Related posts tagged with Christian Social Action

You Count! Be Sure to Vote!!

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In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.  This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good.  This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person...As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life" (nos. 1913-1915)
 
Election Day is only a week away!
 
Need to know your polling place?  Who's on your ballot?  More?   Find it here.
 
YOU COUNT!  Be sure to vote on November 4th .


 

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Cardinal O'Malley: Government Report Confirms Bishops' Concern on Abortion Coverage

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Investigative agency finds over a thousand health plans covering abortion on demand
Promised "separation" of abortion funds from tax dollars not implemented
Abortion-related abuses under Affordable Care Act require corrective action

 
WASHINGTON-A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) "confirms the U.S. bishops' longstanding concern about abortion coverage" in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), said Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
 
The report, "Health Insurance Exchanges: Coverage of Non-excepted Abortion Services by Qualified Health Plans," was issued by the GAO, an independent reviewing agency of the U.S. government, on September 15. 
 
Despite repeated claims by President Obama and other supporters that the ACA would not promote abortion, the report identified over a thousand health plans eligible for federal premium subsidies that cover elective abortions. On five state exchanges, every plan covers such abortions in 2014; in another three large states, 95 to 98 percent of the plans do so. The Act's alleged requirements regulating abortion coverage do not exist or are widely ignored. Many health plans do not inform enrollees about their inclusion of abortion coverage; they do not tell them how much they are being charged for such coverage; and they do not charge a "separate payment" for abortions that is distinct from the premium payment eligible for federal tax subsidies. While state insurance departments are supposedly tasked by the federal government with ensuring that these health plans maintain segregated accounts for abortion funds to keep them separate from federal funds, the report indicates that this is not taking place.
 
"This report confirms the U.S. bishops' longstanding concern about abortion coverage that we raised both before and after enactment of the Affordable Care Act by Congress," said Cardinal O'Malley. "Surveys have shown that most Americans do not want elective abortion in their health coverage, and do not want their tax dollars to fund abortions.  Their wishes are not being followed, and it can be difficult or impossible for them to find out whether those wishes are respected even in their own health plan."
 
Cardinal O'Malley added: "The only adequate solution to this problem is the one the Catholic bishops advocated from the beginning of the health care reform debate in Congress: Bring the Affordable Care Act into compliance with the Hyde amendment and every other federal law on abortion funding, by excluding elective abortions from health plans subsidized with federal funds. At a minimum, Congress should not delay in enacting a law to require full disclosure of abortion coverage and abortion premiums to Americans purchasing health plans."
 
Past USCCB materials on this issue, including Cardinal O'Malley's letters to Congress endorsing the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" (H.R. 7) and the "Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act" (H.R. 3279), are at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/index.cfm.  For an analysis of how the Affordable Care Act treats abortion coverage see www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/Backgrounder-The-New-Federal-Regulation-on-Coerced-Abortion-Payments.pdf

 
 



 

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Border Crisis

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August 5, 2014
 Border Crisis 
 Congress members are back in Indiana for a five week August recess but there is no resolution to the border crisis. The Representatives and Senators are now available at town halls and in other local settings. Please take this opportunity to talk to them about the unaccompanied children coming from Central America and immigration reform.

The immediate concern is a refugee problem. Although it is alleged that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is the catalysts for the numbers arriving at the U.S. border, families and young people do not make a treacherous trip unless they are desperate. The circumstances in the Central American countries illustrate what the Church has been pointing out throughout this debate - comprehensive reform includes addressing the root causes of migration, persecution and economic disparity. As Pope Francis recently wrote, "This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin."

Pope Francis also noted that the refugee problem is not only here in the U.S.; it is a worldwide phenomenon. There are millions of refugees resulting from the Syrian civil war; over 600 thousand of Burma's ethnic refugees are in neighboring countries. Other refugees include Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis, Congolese, Sudanese and many others.  Like children in these countries, returning all children coming to U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras without considering their situation would be sending them back to bodily harm or even death. The U.S. should not turn our back on these children. The Church is responding to the physical and spiritual needs of the refugees but additional services from the federal government are urgently needed.  We are responding to their needs based on the principle of our social teaching that, regardless of their legal status, all immigrants possess inherent human dignity which should be respected.

The House passed a bill that provides approximately $700 million in funding for the care and processing of migrant children at the border, far short of what is needed. The bill also contains extremely harsh and punitive measures to speed up the deportation of migrant children and to cut off funding for the deferred action program the Administration has implemented to curb deportation of undocumented minors in the U.S. In the Senate, a bill that provides more funding and without punitive measures failed to garner enough support to survive a procedural challenge. However, that bill also lacked the current law Hyde Amendment provisions prohibiting federal funding of abortion, which will need to be added. With practically no chance of the Senate taking up the House bill, this issue will continue to be debated in September.

For more information about this issue click here.

If you have the opportunity to see your Representative or a Senator, talk to them about this and offer the following guidance. Or you can also contact them via email or phone by going to ourAction Center  under Find Officials. 

* Increase funding at the level of $3.7 billion to provide the Departments of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement, Homeland Security, Justice and others with adequate resources to ensure that children are receiving the proper treatment and services based on their unique needs and vulnerabilities;

* Reject any proposal to change the statutes in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act regarding the process for unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries in order to expedite removal proceedings, which would undermine child safety and due process.

