Kansas: Senate Passes Health Care Conscience Bill

The Kansas Senate has sent conscience protection legislation to Governor Brownback’s desk, which he is expected to sign.  The bill will protect health care providers from being discriminated against if they refuse to provide — or refer for — drugs and devices they reasonably believe could cause an abortion.  Find your state senator here and see how he or she voted:

Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Bruce, Donovan, Emler, Kelsey, King, Longbine, Love, Lynn, Masterson, McGinn, Merrick, Morris, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, A. Schmidt, Taddiken, Umbarger, Wagle.

Nays: Brungardt, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hensley, Holland, Huntington, Kelly, Kultala, Marshall, Owens, Reitz, V. Schmidt, Schodorf, Teichman, Vratil.

Absent or Not Voting: Steineger.

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Kansas: Conference to Speak to Moral Issues in Tax Reform

The Kansas Catholic Conference offered testimony today addressing the moral principles that should be adhered to as the Legislatures considers the many tax reform proposals before it.  Governor Brownback has proposed a significant overhaul of Kansas’ income tax code, which would include the elimination of most tax credits and a lowering of income tax rates. Read More >>

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Kansas: Governor Brownback Unveils New Tax Plan

Governor Sam Brownback has unveiled a new tax proposal that would lower income tax rates, put the state on a path to no income tax, and would eliminate a host of popular deductions in the state tax code.

Advocates for the poor expressed concern that the plan would end the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which benefits the working poor.  The Governor, however, insists that the funds from ending the EITC will not go towards tax cuts but will rather be used to fund state social services programs that assist the needy.  His plan also doubles the standard deduction often claimed by lower income filers.

Nonetheless, critics of the plan contend that it still places a disproportional burden on those with low incomes.  The governor’s surrogates respond, however, that the plan is fair and that the needy stand the most to gain from the economic growth and increase in jobs that the plan is designed to encourage.

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Kansas: Not on the Menu: School Choice

When the Kansas Legislature convenes in January 2012, one issue that will likely not receive serious consideration is the matter of school choice.  This, despite the fact that legislators are expected to debate Governor Brownback’s proposal for a new school finance formula — seemingly an opportune time for a conversation about the vital role Catholic schools play in educating Kansas children.

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of “the protection of the right of parents to educate their children” as being “not negotiable.”  Yet in this country, too many parents are not empowered to choose their children’s education.  The location of one’s house, and frequently the value of that property, all too often determines what kind of education one’s child will receive.

Parents who opt for a Catholic education must resign themselves to paying tuition twice: once in taxes dedicated to public education and once in tuition for the Catholic school.  This reality makes a Catholic education unattainable for many who would otherwise gladly take advantage of it.

School choice legislation — perhaps better described as parental rights legislation — can take many forms.  A voucher system would allow the tax dollars a family pays for education to follow the child to the school of their choice.  Milton Friedman, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics and who was promoting vouchers in the 1950’s, believed that government financing of education and government operation of schools were two different matters and that the former did not necessarily imply the latter.

Nonetheless, there are those who fear that government funding of private schools will inevitably come with too many strings attached.  They tend to support what are called tax-credit scholarship programs, where individuals and corporations receive a tax credit for making donations to scholarship organizations, which in turn use the donated funds to provide scholarships for kids to use at private schools.

To legislators concerned with the perilous state of the Kansas budget but unconcerned with the challenges facing Catholic schools, the following thought-experiment is proposed: suppose every Catholic school in Kansas was closed and those roughly 29,000 students were suddenly dumped into the public school system.  Where would you find the money to pay for the public education they are entitled to?  Surely the taxes their parents have been paying all these years for their education is sitting there waiting for them, right?

In an age when it seems almost routine for the government to force taxpayers to pay for other people’s abortions, contraceptives, and sterilizations, the merest suggestion that public funds be used to help a disadvantaged child attend a private school is considered beyond the pale, dangerous, suicidal for politicians, and even unconstitutional.  The Framers of our Constitution, rolling over in their graves, must wonder what madness has infected our times.

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Kansas: From the Director

“Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics….”

– President Obama at Notre Dame, May 2009

 

“Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.”

–The Aeneid

 

Two and a half years after President Obama was given an honorary degree at America’s flagship Catholic University and delivered its commencement address, at least we have clarity.  The folly of those Catholics who issued and defended that invitation, like the Trojans who wheeled the great wooden horse inside their city walls, has been laid bare.  Willful blindness regarding this Administration’s true intentions is no longer possible.

