Jan 2011

Protect Marriage in Maryland!

Protect Marriage in Maryland! Contact your state senator immediately urging opposition to SB 116, a bill that would drastically alter the definition of marriage. For a quick and easy way to email your senator, go to http://capwiz.com/mdcath/home/

Maryland Catholic Conference - Maryland Government
Information on Maryland's government.
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Tom Hickson Joins MCC as Vice President for Public Policy

(Lansing)Michigan Catholic Conference announced today that Tom Hickson has joined the organization as Vice President for Public Policy, effective January 31. Hickson’s primary role will be to act as the chief liaison between state government and the Catholic Church in Michigan.

“Tom has established himself on both sides of the aisle as one of the premier legislative advocates in this state, and we are very pleased he has chosen to bring his many talents and extensive experience in state government to our organization,” said Paul A. Long, MCC President and Chief Executive Officer.  

Prior to joining the Conference Hickson was Director of Legislative Affairs for the Michigan Association of Counties, where he was responsible for coordinating legislative strategies to advance that organization’s policy agenda.  Tom has also served as legislative liaison for the Department of Environmental Quality, as assistant legislative liaison for the Department of Natural Resources, and as a policy advisor in the Michigan House of Representatives.  He has also served as a legislative assistant to former State Representative Andrew Richner and as constituent relations assistant to former State Senator Jon Cisky.  

In 2009 Hickson finished second in a MIRS News Insider Survey that ranked the state’s most influential lobbyists. He fills the vice president position left vacant by Paul Long, who in September 2010 was appointed by the MCC Board of Directors to succeed Sister Monica Kostielney as President and Chief Executive Officer.  Tom is a 1996 graduate of Albion College, having earned duel bachelor degrees in Economics and Management and Political Science.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.  Founded in 1963, the Conference presents to state government its positions on a wide range of issues that seek to advance the common good, including education, economic justice, human life, restorative justice, religious freedom and policies that impact children and families.

How Does North Dakota Rank in it’s Treatment of Nonpublic Schools?

Lesson One: School Approval and Teacher Mandates
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New Texas Catholic Voice

New Texas Catholic Voice
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Selection of Justice Corrigan as DHS Director ‘Commendable’ Says MCC

Michigan Catholic Conference today released the following statement regarding the appointment of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan as director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. Continue reading…

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Catholics at the Capitol

Catholics at the Capitol, the NYS Catholic Conference's annual public policy forum in Albany, will be held on Tuesday, March 8, at the Capitol complex. Join the Bishops of New York State and 1,000 fellow Catholics to lobby on various important issues (to be announced shortly). Online registration will open soon. Keep watching our updates and mark your calendar!
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ND Catholic Conference: No to Broad Hate Crimes Bill

The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified yesterday against a broadly written “hate crimes” bill that would have infringed upon religious liberty.  The Bismarck Tribune story is here.
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Cuomo Calls for Redefining Marriage

Gov. Cuomo's state of the state address called for redefining the historic definition of marriage in New York State. The prepared text also included a paragraph calling for passage of the radical abortion bill first championed by Eliot Spitzer. The Catholic Conference will be vigorously opposing both of these proposals in the coming months.
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Texas Bishops React to AZ-Style Immigration Policy

At a press conference today, Texas’ Roman Catholic Bishops rejected Arizona-style immigration policies as a solution in Texas.
“Immigration is good for Texas. Arizona-style policies, on the other hand, have several pitfalls and risk decreasing the very safety of Texans,” said Andrew Rivas, the Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Bishops of Texas. “We look forward to working with the legislature and our immigration partners to enact state-appropriate laws that recognize the historic and present-day contributions of immigrants in Texas.”