In addition to contacting your representative and/or the senators, please pray for the young people, their families and all involved in responding to them.
 
 
 
 
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Catholic Charities Weekly for June 9

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Help Make Sure Every State is Represented at July's National Migration Conference

Help us represent every state at this year’s National Migration Conference! Hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/ MRS), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), this year’s conference will be held July 7-10 in Washington, DC. Advocates and staff from representing 38 states are already registered, so if you’re from one of the following states, we especially need you! The states are: AK, CO, DE, HI, MN, MT, NH, ND, SC, SD, VT, and WY.

With the theme “In Faith, In Solidarity, In Service,” the conference will focus on the Catholic Church’s response to the challenges and hardships refugees, immigrants, migrants, trafficking victims, and other persons on the move face in the United States and throughout the world. More information and online registration can be found at:www.nationalmigrationconference.org

 

 

 

House Passes $66m in Funding for Second Chance Act

 

By a bipartisan vote of 321-87, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the appropriations bill that provides funding forcommerce, justice and science, including $65.8 million in funding for the Second Chance Act.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to release their version of the funding bill. Appropriations bills must be passed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, as well as the full House and Senate.

 

Educate, Innovate, Act. Sign the Pledge and Join Our Efforts to Reduce Poverty.

 

More than 46 million people live in poverty in the United States. More than 16 million children – over 20% – live below the poverty level. 1 in 6 people go hungry in America and millions cannot provide for their families.

We don’t want to see the war on poverty continue for another 50 years – do you?Click hereto sign the pledge.

 

 

 

 

Summer Food Efforts See Growth

 

For the first time in a decade, the number of low-income children eating summer meals saw a substantial increase year-over-year, according to a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Nearly three million children participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2013, an increase of 161,000 children, or 5.7 percent, from July 2012.

To learn more about this important issue or to read the full report, visit FRAC's website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Join "Leadership Call in Day" on June 11

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Now is the time to pass just and compassionate immigration reform.  

Please participate in the upcoming "Leadership Call-in Day" on Wednesday, June 11th.

 We agree with the U.S. Catholic bishops that now is the time to pass just and compassionate immigration reform that:
  • Provides a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the country
  • Preserves family unity as a corner-stone of our national immigration system;
  • Provides legal paths for low-skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the United States;
  • Restores due process protections to our immigration enforcement policies;
  • Addresses the root causes (push factors) of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity.
Wednesday, June 11th, is a "Leadership Call-in Day" that will send calls to the House offices of Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor and Majority Whip McCarthy. 

The toll free number to use is 1-855-589-5698.  

The message is simple, ask Congress and House leadership to Move immigration reform legislation to the House floor.

Thank you for your participation.
 
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House Passes 10-Year Budget Blueprint

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House Passes 10-Year Budget Blueprint

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives held a series of votes on competing budget proposals, eventually passing a budget plan backed by House leaderships that aims to balance the budget over 10 years by reducing government expenditures and lowering tax rates. The bill, which passed on a largely party-line vote of 219-205, is not expected to be considered in the Senate. 

Budget documents are often political blueprints to highlight initatives and principles, in this case including cuts to spending on social programs and college grants. A competing proposal, put forward by the White House, which would have increased investment in government programs, was voted down by a vote of 2-413 on Wednesday afternoon. A third proposal, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, would have extended unemployment insurance and reversed cuts to food stamps, but also failed, 116-300

 

 

Senate Approves Unemployment Package, Path Forward in House Uncertain

Last week, the Senate voted to approve a bill that would restore federal funding for unemployment insurance programs. The 59-38 vote sent the bill to the House, where leadership has stated it will face a difficult path to even come up for a vote.

The package would restore federal benefits to the long-term unemployed, defined as those seeking work for 26 weeks or longer. Over 2 million Americans looking for work would be in line to benefit from a reauthorized program.

A group of seven House members wrote aletter to their leadership, encouraging a vote on the bill. However, House leaders have stated that any unemployment package must include job-creation measures before they will allow it to come to the floor.


Above photo credit: Flickr.

Educate, Innovate, Act. Sign the Pledge and Join Our Efforts to Reduce Poverty.

More than 46 million people live in poverty in the United States. More than 16 million children – over 20% – live below the poverty level. 1 in 6 people go hungry in America and millions cannot provide for their families.

CCUSA and ten national organizations have joined in a declaration of commitment to reduce poverty in America with this pledge: “We hereby commit to EDUCATE the public about the everyday challenges facing the 46 million people living in poverty in America today; highlight INNOVATIVE solutions to poverty by connecting local practitioners with national leaders; and pledge to ACT to reduce poverty in communities across the country using newfound knowledge and techniques.”

We don’t want to see the war on poverty continue for another 50 years – do you?Click here to sign the pledge.

 

 

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Catholic Charities Washington Weekly

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3rd Annual National Poverty Summit Highlights Innovative Ideas, Common Ground

 

Last Wednesday, leadership from the nation’s largest charitable and advocacy organizations gathered to highlight major initiatives that have the potential to transform the landscape of social services in the United States during the 3rd annual National Poverty Summit.

