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Public Policy Insights: Special Legislative Wrap-up Edition

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September 7, 2016

Public Policy Insights: Special Legislative Wrap-up Edition

Focus Shifts to Governor with End of the Legislative Session

Wrapping up on the last day of August, the California Legislature completed its two-year session by sending Governor Jerry Brown more than 800 bills.  He now has until September 30 to sign or veto the legislation.  We have been and will continue distributing Action Alerts on most of these bills.  (You can find the complete list here and below.)  

The California Catholic Conference (CCC) begins each session by tracking thousands of bills.  Many have been signed, some failed.  Here is a look at the significant developments in each of the priority areas regularly tracked by the Conference:

Reverence for Life

One of our high priority bills is AB 1954 (Burke, D-Inglewood).  This bill inappropriately permits a patient to go beyond her health plan for any reproductive services without a referral from her health plan doctor.  Planned Parenthood is the sponsor of the bill, which bypasses the woman’s physician, jeopardizes her health and creates inordinate and irresponsible costs.  This bill is not concerned with women’s safety-- only with abortion clinics’ organizational convenience and reimbursement processes.  

AB 1671 (Gomez, D-Los Angeles) seeks to criminalize activity like the “Planned Parenthood/sale of fetal parts” videos.  Both the California Catholic Conference (CCC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are opposed to this unwarranted and possibly unconstitutional abridgment of the public’s right to know and freedom of speech.  It criminalizes and fines the acts of, and assisting in, the procuring and distributing of such information.

Interestingly enough, AB 2531 (Burke, D-Inglewood) which would have allowed a woman to be paid for donating her eggs for research, did not pass, as many had anticipated.  Questions remain as to why the author chose not to bring it up for a final vote on the Assembly floor.  Stay tuned on this issue as this same bill may be re-introduced again next session.

Restorative Justice

A challenge facing the legislature is the lack of programming, early release and high recidivism rates.  More than 80 percent of all inmates currently in prison will eventually be paroled to local communities—most within a couple of years of being sent to prison. With these challenges, the legislature has emphasized the need to design and implement effective strategies to reduce recidivism and to redirect resources to crime prevention programs. 

Two of our top priority bills are on the Governor’s desk:

·         AB 2590 (Weber, D-San Diego), a Catholic Advocacy Day bill, would find and declare that the purpose of sentencing is public safety achieved by adding rehabilitation and restorative justice to the notion of punishment which is now primary directive in the penal code. The California Catholic Conference, along with other faith leaders, co-sponsored AB 2590.  The bill will provide a focus on healing victims, families and the community.

·         SB 1157 (Mitchell, D-Los Angeles) would protect the rights of families to maintain in-person visits with their loved ones in county jails, juvenile facilities and private prison facilities. The bill would allow counties to install and use video visitation but would prevent them from eliminating in-person visitation.  Regular in-person visits have been shown to reduce violence during incarceration, reduce recidivism, increase the chances of securing employment post-release, and facilitate successful reentry.

Continue Reading for wrap-up information on Economic Justice, Human Trafficking, Homelessness, and Pre-k to College Education.

Take Action! Now on these Alerts

Urge Governor to Bring Fairness to Farm Workers - AB 1066, authored by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D- San Diego), would establish the “Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016”, which would make farm workers eligible for overtime pay if they work more than an eight-hour day or 40 hours a week.  The bill would create a schedule that would phase in these overtime requirements for agricultural workers over the course of four years, from 2017 to 2020, inclusive.

Act Now to Ensure School Supplies & Afterschool Care for Homeless School Children - There are nearly 300,000 homeless children and youth identified in California schools, which statistically translates to one homeless student in every classroom. Homeless children often lack basic, needed materials for good health, academic achievement and other areas of development. This lack of supplies not only prevents these kids from completing their classwork, but also leaves them feeling marginalized and disconnected from their schools. These feelings contribute to a lack of focus in school and can lead to kids skipping school altogether.

Help Make California Safer and Prisons More Humane - The California Catholic Conference is proud to be a co-sponsor, along with other faith leaders, of AB 2590 Sentencing: restorative justice, authored by Dr. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego).  This bill would declare that the purpose of sentencing in criminal cases is public safety and direct the state prison system to add rehabilitation and restorative justice principles to punishment as part of their mission statement.

Defend Quality Investigative Reporting - Urge Veto of AB 1671 - The California Catholic Conference opposes AB 1671 (Gomez, D – Los Angeles) because it would punish individuals for creating secret recordings like those that enveloped Planned Parenthood in controversy last summer. 

Prevent Another Reduction in the Standard of Care for Women - The California Catholic Conference opposes SB 999 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) because it would reduce the standard of care for women seeking help and information regarding the variety of proven and “safe” contraception methods. This bill would allow prescription contraceptive methods to be made available without the vital need for consultation with a medical professional, and neglects the importance of making well-informed health care decisions.

Allow Families to Visit Incarcerated Loved Ones - As more and more California prisons and jails turn to video-only visitations, SB 1157 Incarcerated persons: visitation (Mitchell, D- Los Angeles) will ensure that they also maintain person-to-person visiting capabilities.                                                          

National Day of Prayer for Peace on Sep. 9

On Friday, September 9, dioceses around the country will be participating in the Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities, which is dedicated to promoting peace and healing in light of the recent tragedies around the country.

Called for by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Day of Prayer takes place on the feast day of St. Peter Claver, who has been called a heroic example of Christian love and of the exercise of human rights.

“How can we as Catholics walk with and help suffering communities experiencing division, conflict, distrust and pain?” said Bishop Gerald Barnes of the Diocese of San Bernardino. “We must not believe that the recent rhetoric and pain experienced in our local communities is the norm for our future. In the midst of busyness, let us not diminish the power of prayer and the great need for peace in our communities.”

This summer, the U.S. experienced heartbreaking tragedies including law enforcement shootings, riots, and widespread wildfire destruction. With so much physical and moral devastation, Bishop Barnes reminds us it’s important to stay focused on “a mission that doesn’t include giving up, but striving to encounter new ways and opportunities to begin again.”

The USCCB has provided resources here.

September 7, 2016
Vol. 9, No. 29