As we head into a new year, one our Holy Father has devoted to Mercy, 2016 legislative and budgetary directions will begin to become clearer in the next few weeks. New bills are just now being introduced but it’s likely the California Catholic Conference will concentrate on the following:
- Restorative Justice - We will continue our collaboration with a faith-based coalition working on prison sentencing reform. Another priority – carried over from previous years – will be to eliminate juvenile solitary confinement.
- Education – The Conference will work to further expand access to quality, affordable early childhood education for those most in need; to ensure strong preparation and support of an exceptional K-12 teaching force to serve all California's students; and to invite the state to use creative tax credit strategies to strengthen educational resources.
- Economic Justice and Family - Taking precedence is abolishing the Maximum Family Grant Rule and continuing our efforts with the coalition that is implementing the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Reverence for Life - Abortion supporters will continue their relentless efforts to push policy and funding boundaries in California, both legislatively and in the courts. The Conference will continue its strong defense of life in the difficult environment of California politics. Legal efforts to force Catholic health care to violate Catholic teaching are also under way in the state.
Unfortunately, physician-assisted suicide legislation was passed and signed by the Governor last year although it will not become law until 90 days after the special session ends (which has not been determined yet.) The Bishops are committed to enhancing education efforts on dying well in addition to supporting legislation that expands palliative care.
- Environment - In the spirit of Laudato Si, the bishops will remain committed to supporting environmental stewardship legislation. This will include ecological measures which ensure accessibility to clean, fresh drinking water and that protect the Earth’s climate as a common good.
- Budget - This week, Governor Jerry Brown announced his proposed budget. He funds two major areas that he failed to find consensus for last year – transportation and Medi-Cal – and places more money into reserves than he is required to by law. The Governor’s proposal contains continued funding for immigrant and naturalization services. He funds the Earned Income Tax Credit and has proposed a cost-of-living increase for the blind, elderly and disabled. The Conference has worked many years promoting these issues. You can read Governor Brown’s press release here.
Since 2016 is also an election year, the California Catholic Conference will examine the new edition of Faithful Citizenship and offer analysis of all initiatives that qualify for the November ballot. (There will be many!)