Convened by Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), leadership from several of the nation’s largest humanitarian organizations, key policymakers, educators and academics joined together to discuss solutions and the best paths forward to educate, innovate and act to reduce poverty in communities across the country.

CBS News White House Correspondent Major Garrett moderated a panel between Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (R-Mass.) on areas of common ground in the work to reform our nation's safety-net programs. The day opened with remarks from Mark Shriver, son of Sergant Shriver, and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who discussed the history and legacy of the original "War on Poverty" programs. Everyone in attendance agreed that 50 years later, it's time for an approach that blend what works from the old with the innovation of new programs. 

"We may not have millions of dollars," said Susan Dreyfus, President of the Alliance for Children and Families, in her closing remarks, "but we have millions of voices. At the end of the day, we are advocates first...What we are about now is developing the human capital of America."

For a full recap of the event, visit the CCUSA Newsroom.

 

 

Bipartisan Housing Finance Reform Bill Introduced

Last month, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate that would create a dedicated revenue source for the National Housing Trust Fund. The language, introduced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID), was part of a larger bill aimed at reforming and supporting the nation's housing market.

As drafted, the bill would assess a 10 basis-point fee on users of the new housing finance system, of which 75% (an estimated $3.75 billion per year) would be earmarked for the Trust Fund. If passed, this would one of the most significant investments in affordable rental housing in the last forty years. While the bill has bipartisan support in the Senate, it faces an uncertain path forward in the House.

The CCUSA social policy team will continue to work in collaboration with the National Low-Income Housing Coalition in support of affordable housing measures.

 

 

Senate Expected to Vote Today on Unemployment Insurance Package

 

Last week, legislation to restore jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed cleared a final Senate hurdle, setting up an expected vote today on final passage. The61-35 vote on Thursday cleared the way for final passage in the Senate, set for a 5:30 p.m. vote this afternoon. However, the bill faces strong opposition in the House, and a potential agreement on cost offsets remains uncertain.

The bill would renew a program that provides assistance to the long-term unemployed, defined as those who have been looking for work for 26 weeks or longer. The previous authorization ran out on December 31.

 

 


 

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Catholic Charities Testifies Before Congress

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CCUSA Testifies Before Congress on Social Enterprise, Innovative Poverty Reduction Efforts

 

This week, two members of the Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) social policy team appeared before members of Congress to highlight the innovative work being done in our network to pioneer solutions to poverty and support social enterprise efforts. 
On Monday, Maria Gonzales, Director of Social Policy and External Affairs Projects for CCUSA, spoke before a congressional briefing on the importance of supporting social enterprise efforts in collaboration with the Social Enterprise Alliance. Her briefing material is available here
And on Tuesday,  Lucreda Cobbs, CCUSA's Sr. Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, appeared before the Subcomittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services to highlight the innovative work being done by Catholic Charities agencies in responding to the needs of those in poverty. Her testimony is available here. Additionally, Candy Hill, CCUSA's Executive Vice President of Social Policy and External Affairs, delivered the keynote address at the international Salvation Army disaster response and social services conference.  

 

 

Unemployment Insurance Extension Passes Key Senate Hurdle

Last week, the Senate agreed to move debate forward on a package that would extend unemployment insurance to those looking for work in a still-struggling economy. 
A bi-partisan vote to invoke cloture moved the $6.4 billion bill forward for discussion, and a final vote on passage is expected this week. The extension would provide retroactive benefits and authorize unemployment insurance for the next three months. 
Despite the likely passage in the Senate, the bill is expected to face stiff opposition in the House. Stay on the lookout for opportunities from Catholic Charities USA to engage on this issue as the debate moves forward. 
 


 

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Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal on Unemployment Insurance Extension

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Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal on Unemployment Insurance Extension

 
A bipartisan group of Senators worked across the aisle to reach a deal that could extend unemployment insurance for those whose benefits have run out. 
""Catholic Charities USA is encouraged by the strong, bipartisan consensus reached in the Senate to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits to more than 2 million American families looking for work," said Fr. Larry Snyder in a statement following the announcement of the compromise."
The agreement, which is expected to be voted on in two weeks when the Senate returns from recess, would resume the aid to the jobless that expired at the end of 2013, and provide retroactive payment to those whose assistance has already run out.
The major sticking point on the five-month, $9.7 billion package was the funding for the program, which was acheived by a package of spending cuts and revenue-raising measures. The agreement was supported by five members of the Senate minority, which should ensure its passage in that chamber. The bill's fate in the House remains to be seen. 
 
Photo credit: Flickr.
 
 
 

 

White House Indicates Possible Immigration Enforcement Changes

 
In a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last Thursday, President Obama said his administration is considering changes to the enforcement of immigration laws. 
According to reports from the closed-door meeting in the Oval Office, the President expressed his desire to review a menu of options that could be implemented by the executive branch to reduce the painful impact current enforcement and deportation policy can have on families. 
The discussion also reportedly focused on the potential for immigration reform, with the President underlining his interest in working to accomplish reform of our nation's broken immigration system. However, the prospects for comprehensive reform look dim, with the House passing a bill that would strengthen border enforcement over the week. The bill, which would authorize Congress to bring a civil lawsuit against the White House for executive overreach, was passed 233-181 on Wednesday, but is not expected to have a hearing in the Senate. 
 

