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Legislative Deadline, Action Alerts, Fr. Serra

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May 29, 2015

Assisted Suicide Bill Moves to Senate Floor

Legislative efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide are nearing a vote on the Senate floor as SB 128 was cleared by the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 5-2 vote.  As with other legislation (see below), the bill must pass its house of origin by next Friday, June 5.

Phone calls, petitions and thousands of emails from Catholic Legislative Network members, disability-rights groups, physicians and others opposed to the legislation are raising doubts in the minds of several legislators but the vote is likely to be very close.

A bill backed by the President Pro Tem, Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), the Majority Whip, Lois Wolk (D-Davis), and the Majority Leader, Bill Monning (D-Carmel) has considerable force behind it.  Nevertheless, several Democratic legislators will either vote “No” or abstain (which under the rules of the California legislature is as good as a “No” vote) demonstrating the significant discomfort and controversy surrounding the bill. 

One of the major concerns is for the safety for disabled Californians, who may be subtly or, even, openly pressured to “request” the option.  Many are also concerned that when physician-assisted suicide has been legalized in places like Oregon, the “social contagion” suicide rate has skyrocketed.  Suicides have risen by 49 percent since doctors began prescribing lethal doses to their patients.  Finally, oncologists – physicians who deal with dying patients on a regular basis and who are most familiar with the process – remain firmly opposed to the practice.  The American Medical Association remains. 

You can Take Action on SB 128 – and we urge you to do so now – by visiting our Action Center.    

More information is also available at Californians Against Assisted Suicide.

Woman with Terminal Disease Fights Assisted-Suicide Law

Stephanie Packer, a 32-year-old wife and mother of four, was told in 2012 that she had three years to live. Packer says she often feels alone, unwilling to burden her husband and family with her fears. “When you are sick and dying, everyone around you is going through it, too,” she notes. “It’s a ripple effect that touches everyone around you, but you can’t let it consume you.”

She was diagnosed with scleroderma, a chronic connective tissue disease. Scleroderma affects each person differently; in her case, the disease has caused scar tissue to form in her lungs making it difficult for her to breathe, and has paralyzed her gastrointestinal tract, making eating impossible.

Yet far from letting the terminal diagnosis define or defeat her, Packer has found purpose in actively working to combat California’s proposed End of Life Option Act, SB 128. She speaks on media panels and at ethics conferences and tries to advocate for other dying patients. She resides in the Diocese of Orange.  Learn about Stephanie's Journey

Flurry of Legislative Activity as Deadline Looms

The deadline for bills to pass their house of origin is next Friday, June 5.  As a consequence action is being taken on a number of important bills that the Conference is following.  You can see a complete list on our Legislation page.

AB 775, the Reproductive FACT Act, which would discriminate against any and all pregnancy centers/clinics that hold a pro-life viewpoint, has passed out of the Assembly and is now on its way to the state Senate.  You can read the complete details here and send an email to your State Senator opposing this blatantly unconstitutional and discriminatory legislation here.

Naturalization Services Program (NSP) - The Assembly and Senate Subcommittees that heard this issue passed their budget bills and they both included $20 million for grants to non-profits to provide naturalization services for legal permanent residents. The measures will next be considered in the full Budget Committee.   (Read more.)  The committee also approved the repeal of the Maximum Family Grant with the included of $158 million from the General Fund.  The bill approving the funding is SB 23 CalWORKs Eligibility and one of our Catholic Advocacy Day bills.

AB 337 (New Teacher Tax Credit), also an Advocacy Day bill, passed out of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee. However, an amendment was added that would exclude new K-12 private school teachers from utilizing this credit.  Sadly AB 337, as amended, would have created an unprecedented and discriminatory public policy which excludes a class of citizens that is contrary to our common good and needed to be corrected. AB 337 was recently held in the Appropriations Committee. The state’s expense under AB 337, in support of both new public and private school teachers, would have been very small. Yet the relief provided by such a bill to California’s beginning educators would be substantial.   Therefore, we will continue to advocate for a similar measure. AB 1371, an K-12 education expense tax deduction for parents, was made a two-year bill and will be heard later this fall.

The final Catholic Advocacy Day bill is SB 124 to reform the use of solitary confinement for juveniles.  It also moved to the full floor after receiving an affirmation in Senate Appropriations.

Siempre adelante (Always Forward)

Catholics from around the United States are highly anticipating Pope Francis’ visit in September to New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.  This visit will be the pope’s first to our shores and promises to be memorable.

One highlight will be the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra.  Father Serra played an important role in laying the foundations for the state of California.  Hardly a Californian exists that does not remember learning about the Catholic Missions in fourth grade and Father Serra’s legacy.

This canonization will mark the first U.S. Hispanic saint and emotions are varied.  Many Hispanic groups feel the canonization shows appreciation for their role in U.S. history.  On the other hand, some Native American groups are concerned because they are critical of the colonization practices of the 18th century Spanish Empire.

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On the Web

One of the main reasons Pope Francis is visiting the United States is to participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.  Initiated twenty years ago by Pope St. John Paul II to highlight the dignity and importance of the family in human culture, the event will take place in Philadelphia.  You can read more about it in Judy Barret’s blog post, Love Is Our Mission.

Bishop Stephen Blaire joined in an ecumenical walk during the Memorial Day holiday to protest the growth of violence in the central Valley city of Stockton.  You can read about it here.