Mar 2011

Mixed Martial Arts? Should New York State authorize it?

Below is our legislative memo opposing a bill to license "ultimate fighting" events in New York State. Do you agree...
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House Committee Scales Back Earned Income Tax Credit for Low-Income Workers

The House Taxation Committee this week approved legislation scaling back the Earned Income Tax Credit.  The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families.  The state has its own credit which piggybacks onto the federal credit.
When the credit exceeds a person’s tax liability, it results in a tax refund.  This “refundability” piece is what is eliminated by the bill approved by the House Taxation Committee.  The bill was amended, however, to allow an eligible taxpayer to carry over for five years the amount that exceeds the individual’s tax liability.
In its original form, the bill also dramatically reduced the percentage of the credit, but this provision was amended out of the bill in committee.
Read more…

Insurance-Related Life Bills Advance Out of House Committee

Two Pro-Life bills were merged into another separate bill and passed out of the House Insurance Committee this week.  HB 2292 would prevent private insurance providers from covering most abortions under basic health care plans.  HB 2293 would prevent state employees from being able to pay for abortions with their “pre-tax” health care flexible spending accounts.  Both bills are now part of SB 65, which is awaiting action by the full House of Representatives.  The Kansas Catholic Conference testified on behalf of HB 2292 and HB 2293.
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Sex Business Regulations Halted in Senate Committee

Yesterday the Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee voted against legislation that would regulate sexually oriented businesses.  The regulations would include a prohibition on building such facilities within 1000 feet of churches, schools, parks, and homes.  The Kansas Catholic Conference testified on behalf of the legislation.
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Choose Life License Plate Bill Passes the Senate, Payday Bills to be Heard Next Week, Advocacy Day is Coming Soon!

Choose Life License Plate Bill Passes the Senate, Payday Bills to be Heard Next Week, Advocacy Day is Coming Soon!


This week the Choose Life License Plate bill (SB 257)passed the Senate, and is now on to the House! This week TCC testified on HB 303 ( Fee on money transfers to Mexico or Central or South America - oppose) and Marie Seale, Director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living for the Diocese of Austin, testified on HB 561 (Ban on hospital districts from using tax revenue to finance an abortion - support). Both bills were left pending in committee. Click on the bill name to view the testimony, or visit our Letters and Testimony page here.

The Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day is less than 20 days away. There are many ways to get involved. Most importantly, please PRAY for the success of the day! You can also participate by attending the day in Austin with your diocese or calling and emailing your legislators prior to our day to let them know that you support the Catholics who will be visiting them on April 6. 
Click here for more information on the Advocacy day and  how to get involved with your diocesan delegation.

Embryo Protection Bill Misrepresented – Contact Senator with Facts

House Bill 1450 would prevent the intentional destruction of human embryos created by in vitro fertilization.  Opponents told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bill would ban in vitro fertilization in the state and interfere with the ability of physicians to treat pregnancy-related conditions.  Such claims are not true.
HB 1450 expressly allows IFV and amendments have been prepared to make clear that good faith actions connected to IVF would be allowed.  It only would prohibit intentionally killing embryos.
The bill – and existing law – also allows for legitimate medical treatments for pregnancy-related conditions.  HB 1450 would not impact legitimate medical care.
Tell your senator to support HB 1450 and allow clarifying amendments, if needed.
Read the conference’s testimony on HB 1450.

Lansing Update

March 18, 2011

The current issue of Lansing Update has been posted to the Michigan Catholic Conference Web site at:

http://www.micatholicconference.org/public-policy/publications/lansing-update/


In This Issue:

1.  MCC Testifies Against Welfare Reform Legislation

2.  MCC to Testify in Support of EITC Next Week

MCC Testifies Against Welfare Reform Legislation

MCC Testifies Against Welfare Reform Legislation; MCC to Testify in Support of EITC Next Week. Continue reading…

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Eye on the Capitol

Common Good Must be Focal Point of Budget
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Catholic Conference Urges House Committee to Abdicate Welfare Reform Efforts

(Lansing) – Citing statistics from the Department of Human Services (DHS), Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy Tom Hickson today urged the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee to abdicate plans to pursue increased penalties and lifetime limits within the DHS Family Independence Program, which provides state financial assistance to families with children. Hickson also included in his testimony alternative suggestions for committee members if they were adamant about pursuing welfare reform.

“According to the Department of Human Services, for 2009, out of an average monthly caseload of 65,925 there were only 531 cases of noncompliance, which is significantly less than one percent,” Hickson stated in his testimony. “Because the law came into effect so recently (enacted in 2006), we believe time needs to be taken to more fully evaluate its impact, and that the sunset should be extended with the current criteria.  The current law is working and working very well.”

Legislation before the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee this morning, House Bills 4409 and 4410, would:  
  • Institute a 48-month hard deadline for public assistance;
  • Remove the exemption on participation in the DHS Jobs, Education and Training (JET) program for counties which have substantially higher unemployment than the rest of the state; and
  • Amend the penalty for a third occasion of noncompliance from a one year prohibition to a lifetime ban.

While urging the committee to dismiss the legislation, Hickson then urged members to consider the following:
  • Instituting a 48-month hard deadline for public assistance will quickly cut the lifeline of over 12,000 of the state’s neediest citizens. Hickson testified to this point: “While I assume we agree that the goal of this committee and this state should be to prevent permanent reliance on public assistance, the fact remains that not everyone in Michigan’s cyclical economy has the ability or skill set to find a job immediately.  We must continue to ensure that our state is working to provide the tools necessary for people to receive training and assistance in order to move from dependence to independence. Simply turning our backs is to ignore the moral imperative to recognize the neediest among us.”
  • “Removing the exemption on participation in the JET program for counties which have substantially higher unemployment than the rest of the state makes little sense,” said Hickson.  “The poorest county in Michigan, for example, Lake County, has well over a majority of its land within public ownership. Where is a business going to locate?  Where are jobs going to be created?”
  • In the area of noncompliance, a lifetime ban on public assistance for a third violation is unfairly punitive, according to Hickson, who urged the committee to retain the current penalty structure, which also counts against the 48-month timeframe – essentially a double penalty. “For example, if you have someone who has had a history of noncompliance, then turns their life around, is gainfully employed, let’s say at a new battery plant for the next 10 years, what happens to that individual if that industry has a collapse,” Hickson asked the committee. “Safeguards need to be in place to recognize the cyclical nature of our economy.”

In delivering the Conference’s opposition to current welfare reform efforts, Hickson also provided suggestions to the committee if it were to continue to pursue reform.  Those suggestions included:
  • Greater enforcement or better data controls at the Department of Human Services.  Hickson suggested the committee look to previous legislation sponsored by former Senator Cameron Brown that created greater enforcement for those claiming double homestead exemptions.
  • Look at increasing the income disregard to truly allow individuals to get on their feet and increase their financial standing. “That, combined with a retained EITC, would be a potent poverty fighter,” Hickson said.

Prior to delivering his testimony, Hickson explained to the committee that the Conference believes the state budget is a moral document, one which demonstrates the highest priorities for the state, and that the first budgetary priority should be to protect Michigan’s poor and vulnerable citizens.  

There was no vote on the welfare reform legislation before today’s committee.

Conference Testifies in Support of Abortion Enforcement Act

The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified today in favor of HB 1297, which would update, strengthen, and clarify the state’s laws on abortion.
Read the testimony here.
The bill is before the Senate Human Services Committee.
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Act Now!

HB 11 1256 CRIMES AGAINST THE UNBORN
***ACTION ALERT***   PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE JUDICARY COMMITTEE AND ASK THEM TO OPPOSE HB 1256....
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More Life Bills

The legislature has been hopping! Two more bills regarding life issues are being heard on Tuesday, March 15.
To read about and take action on House File 201, a bill to limit abortion funding in Minnesota,
click here.
To read about and take action on House File 998, a bill to ban human cloning in Minnesota,
click here.
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Act Now to Protect Life

To take action on this issue, click here.
House File 936, a bill that would prevent fetal pain by prohibiting abortions at or after 20 weeks of gestation, will be heard in the House Committee on Health and Human Services Reform this Wednesday at 2:30 PM.  The bill allows for exceptions to this prohibition when abortion is necessary to save the life or avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the mother.  There is a wealth of evidence that shows that a developing unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by 20 weeks after fertilization.  Please take action to protect unborn children from experiencing painful deaths by contacting your House Representative to voice your support of H.F. 936.
 
For more information about Catholic Church teaching on abortion, please visit
http://www.usccb.org/prolife/tdocs/index.shtml.
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Iowa Catholic Conference newsletter

You know you're in the second half of the legislative session when the department appropriations bills start to be introduced. House File 645 is the education appropriations bill. Interestingly, for the first time in my recollection it seems that the two parties will each bring out separate appropriations bills for each department. The House version of the bill keeps textbook funding for Catholic school children at the same level. We will be working for an increase. We still have several issues "in play" at the capitol and action alerts are available with sample messages to legislators. Watch our Action Center for further developments and alerts. Current alerts include:
  • House File 576 - prevents government from subsidizing insurance for abortion
  • Senate File 388 - Regulation of payday loans
  • Support increase in Earned Income Tax Credit
  • House Joint Resolution 6 - Marriage amendment
  • House File 5 - Abortion prohibition/fetal pain

Read more . . .