With the eager assistance of old friends at Planned Parenthood, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius recently unveiled a list of “preventive services” that all private and public health plans will eventually be required to provide.  It includes contraceptives, sterilization, and even the abortifacient “ella,” which has the capacity to end a pregnancy after fertilization.  Because the new policy prohibits copays or deductibles for these “services,” they will for provided for “free.”  Which means they will be paid for with the premiums and taxes of people who do not use these services and who object to them.

The most insidious aspect of this new “contraceptive mandate” is the so-called religious exemption, which only applies to religious employers that have the inculcation of religious values as their purpose, and that employ and serve people who share their religious beliefs.  It will therefore not apply to Catholic universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations that serve the general public.

This is of a piece with the Obama Administration’s various efforts to define religious freedom down to mean nothing more than the freedom to worship in private.  The broad, two-centuries old understanding of the First Amendment’s guarantee of “free exercise” is being eviscerated.  A new, circumscribed understanding of religious liberty is being implemented, by fiat, by those who reject religion’s legitimate contribution to the public square.

Thus under the new policy, religious institutions are only rewarded with a religious exemption if they restrict their activities to worship.  But if they function as full participants in society, bringing their faith to bear on public life through education, health care, and advocacy, they will then be forced to provide medical services they find deeply immoral.

Religious freedom is the cornerstone not only of our constitutional order, but of the American project itself.  Four hundred years after the Pilgrims set sail for these shores, a generation seemingly anesthetized to all concerns other than self-gratification stands on the verge of forfeiting our most precious inheritance, like Jack and the Beanstalk, for some free pills.

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Kansas Catholic Conference » From the Director Marriage Report Unsatisfactory

State auditors recently issued a report examining the question of whether benefit programs in Kansas contain disincentives to marriage.  The report was released as the Brownback Administration is considering proposals to remove such disincentives and to pursue other public policy options to strengthen marriage.

The substance of the issue, which is to say the question of which, if any, public policies can encourage and strengthen marriage, will be hotly contested in the coming legislative session.  The Brownback Administration is already getting pummeled in the press for even talking about the subject.  However, the state auditors’ report became controversial over process.

The report concluded that most benefit programs have criteria that could potentially encourage people from getting married.  However, the auditors also reported that they talked to 23 people who receive state benefits.  Of these, most said that eligibilty criteria have little or no effect on their decision to marry.  Auditers also talked to some state employees overseeing benefit programs, and they for the most part agreed.

The auditors made clear that this was nothing remotely like a scientific study or poll, and that nothing could be extrapolated from such a small sample size.  But they nonetheless felt compelled to include the information.

The report was released to a panel of legislators that oversee such audits.  Senators Mary Pilcher Cook and Terry Bruce suggested that the report was not up to snuff, and that a sample size of 23 people was laughably inadequate.  Representative Virgil Peck pointed out that people receiving government assistance might not be especially inclined to tell government auditors that their marriage plans have or will be influenced by how much money they get from the government.  Unsurprisingly, those opposed to the marriage-reform ideas floated by the Brownback Administration were quick to defend the report.

The question remains: why even include the “polling” data if you simultaneously announce that nothing can be extrapolated from it?  Either conduct a scientific poll, or don’t conduct a poll at all.  The report gives the appearance, fair or not, of being biased against the marriage reform proposals.  And predictably, Capitol-watchers were quick to spread the news that benefit programs do not disincent marriage, based on the flimsy polling.

The state audit report is fundamentally compromised by the shabby effort put forward to investigate this question.  If a scientific poll is impossible or too costly, then that fact , rather than the results of an unscientific man-on-the-street questionnaire, should have been entered into the report.  Why not just have Jay Leno ask random passers-by what they think?

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Kansas: SRS Announces Changes to Welare Programs

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) has announced changes to the way it administers the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), and Child Care Assistance programs.  The changes will be phased in over the next few months.

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Kansas Catholic Conference » From the Director; HHS Contraceptive Mandate: The Triumph of Ideology

The administration that promised to “make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology” has, again, acted to advance the interests of its ideological allies in the culture war.  Planned Parenthood asked for the recent contraceptive mandate, and it received.  Health care plans will now be required to provide birth control for free to essentially all women, and under the Obama administration directive, “plans can no longer charge a patient a copayment, coinsurance or deductible” for these services.

