2022 Legislative Session Action Alert #4

2022 Legislative Session Action Alert #4

February 10, 2022

Deadline for Passage of Key Bills Out of Committee is Friday, February 18

NEW LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY TEAM MEMBERS

We have two new members who are helping us get the United Methodist priorities shared with our legislators. Anyone who is interested in becoming Team Member, should complete the Legislative Advocacy Application. We will notify you if you are accepted. Join us in welcoming these new Legislative Advocates. (Their email addresses are at the bottom of this Action Alert.)

  1. Cherie Miner of Elliott, Iowa from Grant United Methodist Church
  2. Peggy Aguilar of Iowa City, Iowa from St. Marks United Methodist

Download this form to learn more about joining the Legislative Advocacy Team.
If you want to be considered, complete this application!

LIST OF BILLS

House File 2191 - FOR - New Commutation Process
House Study Bill 607 - FOR - Probation Reform
House Study Bill 626 - UNDECIDED - House Tax Plan
Senate Study Bill 3074 - AGAINST - Senate Tax Plan
HSB 551 AND SSB 3044 - AGAINST - Governor’s Tax Plan
House File 2279 - AGAINST - Unemployment Insurance Changes
Senate Study Bills 3093 and 3096 - AGAINST - Unemployment Insurance Changes
House Study Bill 604 - AGAINST - Allows online casinos (Gambling)
House Study Bill 578 - AGAINST - Allows cashless wagering (Gambling)
Senate File 2068 - FOR - Amends English Only Law (Immigrants/Refugees)
House File 2192 - FOR - Amends English Only Law (Immigrants/Refugees)
Senate File 2002 - AGAINST - Prohibits enforcement of federal gun safety laws
Senate Study Bill 3080 - AGAINST - Create Vouchers for Private Schools
House Study Bill 531 - FOR - Expanding access to mental health care in Iowa 
House Study Bill 502 - AGAINST - New public assistance verification
House Study Bill 504 - AGAINST - Public assistance computerized identification
House Study Bill 505 - AGAINST - Food Stamp new requirement
House Study Bill507 - AGAINST - Public assistance eligibility
House Study Bill 508 - AGAINST - Food Stamp Asset Test

Your Call to Be Christian Advocates 

  1. We’re getting close to the first legislative deadline which is Friday, February 18. Most bills to be  considered for the rest of the session need to be passed out of one committee by Feb. 18.  It is important to contact legislators to move our bills forward or stop bad bills.  
  2. Please contact your legislator and members of the Committees who are considering these bills. You can find Committee members by going here where you will find the Committee list for the House or Senate.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE
HOUSE FILE 2191 New Commutation Process - FOR - Public Safety Committee

Iowa’s commutation process leaves rehabilitated men and women in prison without any chance of release. This process costs taxpayers millions of dollars. H.F. 2191 provides an opportunity for meaningful change without compromising public safety or disrupting the critical discretion of the Governor. This is a bi-partisan bill.

The Governor has the power to commute any Iowa prison sentence. A commutation is not the same as a pardon. Instead, commutation is typically used to merely reduce the sentences of individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary rehabilitation and reform. Commutation is often used to reduce a sentence of “life without possibility of parole” to a sentence of additional years “with possibility of parole.”

Commutation does not equal release—just parole eligibility. Release depends on the discretion of the Parole Board.

Historically, Iowa’s governors have prudently used commutation to provide justice for rehabilitated individuals, maintain safe prison population levels, and conserve the state budget. But since 1983, commutation has become almost non-existent.

H.F. 2191 would fix this broken system by ensuring that elderly, rehabilitated “lifers” have a chance at commutation. H.F. 2191 only applies to “lifers” who have served 35 years or more and have earned “minimum security custody” status through their good behavior.

H.F. 2191 Makes 4 Modest Changes for eligible lifers who have served 35 years:

  1. Reduces the commutation application allowance from every 10 years to every 5 years.
  2. Requires that the Board of Parole consider specific, objective factors.
  3. Requires that commutation applications be considered within one year of submission
  4. Gives the Board of Parole the power to “recommend” commutation with a majority vote, instead of unanimous. 
                                                                  Public Safety Committee Members to Contact