Iowa Newsletter

To: Iowa Catholic Conference Legislative Network
I hope you have had a blessed Christmas season. Now that we’re settling back into a daily routine, it’s time for our annual preview of the legislative session, along with some important upcoming dates.
At the request of Governor-elect Terry Branstad, there will be an interfaith Service of Dedication at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines on Thursday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. The cathedral is located at 607 High Street.
Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates, Cantor Linda Shivers, and Lt. Governor-elect Kim Reynolds' pastor from Osceola, Chuck DeVoss, will be part of the service. The public is invited. RSVPs are requested at www.governorbranstad.com.
The Prayer for Life event, co-sponsored by the Iowa Catholic Conference, will be held Tuesday, Feb. 8. The day kicks off at 9:30 a.m. at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Des Moines (601 Grand Avenue). Parking is available nearby in city ramps.
The main speaker is Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic manager who resigned after assisting in the performance of an abortion and viewing the baby on ultrasound. Since then, she has been traveling the country sharing her story and motivating others to continue the pro-life fight.
Following a training session and lunch, participants will be invited to go to the Capitol to meet their legislator and then participate in a rally in the rotunda at 3 p.m. There will be a suggested donation for lunch. Please RSVP by calling Iowa Right to Life at (515) 244-1012 or via email at iowa@iowaRTL.org.
The annual Legislative Mass of the Iowa Catholic Conference is also scheduled for Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. The Mass will be celebrated at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines. The public is invited to participate with the four diocesan bishops of Iowa. Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates will preside. The Mass is intended to bring Catholics together with state legislators to pray for wisdom in decision-making for all those who serve in government. We will also pray in thanksgiving for legislators’ service to the people of Iowa. The Iowa Catholic Conference legislative breakfast is Feb. 9.
Next Monday, Jan. 10 is the opening day of the 84th Iowa General Assembly. Gov. Chet Culver will give his final Condition of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 11.
To recap the election results, the Democrats hold a 26-23 edge in the Iowa Senate. A special election will be held Jan. 18 for the Senate seat formerly held by Larry Noble, a Republican from Ankeny, who has been appointed commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. The Iowa House is controlled by Republicans by a 60-40 margin.
On Jan. 3, the Iowa House Republican leadership pre-released a 59-page bill, the “Taxpayers First Act,” which they said would save the state’s budget about $500 million over five years.
Some items of interest in the bill include:
  •  creation of a “Tax Relief Fund” for the reduction of taxes when state surpluses occur
  •  eliminate funding for the state’s required “core curriculum” for schools with the intention of developing new standards
  •  eliminate the current “free” preschool program with the intention of expanding tuition assistance for preschool based on the parents’ income
  •  end all state benefits to adult unauthorized immigrants
  •  enforce residency requirements for all human services programs
  •  reduce the number of people who would be eligible to receive family planning benefits
  •  eliminate the Iowa Power Fund and Rebuild Iowa office
  •  require state employees to pay a minimum of $50 per month for their health insurance
  •  add $16 million for court-appointed attorneys for the defense of indigents
  •  provide a $25 million appropriation to eliminate mental health waiting lists in counties; and repeal the current county-based mental health system and put a new, more uniform, system be put in place
  •  reduce funding for the state’s health care coverage commission
This bill is the first volley of the session, which is set to end on April 29. It wouldn’t be surprising if it went longer because of differences of opinion between a Republican House and a Democratic Senate over the state budget.
The Iowa Catholic Conference has five committees. The Communications Committee helps us get the word out about what we’re doing. The other four committees are Education, Family Life, Pro-Life and Social Concerns. Many of our issues don’t fall neatly in one committee or another, but let’s take a look at some of the issues we’re likely to address during the upcoming session.
There is always a great deal of legislative activity regarding PreK-12 education in Iowa. Since Catholic schools are accredited by the state and generally must follow all the state’s regulations for schools, we pay very close attention to what’s going on legislatively.
We continue to support efforts to expand the School Tuition Organization program which helps low- and middle-income Iowans receive tuition assistance to send their children to the school of their choice.
As you read earlier, the state’s preschool program enacted in 2007 is being targeted for elimination by Republican leaders, to be replaced with a preschool voucher program for lower-income Iowans. We will take part in this discussion, as appropriate, with an eye toward supporting parents as the first and primary educators of children as well as sustaining the best interests of our Catholic schools.
Currently, many Catholic preschools receive funds from the local public school district to offer preschool that is tuition-free to the parents.
In addition, we will be working for additional funding for textbooks and full reimbursement for transportation of private school children.
The Iowa Catholic Conference continues to support an amendment to Iowa’s constitution which would recognize marriage only as a union between one man and one woman. While an amendment has good prospects in the Iowa House, the Senate Majority Leader, Michael Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), has said that he will not call an amendment up for a vote.
The Church teaches that the nature of marriage is such that it can only exist between a man and a woman. They are partners in expressing love for each other and for transmitting human life. 
Prospects for legislation which would limit abortion are brighter than they have been in years. The threatened opening of a late-term abortion clinic in Council Bluffs has increased the attention on the need for such laws. There may be several bills introduced. These bills may provide for:
  •  prohibition of abortions after a certain gestational age due to fetal pain
  •  prohibition of abortions performed after a webcam consultation
  •  an informed consent process – 24 hour waiting period before an abortion, with an opportunity to view an ultrasound
Our Catholic faith calls us to seek the protection of the unborn. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always gravely immoral (The Gospel of Life, 57); its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family.
