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2015 Legislative Preview

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March 5, 2015

A flood of bills hit the California Legislature as the deadline for submission of new legislation arrived last week.  Lawmakers will now start hearings on more than 2,400 bills introduced in the first year of its two-year session.

The California Catholic Conference staff is evaluating the bills and designating them significant, major or monitor.  Many in the latter category will drop off as their details become more apparent.   Others have already been marked ‘support’ or ‘oppose.’  For those that do not indicate a position, it usually means that the staff is working with legislators to understand the intent and scope of the legislation before making a recommendation.

Below is our assessment of trends in key legislative areas.  You can see specific bills and their status in the Legislation Section of our website:

Reverence for Life                      

Bills dealing with the reverence for life cover a wide range of topics such as abortion, women’s health, pregnancy care, newborn screenings, nurse practitioners and midwives.  Significant changes in regulations to health care facilities and clinics are also evaluated on how they impact life. 

Of course, this year we are in strong opposition to one very dangerous bill in the legislature: SB 128, which will attempt to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in our state.

This session, legislators will be dealing with investigational drugs, biological products and devices and Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST).   They will look at giving patients a “right-to-try” experimental medical treatments and whether to create a statewide registry for POLST documents.

Marriage and Family Life

Lawmakers will be considering a significant amount of legislation relating to children, specifically the topics of child care, foster care, and child support.  The budget committees will also attempt to address these issues and will likely consider possible policy changes and funding reforms, as they continue to hear from advocates on these issues.

Marriage has never been as challenged as it is today. Fewer people are “tying the knot,” children are slipping into poverty as people retreat from marriage, family structures are changing and children are growing up without fathers in the home. Yet the Catholic Church has good news about marriage and many ways to help couples as they share a life together as husband and wife.   See more at about trends in marriage today on our website. 

Immigration

Immigrant-related bills span a variety of areas, including increasing protections against fraud and discrimination, offering health care for undocumented residents of our state, extending educational opportunities and access to Dreamers, and once again, another joint resolution urging Congress and the President of the United States to work together to create a comprehensive and workable approach to reform the nation’s immigration system.

Education

Lawmakers will work on fine-tuning the implementation of Common Core State Standards and the Local Control Funding Formula.  Curriculum measures will be examining ways of strengthening Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, career pathways, and high school/college dual enrollment coursework.

Several bills are aimed at education tax policies to provide equitable tax relief measures that empower parents as well as teachers to educate those children entrusted to their care, and creative tax incentives which inspire greater philanthropy (and savings) in order to that expand resources and opportunities for early childhood through college.

Access to high quality preschool as well as postsecondary learning is also a priority – along with the preparation, support and accountability of teachers.  Caring for foster youth and ensuring a safe learning environment at school are both on the docket for the year. 

Restorative Justice

California is pursuing historic changes to its corrections system.  These changes are having a substantial impact at the state, county and community levels and are the subject of many bills. 

Prop. 47 approved by voters last November will reduce incarceration for low-level crime and invest the subsequent savings into prevention and treatment.  It may need some tweaking as lawmakers also look a ways to make sure that projected savings from reduced incarceration go to the various agencies and programs specified in the proposition.. 

Promotion of Human Dignity

This legislative session we will be looking at several ways to alleviate poverty among people in our state.  Legislation to repair the decimated safety net includes measures to raise the minimum wage so that the working poor are able to make an income above the federal poverty line and establish an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to give assistance to the working poor.

As with last year, the Conference will support a measures to eliminate the Maximum Family Grant (MFG), rule which penalizes CalWORKs families if they have another child and to expand coordination among services and programs, so that when a family signs up for one program they are able to find out if they qualify for another.