2022 Legislative Session Action Alert #3

2022 Legislative Session Action Alert #3

February 03, 2022

JESUS’ CALL TO BE DISCIPLES
JOHN WESLEY’S CALL TO BE METHODISTS

In the 2022 Legislative Session, we are called to 

  • Bring Good News to the Poor
  • Promote Restorative Justice for the Prisoner
  • Call your legislators to advocate on the behalf of just taxes, relieve the suffering of those in poverty, and demand a criminal justice system that restores prisoners to community.

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcome me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”—Matthew 25:34-36

“John Wesley invested in relationships with people most affected by societal inequities, making ministry to the poor or otherwise vulnerable a priority in the Methodist movement. He promoted equity in health care, sustainable economic development, sustainable food production and distribution, access to a clean environment, and equitable access to education.” ­—Social Principles of The United Methodist Church, 2017-2020, pages 5-6

General Conference passed Resolution 5012, Church-Government Relations. It affirms “We believe that churches have the right and the duty to speak and act corporately on those matters of public policy that involve basic moral or ethical issues and questions.”  


Just Taxes

In our first Action Alert this year, we shared with you the United Methodist Resolution, “A Call for Just Tax Structures.” We named three principles: 

  1. Protecting the Poor and Vulnerable: All tax decisions must be judged on their impact on the most vulnerable people. 
  2. Community: Tax and revenue systems enable governments to provide for the needs of the common good. 
  3. Justice: The burdens and benefits of our common life are shared equitably and proportionally among all. 

We have studied to understand the three tax proposals brought to the legislature this month by the Governor, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.  All end taxes for retired Iowans and change the Iowa income tax from a progressive tax to a flat tax—the same percentage for every income level. 

Currently the percentage each income group pays in total taxes (income, property, and sales) is:

  • lowest 20% of income (the poorest)—pay 12.3% of income
  • next 20%—pay 10.4% of income
  • next 20%—pay 10.5% of income
  • next 20%—pay 10.1% of income
  • next 15%—pay 9.6% of income
  • next 4% of income—pay 8.1% of income
  • top 1% of income (the richest)—pay 7.7% of income on all taxes.  

Currently this is a regressive tax—the poorest pay the highest rate, and the richest pay the lowest rate.  And that is with a progressive income tax.  If income tax is changed to a flat tax, it will mean the poorest pay more, and the richest pay less. That is not sharing proportionally. We also learned that Iowa is below the national average in terms of all the taxes paid—we are 29th among the 50 states.

Do we want to be a state that taxes our lowest income people at the highest rate?  Do we want to tax the richest income at the lowest rate?  Is that, “Fair?”

CALL TO ACTION
Contact your legislators and share your values and the United Methodist teaching on Just Taxes. Legislative Advocates have made the following Declarations:

  1. House Tax Plan, HSB 626: (UNDECIDED) Reasons: It does not make the local Option Tax a statewide sales tax (raising sales taxes), it does not lower corporate income tax, it still makes the personal income tax a flat tax.  There are some positive and negative proposals.
  2. Senate Tax Plan, SSB 3074: (AGAINST) Reasons: It raises the sales tax in some areas of the state, it lowers the Flat Tax to 3.6% (income tax) and lowers the corporate income tax.  It makes our taxes more regressive and takes $2 billion out of the tax revenue. It plans to eliminate personal income tax.
  3. Governor’s Tax Plan, HSB 551 and SSB 3044: (AGAINST) Reasons: It makes the total taxes more regressive. The Governor says it keeps income taxes the same for the lowest 20% of taxpayer, but we don’t have the fiscal report on that yet.    

Contact your legislators and members of the Ways and Means Committee.  Go to legis.Iowa.gov. click on “Committees/Meetings,” under Senate/House Standing Committees, find “Ways and Means,” and Judiciary. THANK YOU for being a United Methodist Advocate.


Summary of New Criminal Justice AND Poverty Declarations

CRIMINAL JUSTICE (Judiciary Committee)

  1. Senate File 2109: (FOR) For accomplices in murder convictions allow sentence to Life with Possibility of Parole. Reasons:  If a person convicted of murder did not actively kill anyone and has shown by his actions in prison and behavior that he is not a danger to anyone, Restorative Justice requires he/she be given an opportunity to enter the parole system.  
  2. House File 2191: (FOR) Establish a committee to review sentences and make recommendations to the Governor for the Commutation of Sentence. Reasons: This provides a means for model prisoners to seek a fair hearing from the Governor for reduction of sentence.
  3. House File 377: (FOR) Establish a procedure to review requests for commutation of sentence for a felon serving a life, without parole sentence.  Reasons:  Similar to reasons for HF2191.
  4. House Study Bill 607: (FOR) Relating to Probation including the length of probation, discharge from probation, payment of fines and fees, and probation violations. Reasons: This legislation seeks to improve the probation policies for citizens being released from prison. It seeks to prevent citizens being returned to prison over minor probation violations that do not involve any criminal actions.

POVERTY

  1. House Study Bill 503: (UNDECIDED) Reasons:  Response to finding a person on public assistance guilty of fraud includes removal from all public assistance which could lead to hunger or homelessness. Too harsh.

 
All of these plans are being considered and debated beginning this week.  Talk to your legislators or send them mail or e-mail with your concerns.

