How to pay for the new initiatives will be a subject of debate for legislators.
FEDERAL ISSUE UPDATES
Some “action alerts” for Congress are still in play:
The congressional Super Committee is continuing its work on a plan to cut the deficit. The plan is due Nov. 23. The main message from the Catholic bishops is “protect the poor and vulnerable from budget cuts.”
I am part of a group that is meeting with staff members of Iowa’s congressional delegation to advocate for smaller cuts in poverty-based international assistance, which makes up a tiny part of the federal budget but actually saves thousands of lives through the USAID program and others.
The U.S. bishops conference is also supporting the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is particularly important as the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The mark-up of the Senate version, S. 1301, was scheduled to take place yesterday. The House version, H.R. 2830, passed out of the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. There’s an opinion piece by Bill O’Keefe of Catholic Relief Services on the bill atwww.huffingtonpost.com/catholic-relief-services/legislation-on-human-traffic_b_994622.html.
The first Iowa conference on Human Trafficking will be held Wednesday, Oct. 26 at Iowa State University in Ames. If you’re interested, go to www.iowanaht.org for more information.
If you haven’t yet, please go to www.capwiz.com/catholicbishops to send a message on these issues.
It is also anticipated that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358. The Protect Life Act would bring the new health care reform law into line with policies on abortion and conscience rights existing in other federal health programs.
An NCHLA Action Alert can be found at: www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=286. Representatives should be urged to vote for H.R. 358 and to oppose any hostile weakening amendments.
The month of October is celebrated as Respect Life Month in the Catholic Church. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo’s statement calling on Catholics to respect, promote and teach the ‘transcendent nature of the human person’ can be found atwww.usccb.org/respectlife. Cardinal DiNardo chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Thanks for the messages you sent to the federal Health and Human Services Department regarding the new regulation on preventive services. Many thousands were sent through the U.S. bishops’ website. The regulation will require contraceptive (including some drugs that can cause abortions) and sterilization coverage with no co-pays in almost all private health plans nationwide. We don’t consider being fertile to be a disease, nor should organizations have to violate their conscience by providing this coverage. We’ll keep you posted on whether HHS takes any action to change the regulation.
Gov. Branstad has offered a proclamation that in Iowa the first Sunday of each October will be “Respect for Life Sunday.” The purpose of this proclamation is to educate all citizens of Iowa young and old that life is precious and should be respected. Thanks to all those involved in putting it together.
WIDESPREAD JOBLESSNESS AND POVERTY
Unfortunately, the new census figures on poverty are discouraging. The nation’s poverty rate increased for the third consecutive year, reaching 15.1 percent. It showed that there are now roughly 46.2 million people living in poverty in America, the largest number in 52 years. One in four children is living in poverty.
The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (made up of more than 50 bishops) has discussed the impact of widespread joblessness and poverty on our families, communities and nation. In an unusual step, they urged the president of the Conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, to ask the nation’s clergy to preach on poverty, and educate and advocate for the poor and jobless. I can’t remember this happening before.
“Widespread unemployment, underemployment and pervasive poverty are diminishing human lives, undermining human dignity, and hurting children and families,” he wrote. “I hope we can use our opportunities as pastors, teachers, and leaders to focus public attention and priority on the scandal of so much poverty and so many without work in our society.” The entire letter can be found atwww.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/economic-justice-economy/letter-to-bishops-on-economic-situation.cfm.
MARRIAGE ISSUE UPDATES
Archbishop Dolan also warned the president that attacks on the federal Defense of Marriage Act threaten church-state relations. In a Sept. 20 letter to President Obama, Archbishop Dolan underscored the Church’s position recognizing “the immeasurable personal dignity and equal worth of all individuals, including those with same-sex attraction” and said “we reject all hatred and unjust treatment against any person.”
In addition, he wrote “Our profound regard for marriage as the complementary and fruitful union of a man and a woman does not negate our concern for the well-being of all people but reinforces it,” he said. “While all persons merit our full respect, no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides. The law should reflect this reality.”
U.S. BISHOPS ESTABLISH NEW COMMITTEE FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
The U.S. bishops have established a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty to address growing concerns over the erosion of freedom of religion in America.
Archbishop Dolan established the ad hoc committee after consulting with the USCCB Administrative Committee during the Committee’s Sept. 13-14 meeting in Washington. He also named Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, to chair the new committee. Bishop Lori said, “this ad hoc committee aims to address the increasing threats to religious liberty in our society so that the Church’s mission may advance unimpeded and the rights of believers of any religious persuasion or none may be respected,” he added.
You may be asking yourself why all this public ruckus with the government? Here are some examples of challenges to religious liberty just since June:
  • The Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations mentioned earlier.
  • An HHS requirement that USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services provide the “full range of reproductive services”—meaning abortion and contraception—to trafficking victims and unaccompanied minors in its cooperative agreements and government contracts.  The position mirrors the position urged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the ongoing lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of MRS’s contracts as a violation of religious liberty.
  • Catholic Relief Services’ concern that U.S. Agency for International Development, under the Department of State, is increasingly requiring condom distribution in HIV prevention programs, as well as requiring contraception within international relief and development programs.
  • The Justice Department’s attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), presenting DOMA’s support for traditional marriage as bigotry (mentioned earlier).
  • The Justice Department’s recent attack on the critically important “ministerial exception,” a constitutional doctrine accepted by every court of appeals in the country that leaves to churches (not government) the power to make employment decisions concerning persons working in a ministerial capacity. In a case being heard this term in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Department questioned the very existence of the exception.
One of the principles that made the United States of America different from other countries from the very start was that our nation did not establish an official church. Thanks to the First Amendment, all churches were free to engage society in the public arena on basically their own terms as well as worship as they wished. Unfortunately, the right of any church to perform its charitable and educational work in society, while not violating fundamental principles relating to the life and dignity of the human person, are being narrowed. The U.S. bishops’ leadership has tried to privately address these issues with the Administration and received no response.
AND FINALLY,
Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn (ret. USN) is coming to Iowa to discuss national security, energy, and climate. On Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m., Vice Admiral McGinn will address the topic “National Security and Iowa’s Energy Future” in the Olmsted Center at Drake University in Des Moines. Vice Admiral McGinn now serves as vice chairman of the CNA Military Advisory Board, as director on the board of the National Conference on Citizenship, as senior policy advisor to the American Council on Renewable Energy, and as international security senior fellow at the Rocky Mountain Institute.  As described by Drake University, “he is actively engaged in national forums to highlight the close link between energy and international security and the imperative for innovative government policies, focused investments and effective deployment of technology to create a high-quality, sustainable global environment.”
Thanks for being a part of our newsletter list and legislative network. It’s a privilege to be in your mailbox.