Archbishop Dolan's homily from the Catholics at the Capitol day in Albany March 8



Archbishop Dolan 2011 Public Policy Day homily
www.youtube.com
New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan preaches at the opening Mass for the New York State Catholic Conference's 2011 Catholics at the Capitol Public Policy Day, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY.
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Kansas House Approves Bill Keeping Adult Businesses Away from Churches and Schools

The House Wednesday passed the Community Defense Act, legislation that would prevent “adult entertainment” centers from being built within 1,000 feet of churches, schools, parks and homes.  The legislation now moves to the Senate, where it fell one vote short of passage last year.  The Kansas Catholic offered testimony during a hearing on the legislation earlier in the session.
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Maryland Maintains Marriage

Maryland defeats same-sex marriage bill. Thank you to everyone who prayed and made their voices heard! You made the difference and gave support to legislators to vote their conscience.
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School Choice Bills Move Forward

School Choice Bills Move Forward

Both the House and Senate moved forward this week with significant school choice legislation.  In particular, the House passed a bill (HB 2581) to increase the tuition tax credit limits from $500 to $750 for individuals and from $1,000 to $1,500 for married couples.  Additionally, this legislation would make other helpful improvements to current law including an expansion of those eligible to make a donation under the corporate tuition tax credit.
Meanwhile, an identical tuition tax credit bill (SB 1312) has been moving through the Senate and received preliminary approval by the Senate Committee of the Whole this week.  SB 1312 is expected to receive a formal Senate floor vote in the near future.
Additional good news occurred this week when the Senate gave formal approval to bills that would create a marital preference for adoptions (SB 1188) and expand religious protections for professional employees (SB 1288).   Both bills now move to the House for further consideration.
Finally, it should be noted that the Senate Committee of the Whole gave preliminary approval this week to legislation (SB 1265) that would prohibit tax credits for donations made to organizations performing or referring for abortions.  We are very grateful to the hundreds of people that responded to our Action Alert on this bill and expect a final Senate vote on SB 1265 soon.

MCC Action Alert

To take action on this alert, click here!
The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) has worked for many years on expanding school choice options for parents regardless of where they fit on the economic strata by trying to promote legislation at the state capitol that helps remove barriers to school choice. 
House File 273, which provides enrollment options for students in persistently low-performing schools, will be heard this week in two House Education Committees at the state legislature. MCC supports this bill because it provides private school scholarship assistance to low-income students who are enrolled in persistently low-performing public schools. This bill helps remove barriers and increase opportunity, quality and achievement in K-12 education by providing options to low-income families who otherwise have very limited educational options.
Likewise, this measure offers alternative solutions for helping solve the distressing achievement gap for disadvantaged children.  As a just society, it is a moral imperative to provide educational options to children when they are not experiencing success in a persistently low-performing school.  Catholic Social Teaching instructs us that access to quality education is a basic right for all people.  This education scholarship legislation would create options for the poor by providing more choices for parents whose incomes might otherwise leave them with few options for choosing the educational program that best suits their family’s needs and values.  At its core, this bill addresses a social justice issue and empowers parents, as the primary educators of their children, to choose the school that best fits the needs of each of their children.
We urge you to take immediate action! To contact the key members of the House Education Reform and Education Finance Committees, fill out the email message below!  Follow this link to read a summary of HF 273 http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/bs/87/HF0273.html… .
Thank you, in advance, for being an advocate for children with limited educational options!
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State’s Catholic Bishops Issue Guidance on Charitable Giving

North Dakota’s Roman Catholic bishops are asking Catholics to make charitable giving decisions consistent with Catholic teaching.  “Catholics are compelled by the Gospel to responsibly promote the protection of human life, families, and the common good,” according to the statement.  “At the same time, we urge attentiveness to the possibility of endorsing an organization whose mission or affiliation may be morally objectionable or, at least, questionable.”
The
statement notes that “Catholic entities should consider whether the mission and activities of the organization are consistent with Catholic teaching, particularly as it pertains to human life and marriage” and that “Church facilities should not be used to promote, endorse, or fundraise for such organizations if their policies are contrary to Church teaching.”
The
statement by Bishop Paul A. Zipfel, of Bismarck and Bishop Samuel J. Aquila, of Fargo was released on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a traditional period of charitable giving in the Catholic Church.
Read the full statement.

