Iowa Newsletter

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network

Welcome to the new members of our legislative network. Thanks for joining!

The second "funnel" deadline was today (Friday). Except for finance or leadership bills, legislation that has not passed one chamber and through a committee in the other chamber is no longer eligible for consideration.

We were pleased that
Senate File 2178 passed out of the House Education Committee 19-3 on Wednesday. We appreciate the work of Rep. Gene Ficken (D-Independence), vice chair of the committee, and Rep. Polly Bukta (D-Clinton), chair of the bill's subcommittee, for their help in shepherding the bill through the committee.

The bill would allow textbook funds appropriated for nonpublic school students to be used for laptop computers. In the committee meeting, more than one legislator mentioned how this bill would not take away any dollars from public schools.

I would like to thank you for the many emails and phone calls in support of the bill. They made a huge difference. We are now working to get the bill debated on the floor.

last week we discussed our concern about possible efforts to legalize online poker tournaments sponsored by Iowa casinos. That idea is apparently being dropped.

We're still waiting to see legislation which might propose cutting back on tax credits available for donations to school tuition organizations (STOs) in the state. Donors receive a 65 percent tax credit for their contribution. The STOs use the donations to provide scholarships for low-income children to attend the school of their choice.

There are currently $7.5 million in tax credits annually, but the governor's tax credit panel suggested cutting the program by a third. We are
working to keep the status quo as we believe cutting that program actually could cost the state money (if people leave the private school and enter the public school system).


Senate File 2356 passed the Iowa Senate 45-5 last Monday after being scaled back significantly. As amended, the bill:

  • enables IowaCare patients to receive care at a clinic closer to home (not just Des Moines and Iowa City as is currently the case)
  • provides some reimbursement to Iowa hospitals for emergency care of IowaCare patients
  • sets up a web information portal on health insurance options in Iowa.

IowaCare is the state health insurance program of last resort, covering people who make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level but are not eligible for Medicaid.

The Iowa Catholic Conference supports the bill. It will help make health care more readily available to low-income Iowans in rural areas of the state. We also believe that an "apples to apples" comparison of health care insurance plans in Iowa will help consumers in making the right choice for their family. You can go to our Action Center at to send a message to your member of the Iowa House.

We had been working for an amendment to keep the status quo on state payment for abortions. Our concern proved to be moot because the "IowaCare Plus" part of the bill was amended out due to concerns about cost and people leaving private insurance to get on an expanded state plan. IowaCare Plus would have expanded eligibility for Iowans up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

On the national scene, there are efforts going on to reconcile the House and Senate health care reform bills. Stay tuned as we may be asking for your contacts encouraging health care for all that respects the life and dignity of each person from conception until natural death. For more information about the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' teaching on health care reform, visit


HF 2475 is still waiting to be debated in the Iowa House. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports this legislation, which would require the provision of deliverable fuels between Nov. 1 and April 1 for customers who have cash or are eligible for LIHEAP (federal low-income energy assistance program). The state in a similar way already protects those who heat with other fuels during the winter months. There is a sample message for legislators on our website on this issue as well.


Senate File 2219, an expansion of the current Medicaid "family planning waiver," is advancing through the legislative process. Generally speaking, we object to government-funded contraception programs. The Catholic Church does not consider those programs to be true "health care."

While proponents believe that contraceptive programs save the state money, as a practical matter, these projects do not seem to reduce the abortion rate or the number of children born to unmarried mothers. In addition, we object to minors being able to receive contraceptives without the knowledge of their parents, as this undercuts the parent-child relationship.


House File 2474 would establish a financial literacy education program in the state treasurer's office. We are hopeful that this program will help consumers get the information they need to make good financial decisions. The program would be administered within the current appropriation for the treasurer's office.


Efforts are being made in the U.S. Congress to reauthorize funding for scholarships for students from low-income families to attend private schools in the District of Columbia.  Many of those schools are Catholic schools. Without the passage of additional legislation, this valuable program has a bleak future.  Under current legislation no new students can be offered scholarships, so the number of students who can be assisted would decline each year. Please contact Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley in support of the legislation. The U.S. Senate switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

The message is: "Please support the bi-partisan Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act so that the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program can continue to provide more educational opportunities for low-income children in the District of Columbia. Do not force families to have students in separate schools because no new students can be added to the program."

Thanks for your help with this issue.


Don't forget to become a fan of our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter at "iacatholicconf". You'll be the first to find out about how our issues are faring at the legislature.

Tom Chapman

Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference