2016 Legislative Preview
The deadline for submission of new legislation arrived on Feb. 19 and the Capitol was inundated with new bills. Hearings will start soon on more than 2,100 bills introduced this year.
The California Catholic Conference (CCC) staff is evaluating each of 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 on the Legislation page 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 and end of life issues. Currently pregnancy clinics are to comply with recent laws passed in the last session, new legislation will now have abortion clinics follow suit.
Instead of helping Californians with palliative care options at the end of their life, the state is moving to promote and expand physician-assisted suicide. Some of the more important bills we are watching include:
Countdown to Legalized Physician-Assisted Suicide in CA Begins
Edward “Ned” Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, issued the following statement on the close of the legislature’s special session and three months before the onset of physician-assisted suicide in California.
“In a few months, California will allow physicians to intentionally and legally assist people in committing suicide. This fundamental change in the doctor-patient relationship will have long-range repercussions for the people of California – especially those who are most vulnerable.
“As medical and ethical experts have shown, a desire to take one’s own life is a call for help. As Catholics we must answer that cry. The Catholic community will do so by enhancing and expanding our efforts to help people be “well” while dying. Quality palliative care, spiritual and emotional support and a respect for our human dignity are the compassionate response – not a lethal dose of drugs from a physician.
“Already we see proposals in the legislature to expand and promote physician-assisted suicide. We remain committed to providing alternatives to this “travesty of compassion.”
U.S. Bishops Join Faith-Based Groups Asking for Stays on Deportations
Immigration guidelines permitting deferral of the deportations of millions of people provide "substantial humanitarian benefits" and should be permitted to stand, said an amicus curiae brief, filed March 8 in the U.S. Supreme Court by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and 24 other U.S. faith-based organizations whose work includes advocating for or providing aid and resources to recent immigrants and their families.
The case is United States v. Texas, in which some states have challenged the federal government's implementation of immigration guidelines issued by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The guidelines effectively stay the deportation proceedings of 4-5 million undocumented people who pose no national security or public safety threat and who have longstanding close family ties to people in the United States.
These guidelines, the brief said, provide "important benefits to those most vulnerable in our society and to those who serve them" and also ensure "that the public will continue to benefit from the substantial contributions of recent immigrants."
Catholic Youth Learn about Advocacy in Visit to Sacramento
Now experts at navigating through the Capitol, Catholic youths from across California took part in Youth Advocacy Day this week. Representing Catholic schools and a parish youth group from across the state, a group of aspiring activists researched and selected bills to discuss with their lawmakers.
Among the topics studied by the high schoolers were minimum wage, maximum family grant, human trafficking, homeless housing and preschool tax credits. Students spent weeks preparing for the visit. They held mock meetings and researched the issues extensively. Most of the time, students met with staff members but some were fortunate to meet personally with their Senator or Assembly Member.
One Assembly Member listened intently to the students and challenged them to defend their positions. The students were a bit shocked but later remarked, “He took us seriously and didn’t treat us like kids.”
Teachers rave about the program and how it incorporates Catholic Social Teaching and civic responsibility into a great learning experience for the students. They return each year because of its tremendous impact on the students.
For more information on how your school can be part of this, contact Linda Wanner at email@example.com.
California Tax Credit for Low-Income Filers
California now offers its own version of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a long-running Federal program first instituted by President Ronald Reagan, that provides working families with a generous tax credit depending on their income level.
Because it is a credit and not a deduction, the EITC will put money back into the pockets of families living paycheck to paycheck. The credit has received strong bi-partisan support for decades because it rewards hard working people who, nevertheless, fall below the poverty line. For instance, a family of three earning less than $13,870 per year may receive a credit of $2,653 from the state and $6,242 from the Federal government.
Taxpayers must file for the credit but often do not know it is available. For more information and to see if you or someone you know qualifies, visit the Cal EITC 4 Me website.
March 11, 2016
Vol. 9, No. 8