 

ADVOCACY ABC’s – BEST PRACTICES 

As United Methodists we have along history of concern for social justice, and "members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles"1 including opposition to the slave trade, to smuggling, to the cruel treatment of prisoners in the early days of Methodism. We continue this legacy today as "we renew our commitment to become faithful witnesses to the gospel, not alone to the ends of earth, but also to the depths of our common life and work."2

Thank you for your efforts in advocating/lobbying to influence public and government policy!

1 Social Principles of The United Methodist Church, Preface '

2 Social Principles, Preamble

ABC’s and Protocols adapted from UUSC ABCDs of Lobbying and from Advocacy Tips from Fawkes-Lee & Ryan, Inc.

ACCURACY

  • Before you make contact with a legislator, take some time to think about why you care about the issue. 
  • Speak from your own experiences and use them to enhance an issue. 
  • If you are asked a question, answer to the best of your ability. You don’t need to be an expert, and it’s okay to say “I don’t know. Let me find out.” Or “Good question Senator /Representative; I’ll find out and get back to you.” 
  • Find out the best way to reach them and be sure to follow through. Try to use the most recent information possible.
  • Be sure to identify yourself as a constituent (if you live in the district) and United Methodist!

BREVITY

  • Make your message interesting and compelling, simple and straightforward (no soapboxes/preaching). Sharing a personal story is effective.
  • If you are in person and with a group, decide on the main message and request; and be sure everyone who wants to speak has a chance to share. 
  • Remember to make a specific “ask” with a direct question, such as “Can we count on you to support (Bill Subject or Number)?”

COURTESY

  • Be sure to LISTEN as well as talk. Confrontation is not advocacy—remain respectful at all times or else walk away. 
  • Silence electronic devices! 
  • Be patient and flexible. Remember that legislators are regular people, too, so relax and speak honestly! 
  • Be sure to thank them for their time and attention—and remember to continue to build a relationship with them through contacts in the future. 
  • Report meeting results to the Advocacy Team leader (Brian Carter, briancar@dwx.com). 
  • Don’t be discouraged if the response from the legislator was not what you wanted. It’s just part of the political process.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN MAKING IOWA LAWS

The state Senator and state Representative from each district are elected to represent constituent interests when making the laws of Iowa. Citizens can take part in the decisions made by those elected officials. 

  • Search the web using Find Your Legislator on the Iowa General Assembly website or email lioinfo@legis.iowa.gov. The Legislative Information Office (LIO) mailing address is Room G16 Legislative Services Agency, 1007 East Grand Avenue, Iowa State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319; Telephone: 515.281.5129] 
  • During the legislative session, both the Senate and House have operators on duty to take phone calls and relay messages to legislators.
  • Contact Senators during the legislative session at the Capitol by calling the Senate Switchboard at 515.281.3371, or address mail to the Senator _____, Iowa Senate, 1007 East Grand Avenue, State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319. 
  • Contact Representatives during the session at the Capitol by calling the House Switchboard at 515.281.3221, or address mail to the Representative ______, Iowa House of Representatives, 1007 East Grand Avenue, State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319. 
  • The Iowa General Assembly website (www.legis.iowa.gov) lists email addresses of all legislators, or call the LIO. Each legislator may be emailed using this format, "firstname.lastname@legis.iowa.gov."
  • Legislators may also be contacted at their homes (call the LIO or check listings on the Iowa General Assembly website). 
  • Observe the session at the Capitol. The debates may be viewed from galleries in the Senate and House chambers. The public may attend committee meetings and public hearings on legislation. Live audio of the Senate and House debates is available on the Iowa General Assembly website. 
  • Any citizen visiting the Capitol can arrange to meet with legislators.

PROTOCOLS FOR ADVOCACY AT THE IOWA CAPITOL

  1. Legislators can be called out of the chamber to talk to you unless they are in a committee meeting or in a party caucus. There is a desk at the entrance area of each chamber that has pads of paper and pencils (each chamber has its own color). You will need to fill in the time, date, legislator’s name and desk number (posted at the desk), your name (and possibly phone number). BE SURE TO NOTE IF YOU ARE A CONSTITUENT ON THE SLIP!
  2. Do NOT walk up to an ongoing conversation between a legislator and another person. They may see you and invite you into the conversation. If not, remain at a respectful distance and try to catch the legislator’s eye and signal (raise your hand, etc.) that you would like to talk when available.
  3. Schedules for Committee and Subcommittee meetings are noted on the website or posted in various places at the Capitol, such as near a ground floor elevator. You may attend Committee meetings, but members of the public cannot speak unless specifically invited. Subcommittees are usually short meetings comprised of a few members of the Committee at which lobbyists and members of the public are allowed to speak in turn as recognized by the meeting chair.
  4. Remember these things:  Legislators have a thankless job—no matter what, someone is always unhappy with the decision. It is a low-paying, full-time job (even though it’s considered part-time). Never intentionally lie to a legislator. Keep the focus of your discussion on the key position and how the United Methodist Church stands on it. If you have a handout, give it to them AFTER speaking with them.
     
    [Information from the Legislative Information Office and Iowa Conference Legislative Advocacy Team Consultants.]

Advocacy Team:
Brian Carter - briancar@dwx.com
Rita Carter - ritaac@mchsi.com
Gary Nims - gary.nims@gmail.com
Consultant:
Robert Mulqueen - robert.mulqueen@gmail.com
 
UMW Liaison:
Deb Streff - debstreff@gmail.com