In other words, cancer patients will continue to deal with copays and deductibles, but extremely wealthy women seeking birth control are now entitled to get it for free.

Unsurprisingly, the new mandate includes free coverage of the abortifacient drug “Ella” that can act to destroy human embryos after fertilization.

There is of course a scientific, non-ideological rationale behind all of this: contraceptives are very hard to come by in contemporary America, few people have them, and if more people could get them, we would have fewer unintended pregnancies (and therefore fewer abortions….this mandate is in fact really Pro-Life!).

Not very convincing.

In fact, birth control is ubiquitious.  America is awash in contraceptives.  Archbishop Dolan colorfully descibed the situation when he said, “My word, what have we done the last 30 years. There’s candy bowls on people’s desks with condoms, they’re dropping them from airplanes, yet nothing seems to improve, so they’ve been on the wrong track here.”

From Helen Alvare:

Further, “scientific” claims in the materials upon which Secretary Sebelius relies — that more birth control is the answer to unintended pregnancy, nonmarital births, and abortion — all rely on carefully cherry-picked studies on discrete populations. The most important data is not mentioned or addressed. But if you look at a time series correlation between government promotion of birth control and rates of all of the aforementioned outcomes, you find a direct relationship between more of the former and more of the latter. Whether it’s correlation or causation (and I believe causation is the far better empirically supported conclusion), in no sense has government contraception promotion “prevented” anything it claims to prevent.  Even people who wholeheartedly hope that birth control will solve our problems can clearly see this. Currently, the population is and will continue to be saturated with mostly insurance-covered and government-subsidized (for the poor) birth control. All who want it can have it.

Of course, free contraceptives and abortifacients aren’t actually free.  The Obama Administration’s crusade to subsidize consequence-free sex will indeed have costs.  The costs will be borne by all of the people who do not use these “services” but who nonetheless will see a rise in their premiums, copays, deductibles, etc.  Make no mistake, the insurance companies will pass on these costs.

Perhaps the heaviest cost will be borne by the individuals and institutions whose conscience rights are trampled upon by this mandate.  Catholics do not want to pay for other people’s Ella with their premium payments.  The mandate’s religious exemption is drawn so narrowly that Catholic institutions could end up in a situation where they are no longer able to provide health care coverage to their employees because of their refusal to be complicit in the acquisition of these services.

This is where we have arrived.  People may lose their health insurance so that rich women can get free contraceptives and abortifacients.  This is the triumph of ideology over science, and over common sense.

Historic Pro-Life Bills on Their Way to Governor’s Desk

The Kansas House of Representatives gave final approval today to two bills that will transform Kansas, long known as the late-term abortion capital of the country, into a model for state Pro-Life legislation.  The House approved Fetal Pain legislation by a vote of 94-28 and late-term abortion and parental consent legislation by a vote of 100-22.  The bills now await action by Governor Brownback, who has expressed strong support for them both.

Late-Term Abortion & Parental Consent (HB 2035):

Yeas 100; Nays 22; Absent or not voting: 3.  (63 needed for passage)

Yeas:  Alford, Arpke, Aurand, Bethell, Billinger, Boman, Bowers, Brookens, Brown, Bruchman, Brunk, Burgess, Burroughs, Calloway, Carlson, Cassidy, Collins, Colloton, Crum, DeGraaf, Denning, Donohoe, Fawcett, Feuerborn, Frownfelter, Garber, D. Gatewood, Goico, Gonzalez, Goodman, Grange, Grant, Gregory, Grosserode, Hayzlett, Hedke, Henry, Hermanson, Hildabrand, Hill, Hineman, Hoffman, C. Holmes, M. Holmes, Howell, Huebert, Johnson, Kelley, Kelly, Kerschen, Kinzer, Kleeb, Knox, Landwehr, Mast, McLeland, Meier, Meigs, Mesa, Montgomery, Mosier, Moxley, O’Brien, O’Hara, O’Neal, Osterman, Otto, Patton, Pauls, Peck, Peterson, Phelps, Pottorff, Powell, Prescott, Proehl, Rhoades, Roth, Rubin, Ryckman, Scapa, Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Shultz, Siegfreid, Smith, Spalding, Suellentrop, Swanson, Tyson, Vickrey, Weber, Wetta, Williams, B. Wolf, K. Wolf, Wolfe Moore, Worley.

