Jul 2009

Minnesota: Working for the Common Good

Read the MCC’s latest publication of our newsletter, Working For The Common Good.
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Church Fights to Keep Tax Credit for the Poor

This week House Republicans introduced a plan to balance the state’s $1.7 billion deficit, which includes halting the full implementation of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. For several years MCC fought for the creation of this policy in an effort to lower the disproportionate tax burden on the working poor. More information about the EITC can be found in Anderson Economic Group’s “A Hand Up for Michigan Workers” 2008 report below. Visit website…
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Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Church Rights in Employment Cases, Affirms Right of Conscience

In a July 23rd ruling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court clarified the scope of the "ministerial exemption" that insulates churches from government interference in personnel matters.

In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that in determining whether a position in a religious organization is exempt from employment discrimination rules it is necessary to ask: 1) does the organization exist primarily to worship and spread the faith? and 2) How important or closely linked is the employee's work to the fundamental mission of the organization?

The Court ruled that this approach is less intrusive to churches than a "quantitative approach" that analyzes the amount of time the employee spends on religious duties. The court also strongly affirmed the right of conscience in the Wisconsin Constitution and held that it provides "expansive protections for religious liberty."

The ruling decided the case of Coulee Catholic Schools vs. the Labor and Industrial Review Commission (LIRC) and Ostland.

WCC Issues Action Alert on Health Care Reform

The WCC this week issued an Action Alert on the federal health care legislation now moving through Congress. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other pro-life groups are very concerned that the health care proposals being considered in both houses would mandate abortion coverage and weaken existing conscience protections. The USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat yesterday issued the following update:

"The health care debate has reached a critical stage in Congress. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee has approved a bill, after defeating a number of pro-life amendments. But, this bill is waiting for the Senate Finance Committee to complete work on the aspects of reform over which it has jurisdiction so the bills can be combined. The Finance Committee is trying to produce a bipartisan bill that addresses key criticisms of the Democratic-only bills moving forward thus far.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has interrupted the markup of a House "tri-committee" bill to see what can be worked out on a number of key issues that are blocking broader support for the legislation, including pro-life concerns. Two other House committees passed the bill earlier this week, but it is Energy and Commerce that has jurisdiction over the parts of the bill where pro-life concerns are most pertinent. If these concerns are not worked out by consensus among Energy and Commerce committee members we will soon be writing to the committee specifically supporting amendments to address them."

Update readers are urged to call or email their federal legislators through the WCC Action Alert, asking them to support health care reform that truly respects the life and dignity of all human beings.

Pomeroy Votes to Fund D.C. Abortions

North Dakota's Representative Earl Pomeroy voted to fund abortion on demand for the District of Columbia. The vote was 219 in favor of funding to 208 against.

Please contact Representative Pomeroy and politely express your disappointment with his vote - which is a departure from his usual votes on abortion funding. Other important abortion funding bills are coming up. It is important that he know that North Dakotans do not their tax money used for abortion.

Representative Earl Pomeroy
Washington: United States House of Representatives
1501 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: (202) 225-2611
FAX: (202) 226-0893
Bismarck: Telephone: (701) 224-0355
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 235-9760

Governor Pawlenty's Proposed Unallotments Harm the Poor and Vulnerable Among Us

Prior to the announcement of Governor Pawlenty’s unallotment plan, the Minnesota Catholic bishops wrote a letter to the Governor urging him not to “impose even greater hardships on those among us who are struggling to live.” In the June 12 letter, the nine Catholic bishops stated, “we are compelled to speak with and for those among us who voices are not always heard, and whose lives are oftentimes devalued. We are gravely concerned that our state’s unbalanced budget for FY 2010-11 will be resolved by further eliminating critical services for Minnesotans with urgent needs. We fear that additional spending reductions to beneficial health care and human services programs will have detrimental consequences for those who are poor and vulnerable, and ultimately to our state.”

Read more . . .