Representative
Name

Representative
Email
Representative Name Representative
Email
Rep. Klein (R,
District 78)
jarad.klein@legis.iowa.gov Rep. Holt (R, District 18) Steven.Holt@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Westrich (R,
District 81)
Cherielynn.Westrich@legis.iowa.gov Rep. Kerr (R, District 88) David.Kerr@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Kressig (D,
District 59)
bob.kressig@legis.iowa.gov Rep. Paustian (R, District 92) Ross.Paustian@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Anderson (D,
District 36)
marti.anderson@legis.iowa.gov Rep. Steckman (D, District 53) sharon.steckman@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Fisher (R,
District 72)
dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov Rep. Thorup (R, District 28) Jon.Thorup@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Fry (R,
District 27)
joel.fry@legis.iowa.gov Rep. Worthan (R, District 11)

gary.worthan@legis.iowa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 







HOUSE STUDY BILL 607 - FOR - Probation Reform
Public Safety Committee

House Study Bill 607 has passed a House subcommittee and is expected to be considered by the full House Public Safety Committee soon. Supported by the United Methodist Legislative Advocates, the bill would reduce punishments and collateral consequences that come from noncriminal “technical” probation violations. The plan is to not send people back to prison unless it’s necessary. The bill would also create incentives for offenders to seek education and be model prisoners.
 

TAX BILLS ADVANCE
These are in the Ways and Means Committees

The Governor’s and Republican tax cut bills, which would create a “flat” income tax, among other changes, are moving through the legislative process.

JUST TAXES In our first Action Alert this year, we shared with you the United Methodist Resolution “A Call for Just Tax Structures”  which 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. Based on these principles, the Legislative Advocacy Team made the following declarations:
  • 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. HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
  • Senate Tax Plan, SSB 3074: AGAINST Reasons: It raises the sales tax in areas that don’t have local option tax, 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. SENATE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
    Flat isn’t fair. We need a plan that strengthens hardworking people, not just the wealthiest Iowans.
  • 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 have not seen the fiscal report on that yet. HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
    The Democrats have proposed an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers and propose keeping the taxes more progressive with those who have more income paying proportionately more.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE CHANGES - AGAINST
House File 2279 - House Labor Committee

 Senate Study Bills 3093 and SSB3096 - Senate Committee on Labor and Business

Several bills are being considered by the Legislature to cut back on unemployment insurance benefits. Under the proposals, the state would reduce benefits to a total of four months and require recipients to take lower-paying jobs sooner. The bill would also add a one-week waiting period for benefits.

AGAINST  Reasons:  Iowa’s unemployment rate is already dropping and the number of working Iowans is increasing. The purpose of the unemployment system is to help people who have been laid off through no fault of their own. We should be very cautious about changing the unemployment insurance system in ways that could harm vulnerable families.

GAMBLING BILLS CONSIDERED - AGAINST
Bills to allow online casinos (House Study Bill 604), and “cashless wagering” (House Study Bill 578), have been passed by House subcommittees - Committee on State Government

The United Methodist Legislative Advocates are opposed to both.

AGAINST  Reasons: Cashless wagering means you could transfer money directly from your phone to the slot machine. There is nothing in the bill which would stop people from emptying their bank account without getting up from the machine. Gambling establishments know that if they can make it easier for you to gamble, the gambler will gamble more. If your access to gambling and ease of gambling is increased, you will gamble more. A recent report on problem gambling services in Iowa already suggests a “large gap between the number of Iowans who would benefit from problem gambling treatment services and the number who receive those services.”  Last year Americans reportedly lost $50 billion on gambling.   

Have you seen more gambling commercials on TV? These are often aimed at children—grooming the next generation of gamblers.  

Our Social Principles remind us, “Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, and economic and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship.”

IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE BILLS - FOR
SENATE FILE 2068 Senate State Government Committee              
HOUSE FILE 2192 House State Government Committee         

Legislation would change the law that establishes English as the official language of the state.

The United Methodist Legislative Advocates are FOR these bills. Senate File 2068 and House File 2192 would add the phrase “and any other language deemed necessary to achieve the purposes of the state of Iowa and the political subdivisions of the state” to Iowa law. 

FOR Reasons: Some immigrant and refugee communities have been negatively impacted by the current law due to significant language barriers. These bills would help new Iowa residents settle in their new homes and help us fulfill Jesus teaching to welcome the strangers.

GUN VIOLENCE - AGAINST
Senate File 2002 Second Amendment Preservation Act
Judiciary Committee

Prohibits the enforcement of federal gun safety laws and regulations.  Law enforcement and local governments could face penalties of up to $50,000  for enforcing certain federal regulations on firearms.   

AGAINST  Reasons: This bill would ignore several gun safety measures promoted by the United Methodist Church Resolution  “Our call to End Gun Violence.” The bill, Senate File 2002, would add a lengthy section to Iowa Code that asserts only state legislature – not the federal government – has the Iowa authority to regulate firearms. Opponents to the proposal raised concerns that law enforcement officers would be less able to enforce gun laws for fear of legal retribution. Taylor McDonald, a lobbyist for gun safety group Giffords, responded that the current system already works as it should, with the judicial branch deciding whether federal actions were unconstitutional.