It is also possible that a reinstatement of the death penalty will be proposed. The Church opposes the use of the death penalty in our society. The state already imposes a life sentence without the possibility of parole for murderers.
An ongoing concern during the past couple of years has been the impact of the state’s budget shortfall on the safety net for the poor and vulnerable. Although the amount of the shortfall is debated, it is likely that it is several hundred million dollars.
It seems possible that state legislators will introduce an “Arizona-type” bill, or several bills, which would provide for additional local enforcement of federal immigration law.
Regular readers of this newsletter are aware that the fundamental concern of the Catholic Church is the protection of human dignity at all levels. Therefore we recognize and support the right and duty of nations to protect their borders, to prevent criminal and terrorist acts, and to safeguard culture and the rule of law. From the same principle, we also recognize the right of people to migrate, for both political and economic motives, and the obligation of hospitality for wealthier nations.
A state enforcement bill would affect community policing and the safety of the public. The use of police officers to enforce immigration laws can seriously undermine the relationship between local police and the communities in which they serve. Immigration law is extremely complex and local authorities would find it difficult to ascertain immigration status. Taking on the additional enforcement of federal law would be costly as well.
Any law that provides, or seems to provide, legal cover to racial profiling negatively affects all members of our communities, including legal residents and citizens. We believe our state would benefit from legislation that protects human dignity, encourages humane and charitable communities, and makes it possible for us to attract needed additional citizens and residents who can contribute to the life and economy of Iowa.
One such bill would be a proposal that in other states has been called the “DREAM Act.” This has been a long-time priority of the Conference. The legislation would allow undocumented high school graduates who are residents of Iowa to be eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities in the state of Iowa. The students would have grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble. We believe the legislation would be a good building block for positive immigration reform and help add talented, motivated, multi-lingual and multi-cultural people to our workforce.
The Iowa Catholic Conference continues to support the regulation of payday loans, which can carry interest rates of about 300 percent in Iowa. We encourage the legislature to limit the interest rate on payday loans to 36 percent.
Payday loans would not pose a concern if borrowers could typically pay off a loan with their next paycheck. Unfortunately, in practice, payday loans prove to be a long-term debt trap, not a quick financial fix. Because of these high fees and short terms, borrowers usually cannot both repay their payday loan in full and meet the rest of their monthly expenses.
A typical payday loan borrower in Iowa has 12 payday transactions per year, usually on a back-to-back basis. Unfortunately, only one percent of loans are made to one-time borrowers. It only takes a few months for the amount of fees to cost more than the loan itself.
A debate is shaping up over health care. There is a group of legislators who are interested in keeping the state from cooperating with the new federal health care law. There is another group interested in preparing for the 2014 implementation of the law as quickly as possible.
The Iowa Catholic Conference, as well as the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, has consistently supported initiatives to make health care more readily available and affordable to all Iowans, including immigrants and their children.
At the same time, we want to prohibit the state from including (and financially supporting) abortion coverage in any health insurance plans offered through a new “health care exchange.” With a few exceptions, it has been the longtime policy of the state to avoid financially supporting abortions.
We also support the rights of medical professionals and institutions to decline to participate in procedures they find immoral.
There may be efforts in the legislature to follow up on the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Graham v. Florida” decision, which eliminated the possibility of a life sentence without parole for juveniles who commit a crime other than murder. The Iowa Catholic Conference has supported bills which would eliminate a life sentence without parole for juveniles for all crimes. Such a bill would not require their release at any time.
While we believe in responsibility, accountability and legitimate punishment, we also believe that a juvenile who commits a crime may not have the benefit of a fully-formed conscience. They may not be fully aware of the seriousness of their actions. Therefore their culpability may be lessened.
However, offenders who commit very serious crimes when they are juveniles may gain, with maturity, an understanding of the gravity of their crime and be able to rejoin society under some conditions.
Developments in society during the past few years have given rise to concerns about the ability of individuals and religious institutions to exercise their religious liberty and conscience rights.
Religious organizations and individuals should not be forced to violate their deeply-held beliefs. Without religious conscience protections, the ability of religious organizations to live out their teachings will be diminished. We are especially concerned about the provision of social services as well as the educational ministry of Catholic schools. Examples would be: required curriculum on marriage and sex education, rental of facilities, hiring of staff, denial of access to government benefits and requirements for adoption programs.
The State of Iowa has a long history of protecting religious freedom as a fundamental right. We anticipate that a Religious Conscience Act will be introduced during the next session with the support of the Iowa Catholic Conference. We believe that respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion ensures all of our freedoms.
Thanks for taking the time to go through this lengthy update. At the end of next week we plan to return to our usual weekly newsletter schedule which we provide during the legislative session.
I would also appreciate it if you could put the work of the Iowa Catholic Conference in your prayers from time to time. We are always in need of assistance in our discernment of the effects of legislation and the path of prudence.
Tom Chapman
Executive Director
Iowa Catholic Conference
P.S. Don’t forget to let us know when you get a new email address. Click on “Join the Network” at www.iowacatholicconference.org.