Iowa: Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter – Action Requested

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network
As we enter the last couple weeks of summer, we are engaging on two federal issues: conscience protection and deficit reduction. Here’s the latest …
On conscience protection. You may recall that a new mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will require contraceptive and sterilization coverage with no co-pays in almost all private health plans nationwide.
This is problematic from a couple of perspectives: first, the mandate covers drugs which can cause abortions — in other words, it’s not just about birth control – and second, the exemption for religious employers is so narrow it would not include Catholic hospitals or Catholic Charities. This poses a serious challenge to religious liberty.
Just to be clear, with this mandate the average person will still have co-pays for cancer treatments, while the wealthy can receive “free” sterilizations. Measures that actually prevent and treat disease, such as Pap smears, are getting caught up in this controversy.
HHS is taking comments from the public on the mandate until Sept. 30. We hope you will ask HHS to reconsider. The best way to do this is to go towww.nchla.org/action.asp for the sample message. There is also a link where you can send a message in support of the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” which would address this problem though an act of Congress.
Another resource on the issue includes a web page from the bishops dedicated to conscience protection, at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection.
On the new “Super Committee” for deficit reduction: The main message from the Catholic bishops is “protect the poor and vulnerable from budget cuts.” Last week, Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop Howard Hubbard (chairmen of the USCCB domestic and international policy committees) sent a letter to the Super Committee and Congressional Leadership. The full text of the letter can be found online:www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/economic-justice-economy/upload/letter-to-supercommittee-budget-deficit-2011-08-31.pdf.
No member of Iowa’s delegation is on the Super Committee. However, I encourage you to contact your member of Congress with your opinion by going towww.capwiz.com/catholicbishops. Ultimately all members of Congress will cast a vote on deficit reduction.
It’s the Super Committee’s job to come up with a comprehensive deficit reduction plan by Nov. 23 to be voted up or down by Congress by Dec. 23. The fact that no amendments will be allowed may make it easier to pass controversial legislation that is not watered down. If it fails to come up with a plan, automatic spending cuts will take place.
Some believe these automatic cuts in defense spending and human services will be less severe than what the Committee might come up with. Means-tested entitlement programs would be exempt from the across-the-board cuts.
ACTION REQUESTED ON FEDERAL HOUSING FUNDING
The bishops’ conference is also asking us to call our members of Congress and ask them to oppose cuts to programs that provide affordable housing to poor and vulnerable individuals and families.
The House of Representatives is moving quickly on spending bills for the 2012 fiscal year. Today, the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies could make drastic cuts to housing programs that serve poor, working, low-income, and vulnerable people and families. Although no specific legislative language is available, the overall cut dictated by the Budget Control Act indicates affordable housing programs are particularly at risk.
In “The Right to a Decent Home,” the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote, “We cannot ignore the terrible impact of degrading and indecent living conditions on people’s perception of themselves and their future. The protection of the human dignity of every person and the right to a decent home require both individual action and structural policies and practices.” Safe and affordable housing is a fundamental human right, so government has an obligation to provide for the basic needs of citizens when other institutions and the market cannot.  Click here to see the full alert and call your representative.
PRAY FOR THE DREAM
Many parishes are participating in the “Pray for the DREAM” initiative on Sept. 25th. This prayer weekend is being promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants (JFI) Campaign in support of immigrant students and youth that are eligible for the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act would allow certain undocumented young people of good moral character to obtain legal status. Students who meet specific requirements will complete at least two years of college or military service in exchange for a green card. It places them on a path to citizenship.
