Bills being considered affect gov’t benefits; Protect Life Amendment update

By Tom Chapman

Special to The Witness

The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) advocates for Iowa’s bishops in the public policy arena. This update was released Feb. 4.

DES MOINES — Subcommittees in the Iowa House and Senate considered bills recently to increase the frequency and intensity of income verification for people who receive government benefits such as Medicaid, welfare and SNAP (food stamps).

The House bill did not pass, but Senate Study Bill 3068 moved to the full Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) is encouraging lawmakers to consider the impact to children that could unintentionally result, especially if working people who qualify for assistance lose benefits due to unintentional lack of compliance with the additional requirements. It also will be costly to implement the new administrative requirements.

As far as fraud rates are concerned, a review showed that only 0.13 percent of SNAP recipients were found to be enrolled in multiple states.

‘Protect Life Amendment’

The House version of the “Protect Life Amendment,” House Study Bill 577, is scheduled to be considered by a subcommittee today (Feb. 4). The Protect Life Amendment would clarify that a right to abortion is not guaranteed by the State of Iowa Constitution. Otherwise, current abortion restrictions remain at risk.

Thanks to those of you who have contacted your legislator in support of the Senate’s version, SJR 2001. If you haven’t had a chance, please contact your senator today.

A subcommittee meeting was scheduled (Feb. 5) to consider Senate File 579, a bill revived from last year which would collect information on citations and offenses committed by nonresident aliens. This category includes many people who are here legally.

ICC opposes this bill because it implies that people are bad actors because they’re not from the United States. SF 579 would add a new section to Iowa’s law which outlaws so-called “sanctuary cities.”

Several groups working to promote “common sense” gun laws and to stop a constitutional amendment in Iowa that would restrict the state’s ability to regulate weapons had scheduled activities at the State Capitol during the week of Feb. 10. A coalition letter opposing the amendment is available to sign.

‘Public charge’ court decision

The U.S. bishops are concerned about the impact of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on “public charge.” The decision allows a new rule to be implemented while litigation proceeds. The well-meaning goal of a public charge rule is that people coming to the U.S. would be economically self-sufficient and not overly reliant on government resources. For many years, the public charge rule focused only on use of certain government benefits, such as cash assistance. Unfortunately, the new rule significantly expands the public benefits considered in its public charge analysis, making it much more difficult for some immigrants to be admitted to the country.

The bishops also have spoken out in opposition to a new travel ban that undermines family reunification efforts. The president issued a proclamation last week restricting the issuance of immigrant visas to people from Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria. People from Sudan and Tanzania will no longer be eligible for certain visas to come to the United States, commonly called “Diversity Visas.” The proclamation will make ensuring support for forced migrants in the designated countries more difficult. The bishops urge the administration to reverse this action and consider the human and strategic costs of these bans.

And finally

The Iowa Catholic Conference is sponsoring its annual Legislative Breakfast on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Members of ICC’s board and committee will meet with legislators in an informal setting to discuss issues of common concern. It’s a good occasion to pray for legislators as well. Their service at the Statehouse is a sacrifice for them and their families.

 Tom Chapman is the ICC’s executive director.