 

Senate Takes Up Child Care Block Grant Reauthorization

 
The Senate began work on the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant, a key source of income to states that go towards helping low-income families attain quality child care. 
The bill would require expanded information to be submitted on how funds are used and ensure certification on a variety of health and safety standards. An amendment that would require states to develop plans for child care needs in the event of a natural disaster was adopted 98-0. Another amendment, to require the Department of Health and Human Services to create a report on how to streamline federal childhood programs, was also adopted by the same vote count. 
To read the full text of the bill, click here
 
 
 
 


 

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White House Releases FY2015 Budget

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Last Tuesday, the White House released its budget for fiscal year 2015, a planning document which lays out a spending blueprint for the federal government. The budget proposes a $350 billion increase over this year's expenditures, for a total budget package of $3.9 trillion. 

 
The budget proposal includes an overhaul of the tax system, nearly $1 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years, an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. 
 
The budget request is a suggested outline from the White House that is unlikely to be adopted by Congress. Catholic Charities USA will continue to focus its efforts on the appropriations process, which must be approved by September 30 of this year. For CCUSA's analysis of the FY15 budget on selected social service programs, click here, and to read the full White House budget request, click here
 
Photo credit: The White House.

 

 

 

 

Catholic Charities USA joins with USCCB in Supporting Second Chance Act

 

Congress should take an important step to address issues faced by the more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who reenter society each year from prisons, jails and detention centers. This was the message of the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the president of Catholic Charities USA in a March 4 letter supporting the Second Chance Act (S. 1690/H.R. 3465).
 
“Those who return to our communities from incarceration face significant challenges. These include finding housing and stable employment, high rates of substance abuse, physical and mental health challenges and social isolation,” wrote Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Father Larry Snyder in a March 4 letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
 
To read the full letter, click here

 

 

Don't Let the War on Poverty Continue Another 50 Years

 

CCUSA and nine national organizations have joined in a declaration of commitmentto reduce poverty in America with this pledge: “We hereby commit to EDUCATE the public about the everyday challenges facing the 46 million people living in poverty in America today; highlight INNOVATIVEsolutions to poverty by connecting local practitioners with national leaders; and pledge to ACT to reduce poverty in communities across the country using newfound knowledge and techniques.” 
 
Click here to sign the pledgeand join our efforts. We don’t want to see the war on poverty continue for another 50 years – do you? 

 

 

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Conference Committee Phase Commences

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March 6, 2014
 
 
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
Upon finishing third reading at the beginning of the week, this week began the phase of the session known as conference committee. During this approximately 2 week period, the House and Senate review changes each has made in bills and determine if they concur (agree with changes) or dissent (disagree with changes). Hence, this period contains many caucus meetings to decide not only what the original authors want but what the caucus concerns may be. Then a concurrence or a dissent is filed. When a concurrence is filed the bill is then voted on again by the originating chamber to agree to the changes in the bill. When a dissent is filed, leadership assigns conferees from each chamber to meet and try to find compromise or to agree upon the content of the bill. If agreement is reached, then the bill is voted upon by the entire body in each chamber. If no agreement is reached, the author can concur or all can continue to disagree and the bill dies. This period is very fluid with much discussion in committee, but more outside of formal meetings.
 
Third reading results
SB 292, Abortion providers, passed with a bipartisan vote of 88 – 9. Because the bill was amended to only provide names of back-up doctors with hospital privileges to the State Department of Health, it now returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote. The Senate concurred on Thursday with a vote of 34 – 6.
 
HB 1123, Abortion coverage, passed the Senate 37 – 10 on a bipartisan vote. The bill returns to the House with an amendment to adjust the effective date. The House is expected to concur with the change next week.
 
HB 1036, Child care and development fund eligibility, passed the Senate 36 – 12 with a bipartisan vote. There were changes regarding authority of the department to establish rules regarding nutrition and daily activities. The House author, Representative Kevin Mahan (R – Hartford City), will take this to conference committee next week. The purpose will be to see if current rules regarding nutrition and daily activities which licensed facilities must follow could be incorporated into the bill. Current rules are guidelines but do not establish specific requirements.
 
SB 176 Central Indiana transit, passed the House 52 – 47. Because significant changes were made in the House version, it will go to conference committee. Many are optimistic that some compromise will result but the vote shows that there are many concerns.
 
House concurred with amendments to the following bills which now go to the Governor for signature:
HB 1190, Treatment of miscarried remains, passed 89 – 1. The bill requires hospitals to notify parents of options regarding the disposition of the miscarried baby.
 
HB 1222, Adoption committee and tax credit, passed 90 -2. It provides a tax credit for families who adopt and establishes a study committee to seek ways to improve Indiana’s adoption policy and programs. This was one of Governor Pence’s priorities for the session.
 
Conference committee discussions continue regarding several high profile bills.
Governor Pence and many supporters of HB 1004 are working very hard to convince Senate Republicans that in addition to the study of preschool needs and best practices, the pilot passed by the House should be added back in conference committee. While three of the four caucuses seem to be supportive of the pilot program passed in the House, Senate Democrats are now raising concerns regarding the tie-in to K-12 voucher program. Senate Republicans continue to raise fiscal concerns.Getting agreement to include the pilot with funding to come in 2015 will be difficult. Yet on Thursday, Senator David Long (President Pro Tempore of the Senate) announced that leadership was working with the Governor to come up with an alternative.
 
