MCC: As end of session nears, still time to act

| May 6, 2015 | 0 Comments
Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference delivers remarks April 29 at a Restore the Vote rally at the State Capitol, supporting a bill that would allow convicted felons voting rights after incarceration. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference delivers remarks April 29 at a Restore the Vote rally at the State Capitol, supporting a bill that would allow convicted felons voting rights after incarceration. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

As a May 18 deadline to finalize a state budget looms, Minnesota legislators continue to work on a number of bills that the Minnesota Catholic Conference has weighed in on during the session. Jason Adkins, executive director and general counsel for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said now is a “crucial juncture” on all the bills.

Among legislation the Church supports is restoring a convicted felon’s right to vote after incarceration. In an April 22 letter, Archbishop John Nienstedt urged state legislators to pass H.F. 342 and S.F. 355. He said doing so would help offenders renew their lives, reduce recidivism, conserve public resources and “help foster the political participation of minority communities disproportionately affected by the current criminal justice system.”

“The inability to vote and have a say in decisions that affect their family is another stumbling block faced by those trying to reconcile themselves to the community,” he wrote.

It passed the Senate April 23 as part of the judiciary omnibus bill. Despite broad and bipartisan support, Adkins said the bill has slowed down and snagged “for more political reasons than substantive ones,” adding that work continues during the last weeks.

Other key legislation areas include: establishing a commission to study surrogacy, education funding and school choice, allowing Minnesotans without legal status to obtain provisional driver’s licenses or state-issued identification, prenatal Trisomy diagnosis awareness, opposing physician-assisted suicide, and repealing and replacing the MinnesotaCare health plan.

Adkins said the session has been successful in bringing substance to conversations and building bridges.

“Every legislative session you can’t necessarily measure success or failure in terms of what gets passed and what doesn’t,” he said, “because the Church aims to bring to light human dignity issues. In terms of where the Church needs to be in conversation at the Capitol, it’s been successful.”

For more information about the status of specific legislation of concern to Catholics, visit the Action Center page at http://www.mncc.org.

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