House Committee Scales Back Earned Income Tax Credit for Low-Income Workers

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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Kansas House Okays Two Pro-Life Measures

The Kansas House of Representatives passed two landmark Pro-Life bills today by wide margins.
HB 2035, which combines a new parental consent requirement for minors with an array of Pro-Life provisions passed and vetoed repeatedly in recent years, was approved 96-25.  The Kansas Catholic Conference previously testified in support of this legislation.
HB 2218 would prohibit abortions during and after twenty weeks, measured from conception, on the grounds that unborn children can feel pain at that time.  It was passed 91-30.  The Conference testified on this legislation as well.
Both bills will now move to the Senate.  Governor Brownback has indicated that he will sign any Pro-Life legislation that reaches his desk.
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Religious Freedom Bill Tabled

A majority of members of the House Judiciary Committee voted to indefinitely postpone further consideration of legislation today that would protect the religious liberties of Kansans.  The decision by Committee members to “table” is tantamount to a vote against the legislation.
The First Amendment freedoms that all Americans take for granted are being encroached upon, as freedom of religion is being defined down to mean freedom to worship in private and nothing more.  The Kansas Catholic Conference
testified on behalf of this important bill last week.
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Support for Religious Freedom

The Kansas Catholic Conference testified Thursday on behalf of legislation that would protect the religious freedoms of individuals and institutions in Kansas.  Joining the Conference in support of the legislation was the Alliance Defense Fund.
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Hearing on Two Pro-Life Bills

On February 16, the Kansas Catholic Conference testified in the House Insurance Committee on behalf of two Pro-Life bills: HB 2292 and HB 2293.  HB 2292 would prevent insurance companies from offering abortion as a routine part of coverage, so ordinary Kansans do not have to pay for other people’s abortion with their premium dollars.  HB 2293 would prevent state employees from using their pre-tax health care flexible spending accounts for abortion services.
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Committee Passes Fetal Pain Bill

Friday, the House Federal and States Affairs Committee passed legislation that would restrict abortions past 20 weeks based on the ability of the unborn to feel pain.  Earlier in the week, medical experts testified that the unborn feel pain at this stage.  The Kansas Catholic Conference also offered testimony, in the hope that this legislation will both protect as many unborn Kansans as is possible under existing Supreme Court abortion jurisprudence, and educate Kansans as to the humanity of the unborn.
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Crisis Pregnancy Funding Stronger

The Catholic News Agency recently took a look at Kansas’ Stan Clark Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative, which provides women facing challenging pregnancies with a support system, including counseling on alternatives to abortion.  Catholic Charities is the primary provider of these critically important services that help women, often low-income, choose life. Read More >>
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House Committee Acts to Regulate Sexually Oriented Businesses

Yesterday, the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee passed “The Community Defense Act,” legislation that would prevent sexually oriented businesses from building within 1000 feet of churches, schools, parks, and homes.  The Kansas Catholic Conference testified in support of the legislation earlier in the week.  The debate over this bill occurs as Jefferson county contends with the case of a sexually oriented business attempting to build a facility within 1000 feet of a local school.
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Kansas Catholic Conference Testifies on Behalf of Crisis Pregnancy Program

Thursday, the Kansas Catholic Conference testified on behalf of the Stan Clark Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative, which provides women facing challenging pregnancies with a support system, including counseling on alternatives to abortion.  Catholic Charities is the primary provider of these critically important services that help women, often low-income, choose life.  The program has come under attack from past governors but has the current governor’s support.
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House Committee Approves Session’s 1st Pro-Life Bil

The House Federal & State Affairs Committee on Thursday approved HB 2035, legislation that would put into law many of the previously passed Pro-Life bills that have been vetoed by previous governors.  It will also require minors to obtain parental consent before having an abortion.
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Budget Priority: The Vulnerable

The Kansas Catholic Conference has sent a letter to Governor-Elect Brownback describing its budget priorities for the coming year.  In the letter, the Conference urges the governor to protect those programs that serve the neediest among us.  The letter also describes the Conference’s support for crisis pregnancy assistance and strong opposition to taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.
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From the Director

Those with their fingers on the pulse of popular culture might be inclined to believe that personal freedom has never been more robust than it is in 2010 America.  After all, with high art like “Desperate Housewives” and “Jersey Shore” on the entertainment menu, it is fair to say that we are not exactly living in an era of great restriction on self-expression.
Or are we?  Freedom of conscience is proving to be a far different matter than the freedom to exhibit bad taste.  For those still lulled by a sense of complacency regarding religious liberty, a recent court case should serve as the canary in the coal mine.
On June 28, in
Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the University of California’s Hastings College of Law could deny recognition to the Christian Legal Society (CLS), because CLS bylaws requiring fidelity to Christian beliefs have the effect of excluding students who practice and advocate a homosexual lifestyle from holding voting or leadership positions.
This stunning decision is hardly an outlier.  Earlier this year, Congress and the president approved a health care reform bill that does not prevent government agencies from discriminating against health care providers that decline involvement in abortion.  This comes on the heels of an Obama Administration proposal to rescind conscience protection regulations for Pro-Life medical personnel.
Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that the decision by Belmont Abbey, a Catholic college in North Carolina, to not provide contraceptives in its health plan was discriminatory.  And on it goes.
In September, while standing in the very hall where Thomas More was sentenced to death in 1535 for opposing King Henry VIII’s split with the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict warned of “a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square.”
How is it that, in a time of freedoms unimaginable in More’s day, the right of religious people to be full participants in public life is teetering on the precipice?  Perhaps because some rights are more fundamental, and thus more threatening to the ruling class, than others.
Foreign policy experts once promised that the dramatically increased economic freedoms in China in the decade after Tiananmen Square would inevitably be accompanied by political freedom.  That has not happened.  Instead, some now wonder if this formula is the new model for 21
st century authoritarianism.
The democracies of the western world have begun to experiment with their own adaptation of compartmentalized freedom.  The right to rent “Hot Tub Time Machine” is not in jeopardy.  The right to adhere to orthodox Christian beliefs while working in academia, medicine, and elsewhere very much is.
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