Why is the DREAM Act important? Many undocumented immigrants bring their children with them into the United States. After years of contributing to society and earning a quality American education these young people are left without any chance of a future after they graduate from high school. Legally, they cannot obtain a job, attend many universities or join the military. The DREAM Act would help them continue to contribute to our country.
REGISTER NOW FOR THE IOWA INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL ACTION
The 18th Annual Iowa Institute for Social Action will be held on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Patrick Church, Iowa City. The theme is: “Respect for Life and Dignity of the Human Person: Basis of All Social Concerns.”
The keynote speaker will be Helene E. Paharik, MA, Director of the Department of Human Dignity of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The purpose of this year’s presentation is to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between our “social justice” and “pro-life” efforts. Rather than having a keynote and then a variety of breakout sessions, the entire day will be focused on this topic.
Helene describes the purpose of her presentation being “to share with colleagues a vision and a hope of the Church promoting the dignity of the human person as one body united in love … the respect for life and the God-given dignity of the human person is a fundamental belief and basis for all of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.”
Through a PowerPoint presentation, song, and prayer, the beauty of Catholic social doctrine will be illuminated with particular emphasis on the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the papal encyclicals Caritas in Veritate and Deus Caritas Est, as well as statements from the United States Catholic bishops.
The event is sponsored by the Catholic dioceses of Iowa and the Iowa Catholic Conference. You can go to www.iowasocialaction.org for a downloadable brochure and to register. The registration fee for the day is $25 ($10 for college and high school students). You can also see the Iowa Institute for Social Action’s page on Facebook.
If you can’t attend the Institute, please pray for participants. I don’t think the importance of the topic can be overstated for our engagement with society.
Let’s put aside our identities as “Republican or Democrat or Tea Party,” or “pro-lifer or social justice person,” and simply put on our identity as a member of the Body of Christ. We are all in this together.
FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP
Going into the presidential election cycle, the U.S. bishops are preparing an update of their statement on responsible citizenship and politics, called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” Unfortunately, a new poll by Fordham University shows that only 16 percent of U.S. Catholics have ever heard of the bishops’ document and just three percent say they have read it.
While I am sure that the percentage is much higher among readers of this newsletter, it still shows the challenge in encouraging Catholics to have the church’s viewpoint as even a part of their discernment process before voting.
During the summer and fall I often present workshops on “faithful citizenship” in parish settings or for other Catholic meetings. If you’re interested in such a presentation let me know.
SUSTAINABILITY
As you may recall the Iowa Interfaith Power and Light group recently sponsored a workshop on climate change for members of faith communities. I particularly appreciated the presentation by Dr. Craig Just from the University of Iowa on the importance of innovative efforts to meet current needs while leaving our world able to meet the needs of future generations.
Different advocacy groups look at that question differently. From our Catholic perspective we speak the language of stewardship as a part of our responsibility to care for God’s creation and defend human life and dignity.
I believe it is important for Catholics to engage on the issue and not leave the field to those who look at the increasing world population with a simplistic view and believe “people are the problem.” To learn more about that part of the issue, go towww.catholicclimatecovenant.org/resources/climate-change-population.
AND FINALLY,
 
We have placed our annual “Votes of Interest” listing from the 2011 legislative session on our website at www.iowacatholicconference.org. It is always interesting to me how few true “up or down” votes there are in the legislature on our issues of concern.
Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

The 2011 session of the 84th Iowa General Assembly adjourned sine die this afternoon, June 30th. The legislature finished the state’s budget just in time before the new fiscal year starts at midnight tonight. The budget will spend about $5.99 billion from the state’s general fund.