Legislative Agenda

Click here to view the MCC’s 2011 Legislative Agenda
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Weekly Legislative Update

Final Vote on Access to Sonogram Bill will be on Monday, March 3 This week the House debated HB 15, the Access to Sonogram Bill. The bill was brought up for debate on Wednesday, recommitted to the State Affairs committee that evening, and brought up again on Thursday. During Thursday's debate, we were pleased to see that the confidential informed consent amendment passed. Several weakening amendments were rejected. After several hours of debate, the bill was passed to engrossment, or third reading. The House will meet to debate the bill on Monday, March 3, and will need to pass it one more time for final passage, after which the bill will move to the Senate.  Thank you to all advocates who have responded to our action alerts and contacted their Representatives to ask for support on this important legislation. It is not too late to make calls if you haven't:
 
Find out who your Representative is and his or her contact information 
hereIf you'd like us to automatically insert your name, city, and other personal information into your message, please update your profile with that information here Sample Message: "Hello, my name is  Name  and I am a Catholic in City , Texas and as a constituent I ask that you support House Bill 15 for final passage. This legislation would require a physician to review a woman's sonogram with her prior to her having an abortion. The woman is not required to view the sonogram . I support this bill because it provides the mother with more information about her unborn child and may help the mother realize the humanity of her unborn child and choose life. Thank you for your time. For more information you can contact the Texas Catholic Conference at 512-339-9882." Please act by March 7, 2011. You can find out more information on this bill and the debate on the bill at the Texas Legislature Online bill page here Texas Bishops, along with other senior Texas religious leaders, issued a statement this week in calling for a new and gracious tone in the State immigration debate. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said that faith communities support immigration reform but see it as a federal issue outside the control of the Texas Legislature.  "Our nation's immigration system is flawed and results in suffering not only within our borders, but also throughout the rest of the world. Our faith traditions have called strenuously and tirelessly for Congress to reform our federal immigration system, and we will continue to do so," DiNardo said. You can read the full statement online here. We encourage all religious leaders to sign on to the statement, you can do so online here.  We also released a joint statement with the Catholic Health Association of Texas on Catholic Health Care in Texas. You can read it online here, and you can read it in Spanish here.

We testified on several bills this week, including bills relating to immigration law enforcement, affordable housing, the death penalty, smoke-free work environments, and choose life license plates. You can view a list of all of testimony online here. We were pleased to see SB 257 (Choose Life License Plates) voted favorably from committee. We also have a few bills in committee next week which we will be testifying on, you can view these bills below. Next week Most Rev. Gustavo García‚ÄźSiller, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Most Rev. Joe Vásquez, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, will be participating in a press conference on the Payday and Auto Title loan issue. Please show your support for closing the loophole in state law that allows payday, auto title, and other consumer loans to carry annual percentage rates upwards of 500% by signing the Texas Faith for Fair Lending's Petition online here. Parishes can download the resolution here or request postcards here. You can read Cardinal DiNardo's letter to his elected officials on this issue here.

Bills in Committee Next Week
The following bills are in committee next week,  
click here for a full action alert on these bills. Please check the web site for the most up-to-date listing, as some committee agendas have less than a week's notice. 
  • HB 289 - Human Trafficking
  • HB 938 - Access to health care coverage
  • SB 35 - Special education programs
  • SB 228 - Stem cell research
  • HB 710 - Access to food assistance
  • HB 1481 - Person-first, respectful language for people with disabilities
 

Lansing Update

The current issue of Lansing Update has been posted to the Michigan Catholic Conference Web site at:

http://www.micatholicconference.org/public-policy/publications/lansing-update/


In This Issue:

1.  Legislation Banning Partial Birth Abortion Moves to Full Senate

2.  Polling Indicates High Public Support for Preserving EITC

ARIZONA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE LEGISLATIVE UPDATE


 The Arizona House of Representatives gave formal approval to two significant pro-life bills this week.  The first measure (HB 2416) would require that women be offered the chance to view an ultrasound of their unborn baby before an abortion is performed.  HB 2416 was passed by a 40-18 margin and continues to move forward.
 
The other significant pro-life bill approved by the House this week was a proposal (HB 2384) to eliminate tax credits for people making donations to abortion providers.   Presently, the full Senate is close to considering an identical measure (SB 1265).  If you have not already done so, please go to www.azcatholicconference.org and follow the “Action Alert” to encourage your state senator to vote yes on this important bill.
 
