Bishops lobby on education, life, family, vulnerable

| Minnesota Catholic Conference | March 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

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Cristo Rey Twin Cities senior Trinere Montgomery tells why schools like hers are important during videotaped testimony at the State Office building in St. Paul March 9. Her taped testimony, as well that of several other students attending Catholic schools in the archdiocese, was to be shown to the Senate Education Committee as it debates a bill on school choice. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Editor’s note: The following is a legislative update provided by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which advocates on behalf of the state’s bishops for public policies and programs that support the life and dignity of every human person.

The Minnesota Catholic Con­fer­ence has been busy lately with many fast-moving bills at the State Leg­is­lature. Here is an update on some current proposals:

Education

House File 273, which provides en­rollment options for students in persistently low-performing schools, was being heard in the House Edu­ca­tion Finance Committee on March 14. MCC supports this bill because it provides private school scholarship assistance to low-income students who are enrolled in persistently low-performing public schools.

Students from St. Pascal Baylon School in St. Paul and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis came to the State Office Building to record their testimony. It was a great opportunity for students to explain to our lawmakers how Catholic schools can provide opportunities for high achievement for every family that would like to choose Catholic education, regardless of income level.

The MCC supports Senate File 641, The Equity and Opportunity in Education Tax Credit, which will create an 80 percent tax credit for those who choose to donate money to an educational scholarship foundation. Scholarships will go to low-income children who will then be able to attend the K-12 school of their choice. Additionally, there will be scholarships available for all Minnesota children ages 3 to 5 to attend the preschool of their choice.  This bill was to be heard in two Senate committees on March 15 and March 17.

Life

House File 936, a bill that will protect pain-capable unborn children by prohibiting abortions at or after 20 weeks of gestation, was scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Health and Human Services Reform March 16. The bill allows for exceptions to this prohibition when abortion is necessary to save the life or avert serious risk of physical impairment 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. Life advocates are very hopeful that these facts will help this legislation pass and survive court challenges.

MCC also supports House File 998, which would prohibit human cloning, and House File 201, which would limit use of state funds for abortions. Both bills were to be heard in committees March 15 and 16.

Family

Authors for a bill for a constitutional amendment that will defend the definition of marriage have been identified. The bills have not been introduced yet because legislative leaders will take up social issues that do not have a fiscal impact once budget bills are passed.

Social concerns

It was a joyful moment last week in the House Public Safety Com­mit­tee when House File 556, which will protect victims of child trafficking by decriminalizing juvenile prostitution and creating safe harbor and services for victims, was passed unanimously by committee members. Trafficking victim advocates are hopeful that a Senate companion bill will be introduced soon.

Senate Files 509 and 479, which would require voters to show photo identification, were heard on March 14. The MCC is concerned about these proposals — not because having voters show photo identification is an inherently bad idea, but because there are a number of studies that show that surprisingly high numbers of elderly, minority and low-income people do not currently have photo identification.

The MCC is worried that, without funds allocated to offer outreach and assistance (e.g. for help with paperwork and transportation) for people currently without identification, such a new requirement would disenfranchise eligible voters.

Many large bills, including the omnibus budget bills, will be coming up for hearings in the next couple of weeks.

Stay connected

Visit http://www.mncc.org for updates and action alerts on issues important to the MCC and Catholics around the state. You can also find the MCC on Facebook and Twitter (@MNCatholicConf).

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