Advocates for School Choice PA

National School Choice Week is January 23-29, 2011. We anticipate that just in time for the celebration, school choice legislation will be introduced in Pennsylvania. To mark the occasion a pro-school choice group called Students First has scheduled a rally at the State Capitol in Harrisburg on January 25, 2011, at 2:00 pm.
If you are interested in attending, more details will be available at
http://www.studentsfirstpac.org/ or call Students First at 717.340.6030. If you can come to Harrisburg on January 25, PCC has a new tool online to help groups plan their trips to the Capitol. It includes details about visiting your legislators, parking buses, eating lunch and finding your way around the Capitol Complex. Explore what it has to offer at http://pcc.lobbytracpa.com/home/.
If you cannot attend the rally that day, you can still voice your support for school choice. Watch for future action alerts from ACE-PA in the coming weeks. We will keep you posted as this “hot topic” progresses. Visits in the home district, phone calls, faxes, letters and e-mails still count.
The PCC and the Bishops of Pennsylvania know the sacrifices that families endure for Catholic education.  With that in mind we are lobbying for school choice legislation that will allow more parents to choose nonpublic school and will assist parents who already send their children to nonpublic schools.  In addition, we will seek to safeguard the Catholic identity of our schools and make sure the boundary between Church and state remain intact.
2011 is shaping up to be a good year for the school choice movement, but we will need your help to be successful. The future of Catholic education in Pennsylvania depends on all of us.  If you have any suggestions on improving ACE-PA or increasing our membership, please contact me at
smcaleer@pacatholic.org .

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MN Nonpublic Schools’ Legislative Day

Register Now for the MN Nonpublic Schools’ Legislative Day!
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2011-2012 Pennsylvania General Assembly sworn in

The recently elected members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly were sworn into office today marking the beginning of the 2011-2012 Legislative Session.
Senator Joseph Scarnati was elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Representative Samuel H. Smith was officially sworn in as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Do you know who represents you? Use our elected
official look up tool to find out.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) will be pursuing many different issues in this new legislative session.  Would you like to receive news, information and action alerts about the issues you care about as they develop here in Harrisburg? Become a member of the Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network. Follow the instructions on the
Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy network page.
Join us. Let the Catholic voice be heard. Make a difference.

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Florida Bishops Issue Statement on Immigration

The Bishops of Florida have issued a statement on immigration which coincides with National Migration Week celebrated January 2-8, 2011 in parishes around the United States. Their message focuses on the flawed federal immigration system that divides families, causes economic hardship and diminishes the dignity of the human person. 

The full statement.