Other major bills/issues still under discussion include mass transit for Central Indiana, business personal property tax reduction, and as many as five other bills dealing with taxes, several bills dealing with firearms, including one that would allow guns on school property and drug testing for welfare recipients.
 
The session must end by next week Friday; however, they could finish earlier since the number of bills and the differences in most bills are not that far apart.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC website www.indianacc.org
 

 

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2014 Bread Indiana

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2014 Bread Indiana Offering of Letters Workshop 

Reforming U.S. Food Aid
Christian's Call to Advocate for the Hungry
How Food Aid Reform Will Save Lives
Getting Your Church to Advocate

St Pius X Catholic Church, 7100 Sarto Drive, 46240
Saturday, March 22, 2014
9:00 AM -12:30 PM 

Speakers:

Dr. Matthew Myer Boulton
President, Christian Theological Seminary 

Ryan Quinn
Senior International Policy Analyst, Bread for the World 

Presenters: 

Jon Gromek, Regional Organizer, Bread for the World 

$20 if registered by March 19
$25 if registering March 20-22 

Registration fee includes lunch

To register go tohttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/bread-for-the-world-offering-of-letters-workshop-tickets-10341745439! 

Questions? Contact Roger Howard

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A few bills are moving and more are expected...

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February 13, 2014
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
This week the process begins again as bills are assigned to committees and chairpersons along with leadership determine which bills will get hearings. A few bills are moving and more are expected next week.
 
Again, the focal point of the week was HJR 3, Marriage amendment. Senate Rules Committee chaired by President Pro Tempore, Senator David Long (R – Fort Wayne), heard over 3 hours of testimony on Monday. And without discussion among the committee members, HJR 3 was passed unchanged on a party line vote. Because there were not sufficient votes to reinsert the second sentence; no amendment called on second reading.  HJR 3 now goes to third reading as early as Monday with only the first sentence as passed by the House.  This means there will not be a ballot measure this year.
 
Senate Health Committee heard two bills of interest on Wednesday HB 1190, Treatment of miscarried remains, passed the committee 9 – 0. Because weather and road conditions were better than in January several advocates were able to testify to the need for the bill. While some hospitals do allow for parents to determine the appropriate disposal of the remains, the practice will be common practice should the bill become law. The bill now describes "miscarried fetus" as an unborn child, irrespective of gestational age. The bill has undergone some technical changes to provide for clarity of responsibilities of the hospitals and funeral directors. The bill is expected to pass the Senate. ICC is supportive of the bill.
 
Senate Health also heard lengthy testimony regarding HB 1036, Child care and development fund eligibility. No vote was taken because an amendment to better clarify the nature of the regulations required and the extent of the State’s authority was not completed for review. ICC is supportive of the bill and the amendments to ensure that regulations are not overly burdensome or interfere with the nature of the religious ministry that conducts the day care facility. Some church providers are fearful of State interference. However, the regulations to this point have been focused on health and safety measures. The bill is expected to be amended in committee in two weeks and move to the Senate for consideration.
 
Senate Education Committee took testimony on HB 1004, Early Education vouchers. Governor Pence and dozens of others testified; the committee heard 3 hours of mostly support for the pilot program. Several in the public school community were supportive of the principle but were critical of the voucher aspect and its connection to the K – 12 voucher program. While many spoke of need and benefits, many Senators are less supportive and many were concerned because it commits resources for the 2015 budget. Typically the General Assembly does not make budgetary commitments on new programs impacting future budgets; these decisions are made during the budget setting years. In person testimony by a Governor on behalf of bill is very rare; hence he recognized the hurdle this bill has to clear. Passage this year will be difficult. Because the program provides for parental options and support for children who face more obstacles than others, ICC supports the bill.
 
SB 282, Choice scholarship, authored by Senator Doug Eckerty (R – Yorktown), passed House Education Committee 9 - 2. The bill clarifies implementation of the Choice scholarship (voucher) program as it applies to special education services. Last year’s expansion of the program provided voucher eligibility for special education students but where and who provides services were left unclear. The Attorney General provided the opinion that parents are the decision makers and the bill puts into statute this understanding. The bill passed the Senate 31 – 16. ICC supports the bill.
 
SB 176, Central Indiana transit, passed the House Roads and Transportation Committee. The committee removed the business tax portion of the bill but it keeps the bill alive. Should it pass the House this month, it will be one of the major pieces of legislation negotiated during the final days of the session.
 
Still waiting a hearing are HB 1123, Abortion insurance; SB 292 Abortion providers; and HB 1222 Adoption committee and tax credit.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC website \www.indianacc.org

 

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Calls Needed: Critical Vote to Restore Emergency Unemployment Compensation

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ACTION ALERT

Catholic Charities USA

February 6, 2014

Calls Needed ASAP: Critical Vote to Restore Emergency Unemployment Compensation Today

 Take Action

What You Need to Know

On December 28, Congress let the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expire, resulting in nearly 1.7 million Americans losing benefits.