It was the third longest session in Iowa’s history due primarily to disagreements between the Republican-majority House and the Democratic-majority Senate.

Here’s a short report from the last couple of days of the session …

The end of the session was delayed by a day or so because House Republicans were working to further restrict Medicaid funding for abortions.

The provision regarding Medicaid abortions is a part of the state’s health and human services appropriations bill. House File 649 spends about $1.5 billion from the state’s general fund for the departments of public health and human services, among others.

In addition to paying for abortions for Medicaid patients to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest, the State of Iowa also pays for abortions when the unborn child has been certified as “physically deformed, mentally deficient or afflicted with a congenital illness.” We have objected over the years to particularly that last provision because it goes beyond what is required by federal law.

The House’s version of the bill this year included an exception for Medicaid-funded abortions to save the life of the mother but not the other exceptions. The Senate’s version retained all the exceptions.

In the conference committee report that was approved this afternoon by both chambers, legislators removed the language which specified these exceptions because several Republican legislators would not vote for a bill which funds abortions. Instead, the bill says that funds shall be used “in a manner consistent with options under federal Medicaid law and regulation.” The bill states that “Iowans support reducing the number of abortions performed in our state.”

The section also specifies that the Medicaid patient must be given an opportunity to view an ultrasound image before an abortion is performed. We have supported bills which would provide for such a process for all patients. In addition, options regarding pregnancy including raising the child, adoption and abortion must be provided.

We will be analyzing the effect of the language changes and whether it will change the status quo on Medicaid abortion funding. We do know that all women who are pregnant, particularly in these very difficult situations, deserve our care and support.

Unfortunately, the Iowa Senate did not vote on bills passed by the House to prohibit late-term abortions. The House did not approve a Senate bill to provide for a “certificate of need” for new late-term abortion clinics either.

However, there’s good news for Catholic schools. With bipartisan support yesterday, the legislature approved a $1.25 million increase in tax credits for school tuition organizations (STO) beginning Jan. 1, 2012, for a total of $8.75 million in tax credits. An increase was one of our major priorities for the session.

The STO program helps raise money for tuition assistance for low-income children to attend private schools. The increase was added to the “standings” appropriations bill, Senate File 533.

Iowa’s current “universal” preschool program is continuing to be funded, albeit at a lower level. Many Catholic and other private preschools are partners with the public schools in the current system. Students can attend these private preschools at no out-of-pocket cost.

Another provision of SF 533 prohibits school districts from using more than five percent of the preschool formula funding for administration of the program. This was necessary because a few school districts have withheld an extraordinary amount of funds for administrative services from private school partners.

AND FINALLY,

We’ll send a complete report on the session soon. Thanks for your support of the work of the Iowa Catholic Conference and for using our action alerts!

Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Iowa Newsletter

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

Because of the legislative slowdown, for the first time in many years the Iowa Catholic Conference board met during the legislative session. The board discussed several issues last week including abortion, PK-12 education, and support for the poor. The Conference also decided to form a working group on labor issues which will report back to the board in October.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

There are reports that progress is being made in discussions between Republican and Democratic leaders on the state’s budget. The new fiscal year begins July 1. Once an agreement is reached it might take the legislature only a week to finish up before adjournment.

The Iowa Senate passed Senate File 534 last Monday night by a vote of 26 to 23. All Democrats voted for and all Republicans voted against.

The bill says that new clinics providing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would have to obtain a certificate of need and be located near an Iowa hospital with a neonatology center, such as in the cities of Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Davenport. It could not be located in the city of Council Bluffs, where a late-term abortion provider has threatened to open a clinic.

Contrary to news reports and popular belief, abortions are legal throughout pregnancy in Iowa. It is fair to say that SF 534 would make it more difficult but not impossible for an abortion provider to open a late-term abortion clinic.

Another bill on the Senate calendar, HF 657, would ban most abortions in Iowa after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Prior to debate on SF 534, Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Indianola, attempted a procedural move to have the entire Senate discuss HF 657 as if they were in committee. However, the motion failed by a 26-23 vote. The Iowa Catholic Conference prefers HF 657 as a more effective way of dealing with the issue.

Following the passage of SF 534 in the Senate, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said the House might amend it but would not pass it as is.