A 2018 report warned that any attempts to weaken the state’s gun laws would threaten Iowa’s low rates of gun violence. Despite the warnings Iowa lawmakers reversed two key gun violence prevention measures in 2021, by no longer requiring a permit for every handgun sale and no longer requiring a permit to carry loaded, concealed handguns. From 2019 to 2020, the state saw a 20% increase in firearm homicides, and the Iowa Department of Public Health shows that gun related deaths reached an all-time high in 2020 with 353 people killed. We will be watching the senate Judiciary for further action on this, and we urge contacts of senate judiciary members.

EDUCATION - AGAINST
SSB3080 Vouchers for Private Schools
Education Committee

SSB3080 is the Governor’s proposed legislation that creates a private school voucher program in Iowa. The bill calls  the educational savings accounts “Student First Scholarships.”  

AGAINST  Reasons: The primary reason for being against this bill is that it transfers money for education from schools which have to admit and teach all students, to schools who can choose who they wish to teach.  Our resolutions basically say “Public Dollars for Public Schools.”  Our public schools are underfunded and transferring resources to private schools does not improve our education system.  There are only four other states which currently allow similar programs.  

See the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency outline of Iowa’s current public investment in private and home school education in this document. ( https://isea.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/1050394.pdf )

MENTAL HEALTH - FOR
HSB 531 Expanding Access to Mental Health Care in Iowa 
Committee on Human Resources

This will increase the current capacity at the Independence and Cherokee Mental Health Institutes by 50%. This bill will add 32 adult beds and 14 child/adolescent beds for Iowa’s most difficult-to-place mental health patients. 

FOR  Reason:  The United Methodist position is that every person has the right to adequate mental health care. This expands the service to the most mentally ill patients.

POVERTY ISSUES - AGAINST
House Human Resources Committee

HSB 502 WELFARE VERIFICATION (Human Resources)

Requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to redesign or establish a new system for verifying eligibility for public assistance. Allows the DHS to contract with a third-party. Establishes requirements for the system, including that it be finished by July 2023. Requires DHS to seek federal approval as needed. 

AGAINST  Reason: We have a very good system and this could add an expensive private party to redo what our Department of Human Services already does.

HSB 504  ASSISTANCE IDENTIFICATION (Human Resources)

Requires applicants for public assistance to complete a computerized identification process. Requires the DHS to establish rules.  

AGAINST  Reason: Computerized system would be more difficult for elderly and persons not familiar with internet.

HSB 505 SNAP (Human Resources)  

A bill for an act requiring applicants for the supplemental nutrition assistance program to cooperate with the child support recovery unit. 

AGAINST  Reason: This is a hunger relief program and should not be mixed with other public assistance. People could go hungry and be less healthy.

HSB 507 PUBLIC ASSISTANCE ELIGIBILITY (Human Resources)

Requires DHS to access various records for initial and on-going determinations of eligibility for applicants for public assistance. Requires the DHS to adopt rules and includes reporting requirements  

AGAINST  Reason:  This is already being done and would be more expensive.

HSB 508 SNAP ASSET TEST (Human Resources)

Requires the DHS to perform an asset test on all members of a household before determining eligibility. Includes reporting requirements.  

AGAINST  Reason:  We believe in caring for the neediest of our neighbors. We believe that as Christians we are to support our government’s responsibility to provide for all our citizens. To begin to alleviate poverty, we support policies as: adequate income, quality education, decent and affordable housing, job training, employment opportunities, adequate mental and physical health care; revision of welfare programs which help people have a hand up out of poverty. The Department of Human Services already has improved its procedures to check eligibility. It needs to focus on helping our neediest neighbors.
 
HSB = House Study Bill
HF=House File
SSB=Senate Study Bill
SF=Senate File
 


To all participants: THANK YOU FOR CONTACTING YOUR LEGISLATORS.  

You are the ones that influence legislators. Tell your stories. Remind them that you are a constituent. Mention you are calling on behalf of The United Methodist Church.   

If you have questions or comments, please contact one of the Legislative Advocates Team Members.

ADVOCACY TEAM of The United Methodist Iowa Annual Conference
Brian Carter: briancar@dwx.com
Rita Carter: ritaac@mchsi.com
Gary Nims: gary.nims@gmail.com
Cherie Minor: minadams@netins.net
Peggy Aguilar: pjlhaguilar1@gmail.com
Robert Mulqueen: robert.mulqueen@gmail.com   (Consultant member)

United Methodist Women Liaison
Deb Streff: debstreff@gmail.com