Today, the Senate will vote on a bill to restore benefits for three months to individuals and families relying on this important program to assist them as they continue to seek employment. The three-month extension would allow Congress to hopefully work on a longer-term deal.

 

What You Can Do

It is imperative that you call your Senators. Your calls will not only send a strong message of support for your family, friends, and neighbors that have lost jobs and benefits, but will also let them know that you understand the importance of this vote to restore benefits for almost 1.7 million people.

 

Background

In 2008, Congress passed legislation that would allow individuals to receive federal unemployment compensation after their 26 weeks of state benefits run out. This program expired on December 28, and now the Senate has decided to bring a bill to the floor for a vote. The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statics show that the average duration of unemploym ent is more than 37 weeks, well beyond the 26 weeks that are typically covered by state unemployment benefits.

See the number of those who lost benefits in your state (resource from the National Employment Law Project.)

 

 Take Action

 

Questions?

If you have any questions, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org


 

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Over 100 Bills Considered by State - Update for Jan 23

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January 23, 2014
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
Timelines during the short session are very tight. Hence, if a bill is to become law, it will have to clear committee approval by the end of next week. Committees were very active this week; over 100 bills were considered in the House and a similar number in the Senate. Next week will be busy also.
 
HJR 3, Marriage amendment and its companion, HB 1153 that describes the ballot language and legislative intent of the amendment passed the House Elections Committee on a partisan vote of 9 – 3.  The vote came after Speaker Bosma reassigned the bill from the Judiciary Committee where it did not have the votes. To illustrate the contentious nature of the issue, the committee report which usually is a minor procedural matter was not taken by consent; rather a roll call vote was taken to accept it. The report passed along party lines; hence, the entire House will have an opportunity to vote on the amendment next week. ICC supports the amendment as a means for defending the nature of marriage as the unions of one man and one woman.
 
There will be attempts to amend the amendment language on the floor. There is growing interest in both parties to change the amendment by striking the second sentence which prohibits recognition of “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals”. The vote on the amendment will be close. The leadership in the House did not want this issue to take as much time as it has; the hope is that it will be dealt with expeditiously early in the week. But the issue has not gone as planned since it began the process. The debate and process will be intense this coming week. If you wish to contact your representative, click here.
 
HB 1036, Child care and development fund eligibility, was amended in the House Children and Family Committee to address concerns that State regulations might interfere with religious ministry activities. The amendment clarifies that religious instruction or activities may not be limited and that reporting of deaths and injury to the Division only apply if the death/injury occurs at the child care facility and shall be reported within 24 hours.   It also provided clarification of the decertification and revocation processes, the reporting of child abuse/neglect, and it removed the 35 sq. ft. /child requirement. The amended bill passed the committee 9 -3 on a bipartisan vote. The bill will now be debated in the House next week. ICC supports the bill as amended.
 
HB 1123, Insurance coverage of abortion, was amended by voice vote on second reading to exclude student health plans from the exemption that allows self-insured plans to provide elective abortion coverage. Student health plans have not covered abortions to date; the amendment is to make sure that in the future coverage would not be added. The bill now moves to third reading next week. ICC is supportive of the bill.
 
Bills to be heard next week
HB 1211, Indexing family tax exemptions, authored by Representative Tim Brown (R – Crawfordsville), is one of Governor Pence’s priority bills for this session and will be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee on MondayThe bill will increase income tax exemptions for dependents and individuals who are blind and the elderly. The increased exemption will apply to families with incomes under $40,000; the exemption will increase with the cost of living index. The exemptions have been static for many years. Current exemptions are $1500 for children and an additional $1000 for blind and elderly. Because it will provide additional resources for lower income families, ICC supports the bill.
 
HB 1190, Treatment of miscarriage remains, will be heard on Monday in the House Public Health Committee. The bill will require health care facilities to allow parents to determine the final disposition of the remains of the fetus. Hospitals are supportive of the bill but will ask for an amendment to clarify implementation. It is appropriate to assist the parents to grieve the loss of their child and to provide for proper burial. The Church supports the bill as positive public policy respecting the dignity and sacredness of all persons.
 
SB 279, Resident tuition rate, authored by Senator Jim Arnold (D – LaPorte), will be heard in Senate Appropriations Committee next week. The bill will allow immigrant students who are residents of Indiana and graduate from an Indiana high school to attend state universities by paying the resident tuition rate. Currently, these students must pay out of state tuition rates. ICC supports the bill because the current law not only punishes young people but also punishes the citizens of Indiana by hindering these individuals and families from being able to care and provide for themselves, as well as contribute to the common good.
 
Other bills hoping for a hearing
HB 1389, Child protection registry, has been introduced again this year. The bill would establish a registry for electronic contacts similar to a no-call list for our phones. It would require electronic marketers to scrub its lists with the registry before sending communications to contacts. The purpose of the law would allow parents, schools and others to keep adult content and ads from children’s electronic devices. The bill has passed either the Senate or the the House in prior years. The bill is in the House Judiciary Committee; ICC is supportive of the bill as a means of parents protecting their children from potential harm.
 