MCC Criticizes Congresswoman Kilpatrick’s Vote to Support Public Funding of Abortion in D.C

“Considering the abortion business’s own research indicates that public funding more than doubles the number of abortions, it is challenging to recognize Congresswoman Kilpatrick’s vote as anything but a nod to the abortion industry,” said the Conference. Read press release…



Summary of State Budget
The State Senate and Assembly passed the Conference Committee version of the state budget on June 26, 2009.  After amending the bill by veto, the Governor signed the budget into law on June 29.  The following summarizes issues of interest to the WCC. 
Foster Care and Kinship Care.  Increases foster care rates by 2.5% for relatives and by 5% for non-relatives beginning on January 1, 2011.  Fully funds kinship care benefits.
Foster Parent Training.  Funds a statewide foster parent training program.
Child Care Rating System.  Directs the Department of Children and Families to return to the Joint Finance Committee with a specific plan for establishing a state-wide quality rating system for child care providers receiving Wisconsin Shares subsidy payments.
Contracts for School Busing.  Permits Milwaukee Public Schools when withdrawing busing services for families that have two or more children attending the same nonpublic school building to offer each family a single transportation contract instead.
Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP).  Increases regulation and accountability in the MPCP, including imposing new testing requirements.  Requires MPCP schools to comply with school records laws, but allows for transfer of Catholic school records to the Archdiocese if parents agree to this arrangement.  Requires bachelor's degrees for MPCP teachers, but allows those teachers who have 5 years of continuous service to apply for a waiver that will allow them to continue to teach while obtaining a degree. 
Four-Year-Old Kindergarten Grants.  Provides funding for 4K programs, including start-up funding and grant preference for "community approaches" to four-year-old kindergarten. 
BadgerCare Plus Coverage of Childless Adults.  Supports expansion of coverage for childless adults statewide beginning on July 1, 2009. 
BadgerCare Plus Program Eligibility.  Deletes the term "unborn child" from parts of the statute pertaining to program eligibility.
Family Planning Waiver for Men.  Expands eligibility for contraceptive services to men ages 15-44 who meet the specified qualifications of the Medical Assistance family planning waiver program. 
Children's Long-Term Support Program.  Increases funding for Medicaid-eligible children with disabilities or severe emotional disturbances with at-home or community-based care. 
Mental Health and Substance Abuse.  Increases funding for community-based mental health and substance abuse treatment for low-income persons.
W-2 Eligibility for Pregnant Women.  Extends eligibility for a monthly cash benefit payment to women with no other children who are in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and are not able to work because of a medically verified at-risk pregnancy. 
Instate Tuition for Undocumented Students.  Provides that a person who is a citizen of another country is exempt from nonresident tuition if that person meets certain requirements. 
Criminal Justice Reform Initiative.  Redirects prison spending by reducing the time spent in prison for certain non-violent offenders and by increasing the use of community corrections. 
Tax-Exempt Housing.  Allows certain non-profit providers of low-income housing and housing for the aged to use rent income for multiple purposes and to retain tax-exempt status.  Requires that eligible homes for the aged be owned by "benevolent" organizations. 
Domestic Partnership Registry and Benefits.  Directs counties to permit same sex couples to register as domestic partners and receive selected benefits.
Pharmacy Contraception Mandate.  Mandates that all pharmacies have a duty to dispense and deliver lawfully prescribed contraceptives to a patient without delay when presented with a valid prescription.  No exemption exists for religious health care institutions.
Insurance Contraception Mandate.  Mandates that certain employee health insurance policies include contraceptive coverage.  No exemption exists for religious institutions.
Upcoming Hearings of Interest
(N.B.  Only bills of interest are flagged.  In most cases, committees will be considering other bills as well.)
Senate Committee on Education
11am, Thu., July 9, 201 SE
SB-41. School Environmental Quality (Sullivan) Directs DPI to create Indoor Environmental Quality in Schools Task Force to make recommendations for development of a model management for maintaining indoor environmental quality in public and private schools.
SB-154School Safety (Legislative Council) School safety plans, pupil records and school bullying.