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OSV: State Catholic conferences in religious liberty battles

Concerns over religious freedom have taken center stage in recent months as one of the primary issues on the agenda of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And though the bishops’ national effort is just beginning, similar battles are well under way at the state level. 

State Catholic conferences, which serve as the local bishops’ public policy arm, have for more than a decade been embroiled in a variety of struggles to ensure that laws do not infringe upon Catholics’ right to practice their faith. Of late, those battles have intensified.  

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Missouri: Immigration Bill

Have you heard about the immigration bill going through the Missouri Senate? Read more here.

MCC Speaks Out Against Immigration Bill

www.mocatholic.org

In a Missouri Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, advocates for immigrants voiced their opposition to a bill (SB 590) that would require schools to check students’ immigration status and send that information to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The bill, sponsored by…..

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ARIZONA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE 2011 LEGISLATIVE WRAP-UP

By Ron Johnson
Arizona Catholic Conference

Significant Pro-Life Advancements

On the 100th day of the legislative session, the Arizona Legislature adjourned sine die at 5:25 a.m., making it one of the shortest sessions in recent years. Before its completion, however, the 2011 legislative session featured a number of monumental achievements, especially with regard to pro-life legislation.

In particular, the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) is very grateful that legislation we supported (HB 2416) was signed into law so that women seeking an abortion must first be offered a chance to see an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of their unborn child.

Another of the many pro-life highlights this year also included passage of a measure (HB 2384) to deny tax credits for donations to organizations referring for or providing abortions. We believe that both HB 2416 and HB 2384 are meaningful new laws that will save lives and benefit women and children.

In addition to these bills, the Legislature passed into law several positive measures specifying that: 1) physician assistants cannot prescribe medications for abortions (SB 1030); 2) nurse practitioners are not allowed to include performing abortions within the scope of their practice (SB 1169); and 3) abortions performed for the purpose of sex or race selection are prohibited (HB 2443).

With regard to the death penalty, the ACC was also pleased that the agency entrusted with providing a quality legal defense to those on death row was continued for another five years (SB 1245).

Finally, all of the hostile measures attacking pro-life interests were defeated without a hearing, including bills to mandate the distribution morning after pills (HB2428) and another relating to assisted suicide (SB1447).

Problematic Immigration Measures Fail

The good news from this past legislative session also continued with regard to high profile immigration bills that failed to pass this year.

Included among these problematic immigration bills opposed by the ACC were measures that would have, among other things, done the following: 1) denied birthright citizenship to undocumented immigrants born in Arizona (SB 1308 and SB 1309); 2) required hospitals to check the legal status of all patients (SB 1405); and 3) mandated that children enrolling in elementary school provide proof of legal status (SB 1611).

The ACC is grateful to all of the state senators who had the conviction and courage to vote no on these bills.

We also very much appreciate the hundreds of e-mails that were sent to elected officials on these bills by people responding to our “Action Alert.”

Concerns for Marriage, Families, and Vulnerable Populations

With regard to issues relating to marriage, positive legislation was signed into law creating a preference in adoptions for married couples when all other factors are equal (SB 1188). Similarly, another good proposal that became law was one requiring the education programs on divorce offered by the courts to include a component on the long-term effects of divorce on both the adults and children (SB 1187).

There were no direct attacks on the institution of marriage, but there was an unsuccessful attempt to repeal the charitable organization tax credit benefiting organizations like St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities, and crisis pregnancy centers. In light of the severe budget cutbacks to social services for low income people, the ACC is particularly pleased that this effort failed.

Additionally, there were the usual unsuccessful attempts to repeal the tuition tax credit program which benefits needy children attending Catholic and other private schools throughout Arizona. These tax credits enable parents to send their children to the schools that best fit their needs while saving the state money.

The ACC worked with a number of allies to not only defend, but also expand, school choice this year and are tremendously appreciative of the 900 messages sent in response to our “Action Alert” on this issue.