With regard to pro-life legislation, it should also be noted that both the House and the Senate approved resolutions (HCR 2034 and SCR 1017) this week recognizing the great work done by crisis pregnancy centers in Arizona.  It was very nice that a large contingent of crisis pregnancy center representatives were on hand to witness these votes and be recognized by their elected officials.
 
A positive family related bill (SB 1188), meanwhile, received tentative approval on the Senate floor this week.  In particular, SB 1188 would create a preference for married couples in adoptions, assuming all other factors were equal.  A formal third read vote will hopefully come soon.
 
Finally, there has been no movement this week on the problematic immigration bills relating to birthright citizenship (SB 1308 and SB 1309); hospital admissions (SB 1405); and the immigration omnibus (SB 1611).   These bills are likely to reach the floor eventually, but many do not expect them to do so until the budget is completed.

Payday loan regulation

Action alert - Regulation of Payday Loans

Support SF 113

Take Action!

Payday loan regulation
 
The Iowa Catholic Conference supports Senate File 113. It would restrict payday lending by capping the maximum interest rate at 36 percent. Currently interest rates can reach up to 400 percent.
Payday loans are short-term cash advances, usually for $300 to $500, based on the borrower’s personal check held for future deposit (the next pay day), or on electronic access to the borrower’s bank account.
Payday loans would not pose a concern if borrowers could typically pay off a loan with their next paycheck. Unfortunately, in practice, payday loans prove to be a long-term debt trap, not a quick financial fix. Because of these high fees and short terms, borrowers usually cannot both repay their payday loan in full and meet the rest of their monthly expenses.
As a result, a typical payday loan borrower in Iowa has 12 payday transactions per year, usually on a back-to-back basis. Only one percent of loans are made to one-time borrowers.
We believe the effective interest rates of these loans are unjust. Instead of promoting the financial stability of consumers, the system actually creates a financial incentive in the failure of families rather than their success.
Help reform payday lending for all Iowans. Please send a message to your Senator in support of SF 113.



Chaput: Protect Marriage

ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT'S COLUMN March 2, 2011 Protect marriage: Speak out against Senate Bill 172
Senate Bill 172 will get its first hearing in the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee next week on March 7.  Senate Bill 172 seeks to legalize civil unions.  It would explicitly grant such unions the same status as marriage in the law.    Let’s be clear that all persons deserve our respect, and t...
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Catholic Conference Supports Renewed Effort to Ban Partial-Birth Abortion in State Law


(Lansing) – Michigan Catholic Conference released the following comments from President/CEO Paul A. Long regarding Senate Bill 160, legislation which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today that would ban partial-birth abortion in this state:

“There are few practices known to mankind that are more gruesome and deplorable than that known as partial-birth abortion, where a viable child is partially delivered from his or her mother before an abortionist kills the child by puncturing the skull with a pair of scissors.  The fact that there is opposition to banning this heinous practice speaks to the injustice unborn children face every day.  Considering Senate Bill 160 mirrors the federal partial-birth abortion ban found constitutional in 2007 by the United States Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart, there should be no reason to question the legality of this widely-supported measure.  

“Pew Research Center surveys have found that upwards of 75 percent of the general public support keeping partial-birth abortion illegal.  According to Pew: ‘Even among those who say abortion should be legal in all cases, almost half (49%) believe that partial-birth abortion procedures should be illegal. Overall, only 17% of Americans say that partial-birth abortion should be legal.’ Unfortunately, partial-birth abortion is legal in Michigan due to court challenges and executive vetoes. It is time for this injustice to end!

“It is the hope of the Michigan Catholic Conference that Senate Bill 160 sails through the Legislature, as similar measures have done on four separate occasions over the last 15 years, and is signed into law by Governor Snyder.”

HELP STOP FUNDING TO ORGANIZATIONS PROVIDING ABORTIONS



Take Action!

Please Support SB 1265

 
The Arizona Senate will soon vote on important pro-life legislation (SB 1265) that will prohibit people contributing to organizations providing, referring, or promoting abortions from being eligible to receive a tax credit for these donations. 
The public policy in Arizona has been to not provide government funding for abortions.  SB 1265 furthers this goal by removing a government created incentive for donations to such organizations.
Recently, the Arizona House just approved identical legislation (HB 2384).  It is expected that SB 1265 will soon reach the Senate Floor, where if it passes will be then sent to the Governor.
Now is the time to let your senator know of your support for this important legislation.  Please take a moment and politely encourage your senator to vote YES on SB 1265!