Now that the Senate has passed SF 534 and the House has passed HF 657, we are actively encouraging the legislature to continue its work on pro-life bills this session. No piece of legislation has yet reached the governor. For either chamber to congratulate itself for a job well done and drop the issue would do a disservice to the common good, the basis of which is human life itself.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER AND LOCATION SET FOR IOWA INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL ACTION

The 18th annual Institute for Social Action will be held Saturday, Oct. 8 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. The keynote speaker will be Helene Paharik, Director of the Department of Human Dignity for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

It’s no secret that there is sometimes tension in the Catholic Church between those whose advocacy is focused on “pro-life” issues and those who are working on “social justice” issues. Helene describes the purpose of her presentation being “to share with colleagues a vision and a hope of the Church promoting the dignity of the human person as one body united in love.”

The Iowa Institute for Social Action is sponsored by the Catholic dioceses of Iowa and the Iowa Catholic Conference. The Diocese of Davenport is taking a lead role in putting together the Institute this year.

AND FINALLY,

The current legislative session is the first since 2006 with control of the chambers divided between Democrats and Republicans. Even so, the atmosphere seems more polarized now then when control was divided in the past. In fact, the governor has signed the fewest bills in a session since at least 1989, when the Legislative Services Agency started keeping track electronically. I can’t say that is necessarily a bad thing.

Thanks for your assistance on our issues of concern. Please keep an eye on your email inbox for updates.

Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Iowa: Newsletter

Legislators went home again early this week with no guarantee that any debate on the floor will take place next week.

Yet there was movement on some issues of concern. For the first time in decades, a bill was brought out of committee by a petition signed by a majority of Senators. Twenty-four Republicans and two Democrats signed the petition to place House File 657 on the Senate calendar. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports the bill, which would prohibit abortion with limited exceptions after a post-fertilization age of 20 weeks.

We appreciate the signatures of the Republicans and of Sen. Tom Hancock, D-Epworth, and Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport. It is not easy for Democrats to stand firm against their party on the abortion issue.

There are reports that the Democratic leadership is working on amendments before the bill is brought up for debate. As we have said all along, no legislation is perfect. However, the Iowa Catholic Conference will resist any attempt to amend HF 657 in such a way that it defeats the purpose of the bill.

It’s more important than ever to contact your member of the Iowa Senate and ask for his or her support of House File 657. Go to our Action Center by clicking on “Take Action” at www.iowacatholiconference.org. The bill passed the Iowa House in March.

The Senate passed Senate File 533, the standing appropriations bill, on Tuesday by a vote of 26-20. The main expenditure in the bill is $2.7 billion in state aid for PK-12 schools. There was also an important amendment attached to the bill. The amendment would increase the amount of tax credits available to donors to school tuition organizations (STOs) to $10 million if – and this is a big if – the “allowable growth” for public schools is approved at two percent for fiscal year 2012. The amendment passed on a voice vote. School tuition organizations provide scholarship grants to low-income children attending private schools.

Unfortunately, the House leadership is currently saying that allowable growth will be zero percent. This actually represents an increase in state aid of $215 million (yes, under the capitol dome, zero means more than zero). Two percent allowable growth would add another $65 million.

The Iowa Catholic Conference will continue to work for an increase in the STO tax credits. The good news is we’re talking about “how,” not “if.” The passage of the Senate STO amendment is a decent start and we appreciate the sponsors, Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport; Tom Hancock, D-Epworth; Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls; Tom Rielly, D-Oskaloosa; and Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg.

We also thank Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, for running an amendment to decouple the STO tax credit increase from the allowable growth increase. The amendment was defeated 26-19.

Also found in SF 533 is an increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The provision was previously passed by the legislature and vetoed by the governor. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports an increase in the EITC, which is a tax credit that benefits low-income people who are working.

Several other appropriations bills, including human services and education (which covers everything other than the basic state aid) have been passed in the House but not debated by the Senate yet.

Apparently, Republicans in the Senate, the Republican governor and the Republican-controlled House have reached agreement on a total figure for the state budget of a little less than $6 billion, about $160 million less than the governor’s proposal in January, and $345 million less than the current year’s spending. This agreement, however, does not include the Democratically-controlled Senate.

We have an action alert on our website for you to send a message to your legislators and encourage them to keep the poor in mind during their deliberations. Fiscal responsibility is important; it is also important that the government hear the priority claim of the poor and vulnerable.

