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

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