HB 1316, Abortion providers, also hopes to receive a hearing in House Public Policy Committee. The bill, if given a hearing, will be amended to remove the provision eliminating the rule exempting abortion clinics operating before July 2006 from the physical plant requirements. This provision was too caustic and unlikely to pass. However, it would be amended further to address current law under court review. Planned Parenthood has challenged the medical or chemical abortions law that exempts doctors’ offices. An amendment would clarify the law and make the exemption for doctors’ offices where only a limited number of patients are given this prescription.
 
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC

 

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Omnibus Budget Deal Signed Into Law; Ensures Government Funding Through October

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Catholic Charities USA Washington Weekly for January 21, 2014

 

 

Last Friday, President Obama signed into law an omnibus budget deal passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, ensuring the U.S. government won’t have to face the threat of a government shutdown until at least October. The agreement, which was passed by a 72-26 vote in the Senate and359-67 in the House, authorizes $1.1 trillion in federal spending for FY 2014. 
 
The omnibus spending bill includes $520.5 billion allocated for defense spending and $491.7 directed towards domestic programs. The outline for the budget deal was laid out by the heads of the budget committees in each chamber: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) Agreeing to a budget framework and having the President sign it into law allows the regular appropriations process to take place for the first time in over two years. 
 

A full chart of the funding levels included in the budget agreement can be found here

 

Join Catholic Charities USA and Other National Organizations in Committing to Acting to End Poverty 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of our nation's declaration of a war on poverty. While much has been accomplished during this time, we have a long way to go. To that end, Catholic Charities USA is partnering with seven nonprofit organizations to address the progress made and what’s still needed to build more permanent bridges out of poverty. Together we have pledged to educate, innovate and act in communities across the country throughout the year using newf ound knowledge and techniques. 

We look forward to working with these partner organizations and finding ways to advance a discussion of how better to address poverty over the next 50 years, and we hope you’ll pledge to do the same.

 


 

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Washington Weekly for December 16

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President to Deliver State of the Union Address January 28

President Barack Obama will be delivering the annual State of the Union Address on January 28, 2014, during the 50th anniversary of the declaration of our nation's "War on Poverty." In a letter officially inviting the President to address a joint session of Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner told the President that "In the coming year, Americans expect Washington to focus on their priorities and to look for common ground in addressing the challenges facing our country.  In that spirit, we welcome an opportunity to hear your ideas, particularly for putting Americans back to work."

(photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

 

 

Farm bill talks in final stretch

 


Farm bill talks moved into the final stretch last week, with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas saying that “we’re moving right down the path” toward a House-Senate conference report in January. The farm bill is the legislative vehicle for funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.)

Lucas' upbeat tone signaled the focus is already shifting toward preparing other members of the House-Senate conference for votes during the week of Jan. 6 after the New Year’s holiday. Few details have been released publicly by the committee to date.

“I think we are going to have a really well-balanced bill,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told POLITICO prior to the meeting, but she shied away from confirming any specifics. Stabenow is resisting the very deepest nutrition cuts proposed in the bill that passed the House.

 

 

 

 

One Year after Newtown, A Prayer for the Innocents

 

The children who were attending Sandy Hook Elementary School that day never expected to have the name of their town, Newtown, Conn., become short-hand for one of the most tragic, senseless acts of violence in our nation’s history.

In the year since, we’ve seen political efforts at stemming access to assault weapons fail, and the plague of gun violence continues to claim innocent lives. But working to prevent a similar wide-scale tragedy should not be a partisan issue.

A year ago, Father Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, joined faith leaders across the nation in signing a letter calling on Congress to pass sensible legislation aimed at reducing the likelihood of a similar mass shooting.Read the full post on Think and Act Anew.

 

 

 

House Passes Budget, Senate to Take Up Amid Debate

 

Before adjourning for 2013, the House passed a budget plan on Thursday that would set the federal budget for the next two years and avert the potential of a repeat of October's shutdown. The budget deal, constructed by the chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, passed the chamber with a sizeable bipartisan majority, 332-94. 
 
The deal will replace the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, and reduces the amount of spending by the federal government in fiscal year 2014 by about $23 billion. 
 
The Senate is expected to pass the bill later this week, despite dissension from members of the minority. Notably absent from this budget deal is an extension of unemployment benefits, which could dramatically impact over 1 million Americans looking for work, who could lose assistance after benefits expire on December 31. CCUSA is working with Congress to encourage them to pass legislation maintaining much-needed aid to those struggling to find work.
 
 
Please note: Washington Weekly will be on hiatus while Congress is out of session for the Christmas and New Year's holiday. We wish you the best in this time of hope and glad tidings. 

 

 

 

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Washington Weekly for December 9

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CCUSA President Spotlights Expiring Unemployment Benefits at Congressional Hearing

 

On Thursday, Father Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, spoke at a House hearing on expiring unemployment insurance and its potential impact on over 1.3 million Americans.
 
"Our Catholic tradition teaches us that society acting through the government has a special obligation to consider first the needs of the poor and the vulnerable," he said.
 
Unemployment benefits are set to begin expiring on December 28, and the path forward for extending these benefits is unclear. The program provides federal benefits to individuals looking for work after their 26 weeks of state-provided benefits run out.
 