GAMBLING

Senate File 526 passed the House 72-21 and goes to the governor. It no longer contains the legalization of internet poker, which we opposed, but instead requires reports on what legalization of online poker might look like and on the societal effects of gambling. The bill also eliminates the requirement for casino referendums after voters have approved a gambling license twice.

SF 526 allows Iowans to make advance deposits so they can place online or telephone bets on live horse races. The bill also includes an agreement on dividing purses among horse breeders at Prairie Meadows racetrack in Altoona.

SAVE THE DATE – IOWA INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL ACTION, OCT. 8

Please save the date of Saturday, Oct. 8 for the Iowa Institute for Social Action. The Davenport Diocese is taking the lead role in planning the program and some very exciting things are in store! As soon as the location is confirmed we’ll let you know.

‘NO TAXPAYER FUNDING FOR ABORTION ACT’ PASSES U.S. HOUSE

The Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) welcomed passage of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 3) by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill codifies a permanent, government-wide policy against taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage, improves federal conscience protection for health care providers and entities, and closes various loopholes that give tax-preferred status to abortion.

Iowa’s Republican representatives voted yes and the Democratic representatives voted no. The bill now goes to an uncertain future in the Senate. Unfortunately, the consensus against government funding of abortion has been so secure that many assume it is fully implemented in federal law; however it is not.

A 2009 CNN survey found that Americans oppose “using public funds for abortions when the woman cannot afford it” by a margin of 61 to 37 percent.

USCCB ANNOUNCES ‘FIRST FRIDAYS FOR FOOD SECURITY’

On the first Friday of each month from May 6, 2011 to April 6, 2012, Catholic families and individuals can participate in First Fridays for Food Security, as a way to raise awareness about food insecurity in the U.S. and help Catholics pray and act for those in need. Catholics can take part by limiting meal spending on the first Friday of each month to the amount allotted for a family of their size in the USDA Modified Thrifty Food Plan. This food plan is used as the basis for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps). In 2009, 17.4 million U.S. households experienced food insecurity.

The event’s page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=110978892320508) provides a forum for Catholics to leave comments about their experiences and access learning and prayer resources. A handout will be posted on Facebook each month, focusing on a different aspect of the issue.

PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES GROUP ISSUES CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT

A working group of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has issued a report on the impacts for humankind as a result of the global retreat of mountain glaciers. The group asserts it is a result of human activity leading to climate change. You can find it at www.catholicclimatecovenant.org.

AND FINALLY,

I’ve mentioned that our Twitter account and Facebook page are good places to get updated information during the week. To be clear, you don’t have to sign up for anything to see our Twitter or Facebook updates – just go to www.twitter.com/iacatholicconf or www.facebook.com/iowacatholicconference.

Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Iowa: Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, No End In Sight, April 29, 2011

There was very little floor debate at the State Capitol this week as leadership and the governor are still at odds over the state’s budget. Today (Friday) is the last day that legislators will receive their daily expense allowance. That deadline, along with the appearance of packing boxes in the chambers, usually means the end of the session is near, but not this year. Legislative leadership and the Governor are still negotiating on the budget so none of the major appropriations bills are finished.

According to the Legislative News Service, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, says that Democrats and Republicans are about $147 million apart on the budget. Gov. Terry Branstad is also insisting on a two-year budget while Democrats are saying that gives too much power to the governor compared to a one-year budget. The parties are still arguing about the right way to do property tax reform, as well as the amount of money to be appropriated for education.

Republicans contend that no increase in the statewide “allowable growth” rate for K-12 public education budgets is necessary, while Democrats are advocating for an allowable growth rate of two percent.

State revenues are up 4.4 percent over the past 12 months compared to the previous year, which means that the state should have about $900 million in the bank by the end of the fiscal year.

ABORTION BAN – HF 657

I want to thank you for your email messages in support of HF 657, a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. You are making a difference! Legislators are feeling pressure to pass the bill. If you haven’t yet sent a message, please see the Action Alert on our website.

While no legislation is perfect, the Iowa Catholic Conference will resist any attempt to amend HF 657 in such a way that it defeats the purpose of the bill. A provider of late-term abortions, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, continues to advertise the availability of his “services” in Iowa.

EDUCATION

Our effort to fix the preschool funding situation for private preschools is apparently now an object of negotiation among legislative leadership and the governor. We are asking for an amendment in an education bill to codify that our preschools be properly reimbursed for the cost of instruction. Certain school districts are taking advantage of private preschools by reimbursing for a much lower amount and there is currently nothing to stop this.

Frankly we believe this is a “fairness issue” that should not become a political football, but this is a good example of how the legislative process really works.