Nays:  Ballard, Bollier, Carlin, Davis, Dillmore, Finney, Flaharty, S. Gatewood, Gordon, Henderson, Kuether, Loganbill, Mah, McCray-Miller, Ruiz, Slattery, Sloan, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Winn.

Absent or not voting:  Fund, Kiegerl, Lane.

Fetal Pain:

Yeas 94; Nays 28; Present but not voting: 0; Absent or not voting: 3.  (63 needed for passage)

Yeas:  Alford, Arpke, Bethell, Billinger, Boman, Bowers, Brookens, Brown, Bruchman, Brunk, Burgess, Burroughs, Calloway, Carlson, Cassidy, Collins, Crum, DeGraaf, Denning, Donohoe, Fawcett, Feuerborn, Frownfelter, Garber, D. Gatewood, Goico, Gonzalez, Goodman, Grange, Grant, Gregory, Grosserode, Hayzlett, Hedke, Henry, Hermanson, Hildabrand, Hineman, Hoffman, C. Holmes, M. Holmes, Howell, Huebert, Johnson, Kelley, Kelly, Kerschen, Kinzer, Kleeb, Knox, Landwehr, Mast, McLeland, Meier, Meigs, Mesa, Montgomery, Mosier, Moxley, O’Brien, O’Hara, O’Neal, Osterman, Otto, Patton, Pauls, Peck, Peterson, Phelps, Powell, Prescott, Proehl, Rhoades, Rubin, Ryckman, Scapa, Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Shultz, Siegfreid, Smith, Spalding, Suellentrop, Swanson, Tyson, Vickrey, Weber, Wetta, Williams, B. Wolf, K. Wolf, Wolfe Moore.

Nays:  Aurand, Ballard, Bollier, Carlin, Colloton, Davis, Dillmore, Finney, Flaharty, S. Gatewood, Gordon, Henderson, Hill, Kuether, Loganbill, Mah, McCray-Miller, Pottorff, Roth, Ruiz, Slattery, Sloan, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Winn, Worley.

Absent or not voting:  Fund, Kiegerl, Lane.

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Kansas – Senate Approves Historic Pro-Life Legislation

The Kansas Senate yesterday approved two bills that will transform Kansas, long known as the late-term abortion capital of the country, into a model for state Pro-Life legislation.  The Senate approved Fetal Pain legislation and late-term abortion and parental consent legislation by votes of 24-15.  The House of Representatives has already passed both bills by wide margins and will need to do so again.  Governor Brownback has expressed strong support for the bills.

Late-Term Abortion & Parental Consent:

Yeas 24; Nays 15; Absent or Not Voting 1.

Yeas:  Abrams, Apple, Bruce, Emler, Kelsey, King, Longbine, Love, Lynn, Marshall, Masterson, McGinn, Merrick, Morris, Olson, Ostmeyer, Owens, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Schmidt A, Taddiken, Umbarger, Wagle.

Nays:  Brungardt, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hensley, Holland, Huntington, Kelly, Kultala, Reitz, Schmidt V, Schodorf, Steineger, Teichman, Vratil.

Absent or Not Voting:  Donovan

Fetal Pain:

Yeas 24; Nays 15; Absent or Not Voting 1. (21 needed for passage)

Yeas:  Abrams, Apple, Bruce, Emler, Kelsey, King, Longbine, Love, Lynn, Marshall, Masterson, McGinn, Merrick, Morris, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Schmidt A, Taddiken, Teichman, Umbarger, Wagle.

Nays:  Brungardt, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hensley, Holland, Huntington, Kelly, Kultala, Owens, Reitz, Schmidt V, Schodorf, Steineger, Vratil.

Absent or Not Voting:  Donovan.

Senate Committee Approves Fetal Pain, Parental Consent Bills

The Senate Judiciary Committee last night approved two bills designed to ensure that Kansas is never again a destination of choice for those seeking late-term abortions.  The Committee passed Fetal Pain and Parental Consent bills, which now await consideration by the full Senate.  The House has already approved both bills.

Unfortunately, the critically important abortion clinic licensure bill was not considered by the Committee, which is not expected to meet again this year.

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EITC Scaled Back

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.

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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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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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