Thankfully, we were able to defend all current school choice laws and see the passage of a new program creating education savings accounts for disabled children this legislative session. While we were hoping to do even more expansion on the tuition tax credits this session, we remain grateful for the gains achieved and look forward to even more progress in 2012.

Conclusion

Finally, the ACC is grateful to all of the people and groups who supported our efforts through prayers and e-mails this session. We look forward to working with you again on the issues of greatest importance to the Catholic Church.

As always, your assistance in encouraging anybody you know to sign up for free e-mail updates at www.azcatholicconference.org will help us continue to grow the influence of the Catholic Church on these matters.

Have a Blessed Easter

Christ is Risen!
Indeed, He is Risen!

Arizona: Governor Brewer Signs Ultrasound Bill

Last weekend, Governor Brewer signed into law a very positive pro-life bill (HB 2416) that would require all women receiving an abortion to have the opportunity to view an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of their baby at least an hour before the procedure. We are grateful to Governor Brewer for signing this bill which will better serve women and save the lives of many unborn children.

Earlier this week, another pro-life bill also made progress as HB 2384 was approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor. HB 2384, among other things, would prohibit people from receiving tax credits for donations to organizations providing or referring for abortions and will hopefully become law soon.

Similarly, on Tuesday, a tremendously beneficial bill (HB 2581) moved forward to increase the limits for the individual tuition tax credit program from $500 to $750 for single people and from $1,000 to $1,500 for married couples. HB 2581 would also increase the donor pool for corporations under the corporate tuition tax credit program and presently awaits action by the Governor.

If you have not already done so, please take a moment and send Governor Brewer a respectful note thanking her for supporting school choice in the past and politely asking that she sign HB 2581 into law. You can send such a message, by going to www.azcatholicconference.org and using our “Action Alert” system.

Finally, before the week ended, it should also be noted that the bill (HB 1188) to provide a preference for married couples in adoptions when all other factors are equal, passed the House and is now ready for Senate concurrence.

We expect much more action next week as the Legislature prepares to wrap up all business sometime this month.

Arizona: Help Support School Choice Legislation

Please Ask Governor Brewer to Sign HB 2581

The Arizona Legislature has just passed important school choice legislation (HB 2581) that would provide helpful improvements to Arizona’s scholarship (tuition) tax credit statutes.

Included in this legislation is an increase for individuals claiming this tax credit from $500 to $750 and for married couples from $1,000 to $1,500.  Additionally, HB 2581 would increase the number of potential corporations that can receive a tax credit under the corporate scholarship (tuition) tax credit.

Arizona’s tuition tax credit laws are an important tool allowing parents to send their children to the schools that best fit the needs of their children.  In doing so, the State of Arizona saves millions of dollars when Catholic and other private schools are able to educate children at a much lower cost than the State would otherwise have to incur if they went to public schools.

Without Arizona’s tuition tax credit laws, thousands of low income and minority children would not be able to attend the schools that best fits their needs.  The private schools serving these populations are closing all across the country.  In Arizona, many of these same schools are struggling to keep their doors open and are very reliant on these tax credits to keep their doors open.

For all of these reasons, please take a moment and follow the “Take Action” link and encourage Governor Brewer to sign HB 2581

Arizona: Support Pro-life Legislation Take Action!

Please Ask Governor Brewer to Sign HB 2416

The Arizona Legislature has just passed important pro-life legislation (HB 2416) that would require women to be offered the chance to view an ultrasound of their unborn children before an abortion.

HB 2416 would also, among other things, prohibit the practice of using telemedicine for abortions.  In Iowa, doctors are allowed to talk over an electronic device to a patient they have not examined in person and then push a button distributing abortion pills to the patient.  HB 2416 would stop this practice from spreading to Arizona.

In a nutshell, HB 2416 will help protect women and their unborn babies and deserves to become law.

Accordingly, please take a moment and follow the “Take Action” link to encourage Governor Jan Brewer to sign HB 2416.

Take action

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.