Along with our partners – the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education and the Iowa Association of Christian Schools – we are also working for an increase in the state tax credits available to donors to a fund for tuition assistance for low-income students to attend nonpublic schools. The amount of tax credits is now $7.5 million annually.

Much will depend on if the public schools get some of what they are looking for in an increase in state funding. If public schools receive more, the chance of success for our amendment is greater.

GAMBLING

Senate File 526 advanced out of the House State Government Committee last week and I believe it is headed to the floor. It no longer contains the legalization of internet poker, so our main objection was taken care of.

U.S. BISHOPS JOIN WITH OTHER CHRISTIAN LEADERS TO CALL FOR ‘CIRCLE OF PROTECTION’ AROUND PROGRAMS FOR POOR PEOPLE

WASHINGTON—A diverse coalition of Christian leaders, including Catholic bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, Salvation Army, Christian Churches Together in the USA, National Council of Churches and other Evangelical and mainline Protestants, has called for a priority for the poor in the current budget process through a common statement, “A Circle of Protection.”

“As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice,” said the statement. “We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.”

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, and Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, signed the statement, as did Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. Bishop Hubbard and Bishop Blaire chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on International Justice and Peace and Domestic Justice and Human Development, respectively.

In the statement, the religious leaders recognize the need to reduce future deficits, “but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.” They said, “These choices are economic, political—and moral. As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected.”

The statement urges government leaders to explore other areas of the budget that can be cut to reduce deficits and to create jobs and spur economic growth, noting, “Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.”

The full statement and list of signatories can be found online: www.circleofprotection.us. Earlier letters to Congress from Bishop Hubbard and Bishop Blaire addressing the moral dimensions of the budget can also be found online at www.usccb.org/sdwp. An alert on our state budget is in our Action Center.

UPDATE ON H.R. 3 – NO TAXPAYER FUNDING FOR ABORTION ACT

The House Rules Committee has announced that on Tuesday, May 3, it intends to prepare a Rule governing floor debate for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3). Floor consideration could follow at some point during the remainder of the week.

Please continue to do what you can to urge your representative to support H.R. 3 on the floor and to oppose any weakening amendments. See NCHLA’s latest action alert at: www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=290.

AND FINALLY,

Once the outlines of a budget agreement are agreed to by leadership, legislation will start to move pretty quickly at the state capitol. Watch out for our email updates as well as our Twitter (@iacatholicconf) and Facebook feeds for updated information. Thanks for reading our newsletter.

Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

It looks like the legislative session will not be ending on Friday, April 29. Legislators lose their per-diem expenses after that date and that usually means the end of the session is at hand. But with Gov. Branstad’s insistence on a two-year budget and the budget differences between the Democratic Senate and the Republican House, there’s a lot more work for legislators to do. Maybe two weeks more? Hard to say.

EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT

We are disappointed that Gov. Branstad used his line-item power on Thursday to veto the increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit found in SF 209. The provision would have increased the state EITC from seven to 10 percent of the federal EITC. The Governor said he wants broader-based tax relief. SF 209 had passed both chambers unanimously after a month of negotiation between the chambers.

The Iowa Catholic Conference has been a strong supporter of this increase in the EITC as it is a tax credit for working families who make less than $45,000. It is estimated the EITC increase would have helped 240,000 families in Iowa.

ABORTION BAN

No further news on HF 657, a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. There’s been no sign so far that the Senate intends to move the bill. The Iowa bishops sent the following statement to members of the Senate last Monday:

“We are writing to express our support for House File 657, which would prohibit late-term abortions in Iowa. For us, this is a question of the common good. Human life is precious and should be protected in our laws. Protecting the lives of these children about to be born should not be considered primarily a partisan issue or even a religious issue. It is in the best interest of the State of Iowa to welcome these new citizens into our midst.

The people we serve understand the importance of this issue and support this legislation. On their behalf we ask that every effort be made to bring this bill to a vote in the Senate.

Signed,
Most Rev. Jerome Hanus, OSB, Archbishop of Dubuque
Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City
Most Rev. Martin Amos, Bishop of Davenport
Most Rev. Richard Pates, Bishop of Des Moines.”

There are other ways to get the bill to the floor, such as amending another bill. Please see the action alert on our website.

GAMBLING – SF 526

Floor work in the chambers has been slowing down. However, on Wednesday, the Senate passed Senate File 526 by a vote of 38-12. As you read last week, the Senate removed the legalization of internet poker and replaced it with a report on internet poker. A welcome addition to the bill was Amendment 3283 by Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, and Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull. It requires that the director of public health also prepare a report regarding the societal impacts of internet poker.

