MCC’s 2018 legislative agenda shows relationship between issues

| February 6, 2018 | 1 Comment

Everything is connected. It’s a point at the core of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’,” and it’s an axiom the Minnesota Catholic Conference plans to emphasize during the Minnesota State Legislature’s 2018 session, which begins Feb. 20.

“The purpose … is to transcend the partisan divide, and at the same time, help legislators understand the connection between the issues,” said Jason Adkins, MCC executive director.

Adkins identified two themes — fighting the commodification of the human person and caring for “our common home” — that will shape the crux of the MCC’s work this session. Because Minnesota’s government is divided between a Democratic governor and Republican-led legislature, there’s not a lot of hope of getting significant work done, Adkins said. So, as the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, the MCC is looking for places where laws can be “prudently improved,” he said.

Within the MCC’s first theme, fighting human commodification, the MCC is backing legislation that aims to create new fines and penalties for illegal pornography activities, such as child pornography use, that will fund the state’s Safe Harbor Program, which fights human sex trafficking and helps victims.

Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, stands on the steps of the Minnesota Capitol in a Catholic Spirit file photo. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

The bill “publicly recognizes the link between pornography and human trafficking,” Adkins said. “Pornography is really just prostitution caught on film.”

Within the same theme, the MCC is also supporting the creation of a regulatory framework around the practice of commercial gestational surrogacy in the state, based on recommendations made by the 2016 legislative commission that studied the issue.

Prior to this year, the MCC had opposed the creation of a surrogacy market through legislation. MCC’s proposed regulatory framework would allow some surrogacy arrangements, but commercial surrogacy — in which surrogates and brokers receive compensation — would be banned.

Like the MCC’s approach to ending abortion, Adkins said, supporting robust surrogacy regulation in a state without any is an incremental approach toward “a better solution.”

He noted that it was especially appropriate to focus on the issue of human commodification in 2018, the 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI’s 1958 encyclical affirming the Church’s teaching on marriage, sex and birth control.

“What we see in human trafficking, surrogacy and pornography are really the natural logical outcomes from a broader embrace of contraception, or to say that sex can be separated from procreation,” Adkins said. “We have procreation outside of sex with surrogacy, or sex outside of procreation in terms of human trafficking and pornography. It’s what happens when you dissect the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act and take them outside of marriage. These are the results.”

The second of the MCC’s 2018 themes — care for “our common home” — involves three pieces of legislation. The first is to enshrine in Minnesota law that the right to water is a fundamental human right and that access to safe drinking water is a policy that always should be considered in decision-making about the state’s natural resources. The legislation is the Human Right to Water Bill, H.F.1095/S.F. 1968.

The second legislative piece aims to combat water scarcity issues by allowing system implementation for wastewater recycling, or the use of “gray water” — such as water collected from rain gutters — in construction projects, thereby reducing wastewater treatment burdens on local governments. The practice of diverting wastewater for use is limited in some municipalities, Adkins said, and this legislation aims to encourage the use of gray water systems.

The third part is affordable housing. MCC is backing legislation that would promote the preservation of existing low-income housing and bonds to build more.

“Connecting the cry of the earth with the cry of the poor [and] care for our common home also means not just natural ecology but human ecology, and affordable housing is a key factor in fighting poverty,” Adkins said.

He said the water issues are likely to draw bipartisan support.

Going forward, MCC expects to select advocacy themes that will combine two or three pieces of legislation for each session. Adkins hopes this approach makes its objectives clearer, both to legislators and Catholics.

“People are often confused about what ties our advocacy together,” Adkins said, noting that many other policy-focused organizations have a narrow focus. “We want to be more intentional about saying these things are connected. This is why we’re doing this: because we want to fight the commodification of human persons, and we want to care for our common home.”

Adkins anticipates that the session’s big issue will be state tax law conformity with the federal tax bill Congress passed in December. MCC is exploring how the law might impact larger families with deductions and credits, and how it might affect charitable contributions. Adkins is optimistic that the 529 savings plan expansion for tuition will have a positive impact on Catholic education.

Capitol 101

The Minnesota Catholic Conference is launching a new initiative: three Capitol 101 events to help Catholics understand the legislative process and key issues, and visit the State Capitol. The event will run 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 26, March 16 and April 17. For more information, visit mncatholic.org.

MCC is also partnering with the Archdiocesan Council Catholic Women for an advocacy day Feb. 22. For more information, visit accwarchspm.org.

It also co-sponsors the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition and its annual Day on the Hill, an ecumenical effort to combat poverty and work for social justice, March 13. For more information, visit jrlc.org.

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Category: Local News

  • Charles C.

    The portion of the Conference’s efforts under the banner of “Commodification of the Human Person” seems harmless enough. It is usually safe to increase “sin taxes,” no politician objects to having more money to spend. The surrogacy question needs more exploration. After being consistently opposed to it, the Conference believes some accommodation is desirable. I’d appreciate a more detailed explanation.

    On the environmental side, one bill was mentioned by its file number, so I took a look. I suppose that, with a lot of work, it could be made into something worth considering. As it stands now, it is vague, misleading and unworthy of support.

    Here it is, in it’s entirety:

    (a) It is the policy of the state that every human being has the right to safe, clean,
    affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.

    (b) All state agencies, departments, and boards must consider this state policy when
    revising, adopting, or establishing policies, regulations, and grant criteria when those policies, regulations, and criteria are pertinent to the uses of water described in this section.

    (c) This section does not expand any obligation of the state to provide water or to require expenditure of additional resources to develop water infrastructure beyond the obligations that may exist pursuant to paragraph (b).

    (d) Implementation of this section does not infringe on the rights or responsibilities of
    a public water system.

    Authors: Fischer in the House; Wiger and Dibble in the Senate. All are DFL.

    My problems with this act include the fact that this legislation doesn’t require the state or municipalities to actually do anything to get water to people. Sections (b & c) say the State doesn’t have to do anything except make rules, and Section (d) says no public water system has to do anything about it either.

    Section (a) says every human in the state has the “right” to water, thus displaying either an ignorance of the meaning of the word “right,” or introducing a new definition. As already noted, even though this is supposed to become a new right, the state’s only responsibility is to write rules to force private citizens to supply the water.

    And the state doesn’t even have that responsibility. For something that is supposedly a right, this act says that the various state agencies have to “consider” this policy. What was a “right” in section (a) is now only a “policy” in section(b), and the agencies only have to consider it. Consider it??? Is that like when you go to your boss asking for a raise and he says “I’ll consider it?”

    This piece of legislation is confusing and unnecessary. What water problem do we have now? And for every problem you can identify, I can probably identify the agency already in existence to fight it.

    But in general, the Conference has picked a bunch of low controversy issues which can be supported by any number of groups. I’m sure the Conference will go to the Capitol to present their views as Catholic, but they could be nearly any other group and no one would notice a difference.