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Insights: Suicide Bill, Mission Indians, Legislative Session Ends

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September 11, 2015

Assisted Suicide Clears Legislature

For their contribution to National Suicide Prevention Week, the California legislature approved a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide.  The fate of the bill is now in the hands of the Governor.

Supporters ignored the Governor’s admonition that the assisted suicide bill was inappropriate for a special session on health care financing when they passed ABx2-15 (Eggman, D-Stockton).  They also ignored the fact that the suicide rate in Oregon has risen since that state legalized the practice of doctors giving lethal doses of medication to patients.   Some even went as far as to say there has never been a problem with the law in Oregon, despite evidence to the contrary.

Finally, they continued to ignore legislative protocol, by bypassing a committee hearing in the State Senate and sending the bill directly to the floor, where it passed.

And, a final irony, one of the primary purposes of the special session was to deal with a $1 billion shortfall in Medi-Cal and other health care funding.  To date, the legislature has sent nothing to the Governor’s desk on that topic.

The Assembly spent nearly two hours debating ABx2-15, with more than 25 members speaking.  The final vote was 44 (Ayes), 35 (Noes) and 1 (Pass). Ten Democrats voted against this bill and another abstained from voting; three Republicans voted “yes.” (See how your Assembly Member or Senator voted on assisted suicide.)  Especially significant were the number of Assembly Members from low-income districts who pointed out the danger that physician-assisted suicide poses for their constituents:

"We appreciated many eloquent statements of assisted suicide opposition from progressive legislators representing low income districts,” said Tim Rosales, executive director of Californians Against Assisted Suicide.  “The bipartisan opposition and narrow Assembly vote indicates that there are still so many unanswered and troubling issues with this bill as it's rushed through this special session.

"This bill remains opposed by groups representing people living with disabilities, cancer doctors, people advocating for the poor and uninsured and faith based organizations."

ABx2-15 now moves to the Governor’s desk.  We will post an Action Alert next week to urge him to veto this legislation.

How Did the Mission Era Impact California Indians?

Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto, president of the California Catholic Conference, announced this week an ambitious 18-month program to review and revise the cultural content and displays at the California missions under Church authority and to undertake a similar effort to review the Third and Fourth Grade curriculum in Catholic schools to better reflect modern understandings of the Mission Era and the relationship between Spanish civil authority, the Catholic Missions and local Indian tribes.

“The Mission Era gave rise to modern California, but it also gave rise to controversy and to heartache when seen through the eyes of the First Californians,” said Bishop Soto.  “For many years, the Indian experience has been ignored or denied, replaced by an incomplete version of history focused more on European colonists than on the original Californians.”

“Today, on the verge of Blessed Fr. Serra’s canonization, the time has come to confront that incomplete history and to work with Native American educators, respected historians, Catholic school officials and others to change that and to reflect the best scholarship we can about that era,” said Fr. Ken Laverone, provincial vicar of the Franciscan Province of Santa Barbara, a partner with the Catholic bishops of California in this effort.

The committee overseeing the curriculum review will be led by the Most Rev. Edward Clark, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a long-time liaison with California’s Native American communities.  The curriculum review will consider culturally-sensitive and historically accurate enhancements to the Third Grade portrayals of Indian life, as well as to the traditional Fourth Grade teaching on the Missions themselves.

The purpose of the Curriculum Committee is not to endorse or debate the canonization of Blessed Fr. Serra, but to use the occasion of the canonization to engage in an open and respectful dialogue aimed at a better understanding and presentation of the Mission Era and its aftermath to school children and the public.

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Flurry of Negotiations on Environmental Bills

Governor Jerry Brown and state legislative leaders are in a major push to expand California’s leadership in addressing climate change, but they are facing serious questions from moderate Democrats and oil companies.  

SB 350 the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, sponsored by Senate President pro-tem Kevin de Leon and others, aimed at significant increases in the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency while also reducing by 50 percent the petroleum used in motor vehicles.  At a late afternoon press conference, the Governor and the leaders of both houses dropped the later provision from the bill. 

The Governor, however, vowed to continue his efforts to aggressively reduce greenhouse gases in California.

Another major environmental bill, SB 32 the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills), which would set a new greenhouse gas reduction mandate, became a two-year bill.

A third measure AB 1288 (Atkins, D-San Diego) which remains in a Senate Committee, would ensure disadvantaged communities continue to receive moneys from mechanisms that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With the publication of Laudato Si , the Conference has taken a greater interest in environmental bills than before and is supporting SB 350 and SB 32.

The Legislature Wraps-up this Session

Today marked the end of the legislature session for 2015. All bills that passed out of both houses during the final week are now on their way to Governor Brown for his signature or a veto. Some bills that were part of our Catholic Advocacy Day are on their way to the governor.  

Of particular significance is AB 775 (Chiu, D-San Francisco), the so-called Reproductive FACT Act, which the California Catholic Conference strongly opposes.  The deceptive measure would actually promote discrimination against pro-life pregnancy centers.  Watch for an Action Alert on this soon.

Other bills, such as SB 23 CalWORKs Maximum Family Grant (Mitchell, D-Los Angeles), AB 1041 K to College Savings Deduction (Baker, R-Dublin)  and AB 1371 Working & Middle Class Parent Tax Deduction (Lackey, R-Palmdale) were made two-year bills and remain alive to be taken up in January.

You can review a list of all Catholic Advocacy Day bills and other measures followed by the Conference.  And your voice can still be heard on many of these issues.  We will have alerts that you can send to Gov. Brown on many of these issues.  Please look for them next week.

As this session comes to a close, we appreciate all the emails and calls that you make on behalf of life and dignity issues here in California.  Every citizen should be part of the political process and we hope we have made it easier for you to engage in that process.

Archbishop Kurtz Calls for Welcoming of Refugees Fleeing Syria

Catholics in the United States, as well as all people of good will, should express openness and welcome to refugees fleeing Syria and elsewhere in order to survive, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a statement, September 10. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, issued the call on the heels of Pope Francis’ appeal, September 6, that every Catholic parish in Europe house a refugee family.

“The Catholic Church in the United States—with nearly 100 Catholic Charities agencies and hundreds of parishes assisting refugees to this country each year, and with Catholic Relief Services providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the Middle East and Europe—stands ready to help in this effort,” wrote Archbishop Kurtz.

Archbishop Kurtz expressed his solidarity with the pope, the bishops of Syria, the Middle East, and Europe, “and all people who have responded to this humanitarian crisis with charity and compassion.” He also encouraged the U.S. government “to assist more robustly the nations of Europe and the Middle East in protecting and supporting these refugees and in helping to end this horrific conflict, so refugees may return home in safety.

The full text of Archbishop Kurtz’s statement is available here.

 

September 11, 2015
Vol. 8, No. 33