The Iowa Catholic Conference is concerned about the damaging effects to families and pocketbooks from combining gambling with online activity. It is also arguably against federal law to legalize online poker at the state level.

The bill as amended also does away with periodic referendums in counties regarding casinos, and legalizes “advanced deposit” wagering so people can place money in a special account and then place bets on horse racing online or on the phone. As such the bill still represents an expansion of gambling in the state.

The bill also includes an agreement on dividing purses among horse breeders at Prairie Meadows racetrack in Altoona.

Lead supporters of the bill have said they hope to have a debate on internet poker on the floor next year. It was noted by opponents that more than 70 percent of Iowans oppose the expansion of gambling to the internet.

Gambling is one of those issues that cuts across party lines so the bill’s prospects are unclear in the House. There may be enough of a bipartisan coalition to get it through.

BUDGET BILLS

The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed its version of House File 645, the education appropriations bill. Many line items received a 3.1 percent cut, including money allocated for textbooks for nonpublic school students. In addition, the committee amended out the governor’s “preschool voucher” plan that was found in the House bill.

Early this week, we’ll probably see the Senate’s version of the human services appropriations bill, House File 649.

EDUCATION

We’re still working on legislation to increase the amount of tax credit available to donors to school tuition organizations. Thanks for all your messages to legislators on this issue! I anticipate we’ll have more news on this issue soon.

THE ECONOMIC PAIN CONTINUES

The following is from an action alert from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“Media reports of the recent decline in the unemployment rate mask the reality faced by millions of Americans and their families:
In addition to the 13.7 million unemployed workers, 8.3 million are underemployed (involuntarily working part-time) and 2.7 million have given up looking for work. In sum, 16% of the country is unemployed or underemployed.
For every five unemployed people, there is one job opening.
A disproportionate number of the jobs created have been in low- and middle-wage jobs.
The average length of unemployment is nine months. The longer a person is out of work, the less likely he is to be hired eventually.
Unemployment–and the insecurity that comes with it–has devastating effects on emotional and physical health, marriages, families, and whole communities. The bishops of the United States believe that we have an obligation to minister to the spiritual and social needs of the unemployed, as well as support them in their search for economic security.

Working in collaboration with Interfaith Worker Justice and other faith-based groups, the Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development is intensifying its efforts to support our unemployed brothers and sisters, and their families.

The Faith Advocates for Jobs Campaign has been launched to:

1. Advocate policies that protect families and ensure access to just and decent jobs with fair wages; and
2. Empower parishes and other faith communities to minister to the spiritual, social, and employment needs of their parishioners and congregants.
For more information on the Campaign, to join, and to download the toolkit, go to www.iwj.org/index.cfm/employment.”

AND FINALLY,

I am a member of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors. You can keep up on news from NASCCD members around the country by following “nasccd” on Twitter and “Liking” the NASCCD page on Facebook.

I hope you have a blessed Easter season. Christ is Risen!

Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference

Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Alert – action requested Support HF 657 – abortion restriction

Please contact your member of the Iowa Senate and ask for his or her support of House File 657.

The Iowa Catholic Conference supports the bill, which would prohibit abortion with limited exceptions after a post-fertilization age of 20 weeks. The bill is based on the information that the unborn child has the physical structure to feel pain.

The bill has passed the Iowa House with bipartisan support, 60 to 39, and is eligible for consideration by the Senate.

Iowa’s current prohibition of abortions after the second trimester is unenforceable because of the exception which allows abortions to “preserve the life and health of the mother.” In practice, “health” can be defined as anything by the physician.

Our faith calls us to seek the protection of the unborn. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always gravely immoral; its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family.

Thank you for your help.

Iowa Catholic Conference newsletter

You know you’re in the second half of the legislative session when the department appropriations bills start to be introduced. House File 645 is the education appropriations bill. Interestingly, for the first time in my recollection it seems that the two parties will each bring out separate appropriations bills for each department. The House version of the bill keeps textbook funding for Catholic school children at the same level. We will be working for an increase.

We still have several issues “in play” at the capitol and action alerts are available with sample messages to legislators. Watch our Action Center for further developments and alerts. Current alerts include:

  • House File 576 – prevents government from subsidizing insurance for abortion
  • Senate File 388 – Regulation of payday loans
  • Support increase in Earned Income Tax Credit
  • House Joint Resolution 6 – Marriage amendment
  • House File 5 – Abortion prohibition/fetal pain


Read more . . .