Iowa Catholic Conference Review of the 2018 Legislative Session

The Iowa legislature adjourned “sine die” on May 4, ending the 2018 session of the 87th General Assembly.

The Iowa legislative session completed its work with the passage of a tax reform bill, Senate File 2417, that will cut taxes by about $2 billion over the next several years. However, some of the tax cuts won’t kick in unless state revenue surpasses certain levels.

SF 2417 included a $1 million increase in the School Tuition Organization Tax Credits to a total of $13 million. The bill also increased the number of students who could receive scholarships by increasing the family income limit to 400 percent from 300 percent of the federal poverty level. More than 10,000 nonpublic school students receive these scholarships every year.

Another provision of the bill provides some tax benefit for paying K-12 private school tuition from 529 plans such as College Savings Account. Along with our partner Iowa ACE, we will be working on information for Catholic school parents about this. In the meantime, don’t make any changes without consulting your tax expert.

Iowa’s annual general fund budget is a little over $7 billion. At issue going forward is whether the tax cuts will allow adequate revenues for public education, Medicaid, public safety, a strong safety net and other acts of government essential to the common good.

We were also pleased that the final human services budget bill, Senate File 2418, also included the “wrongful birth” bill we were working on all session. The wrongful birth provision would prevent a parent from bringing a lawsuit against a doctor claiming a child should have been aborted because of a disability.

The bill also provides for oversight to help insure providers in the managed-care Medicaid program are paid in a timely manner. Medicaid is a federal-state health insurance program for people with low-income or other needs.

Reimbursement rates for some child care providers will be increased for the first time in quite a while. This may benefit some of our schools/parishes that offer child care. Unfortunately, a provision that excluded abortion providers from Title X family planning, personal responsibility and abstinence education programs was struck from Senate File 2418.

Gov. Kim Reynolds also signed the bill (Senate File 359) that prohibits abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, as well as trafficking in fetal body parts. It was scheduled to take effect on July 1, but a legal challenge has already been put forth in the courts.

The legislature fixed Iowa’s law and will allow nonpublic school students to remain eligible to receive special driver’s permits. The governor signed the utility deregulation bill, Senate File 2311, which made some negative changes to Iowa’s energy efficiency requirements.

Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Iowa bishops.

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