Read Father Larry's prepared remarks on the Think and Act Anew blog, and view video from the hearing courtesy of C-SPAN

 

 

 

Join the Global Wave of Prayer to End Hunger

 

Tomorrow, December 10, you are invited to participate in a worldwide movement to respond to the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our midst by praying and acting to end hunger.

Won't you join the network of agencies providing relief to people suffering from hunger around the globe by participating in the wave of prayer? Sign the pledge and spread the word!

 

 

CCUSA Remembers Mandela's Leadership in Justice and Equality

 

Catholic Charities USA joins with all people of good will in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela, a global icon in the fight for racial equality and justice.

“Mandela’s belief in the power of the human spirit and the dignity of every person, regardless of the color of their skin, was an example to us all,” said Fr. Larry Snyder, President of CCUSA. “His long walk to freedom and work as a global statesman for human rights are reminders of the power of perseverance and truth.”
 
For the full press release,click here.
 

 

 

Local Catholic Charities Agencies See Record Demand

 

Local food shelves are bracing for the busiest time of year. Last month alone, Catholic Charities Emergency Services in St. Cloud, Minn., provided food services to over 2,300 households.
 
In this time of increasing demand and declining resources, CCUSA is committed to supporting the work of local agencies working to help those in need put food on the table for themselves and their families. Visit the CCUSA website for more information on our policy intiatives.  


 

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Washington Weekly for November 25, 2013

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Join Pope Francis and in a Global Prayer to End Hunger

 

On Tuesday, December 10, Pope Francis will launch a worldwide movement to respond to the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our midst by praying and acting to end hunger.

Won't you join Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the network of Caritas Internationalis agencies providing relief to people suffering from hunger around the globe in participating in the wave of prayer?

 

 

 

Welcome to the New Washington Weekly! CCUSA's Advocacy Hub Has Latest News

 

Welcome to the new Washington Weekly, from Catholic Charities USA's Social Policy team! This resource will provide you with highlights from our work to end poverty and headlines from our nation's capital.

Our new advocacy hub provides you with more in-depth looks into hot topics and pressing issues, ranging from immigration to the farm bill to budget discussions.

Looking for up-to-the-minute updates on policy topics? Follow the Catholic Charities USA Social Policy team on Twitter at@EndPoverty.

 

 

 

Food stamps trimmed for 47 million Americans

 

The benefit varies around the country, based on the cost of living. About 14 percent of all Americans are on food stamps.

 

 

Immigration Reform Postponed Until 2014 at Earliest

 

Despite ongoing efforts to highlight the need for a more fair and just immigration system, it appears that a legislative push to pass immigration reform will be delayed until 2014 at the earliest.

 

 

White House Taking Strong Interest in Farm Bill, Vilsack Says

 

The benefit reduction will reduce SNAP spending by $5 billion in 2014.In the interview, Vilsack indicated two areas where the Obama administration might find changes acceptable. It is an "efficiency tool" for states and will result in higher costs for them if changed, Vilsack said.


 

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Washington Weekly for November 4, 2013

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Washington Weekly
 
November 4, 2013
Volume 8, Number 30
 
In this issue:
 
  • Time Running Out for Immigration Reform in 2013 -- Take Action!
  • CCUSA Network Takes Action Around Potential Cuts to SNAP
  • Latest Opportunity Nation Reports Shows Youth at Risk
 
Election Day is Tuesday, November 5 – Don’t Forget to Vote! 
 
For the latest updates from our nation’s capital, follow us on Twitter at @EndPoverty!
 
 
Time Running Out for Immigration Reform in 2013 -- Take Action!
 
With less than 15 legislative days remaining in 2013, the passage of a comprehensive immigration bill in the House of Representatives is becoming increasingly less likely. But some components still have the potential to be passed in the House, and there is an opportunity for your voice to make an impact.

The House Judiciary Committee has moved forward with a series of bills on individual topics, and some members of the House majority have signed on to H.R. 15, immigration reform legislation sponsored by the minority. 
While House leadership has expressed a commitment to moving immigration bills forward, it remains to be seen whether enough of the majority caucus would support a strategy to bring the issue forward before the 2014 election cycle starts.
 
Mark your calendar for the National Call-In Day to Congress on the important topic of comprehensive immigration reform. On Wednesday, November 13, supporters of immigrants across the country can call 1-855-589-5698 to deliver this simple message to their representatives:
 
Support a path to citizenship and oppose punitive border security measures.

The USCCB and CLINIC will also be sponsoring a series of informational webinarsthroughout the month of November. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
CCUSA Network Takes Action Around Potential Cuts to SNAP
 
Last week, Catholic Charities USA organized a week of action, calling on Members of Congress to protect a vital anti-hunger program in discussions around the reauthorization of the farm bill. Capitol Hill offices received hundreds of messages from members of the Catholic Charities movement around the country.
 
Both the House and Senate bills include reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), and both would have an impact on those receiving aid from this crucial program.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate's version of the billwould cause an estimated 500,000 households see their benefits cut by an average $90 per month. It also found that the House bill would cause nearly 3 million households to lose eligibility for SNAP, and another 850,000 households see their benefits fall significantly.
 
Thank you to all who participated in this Week of Action. CCUSA will continue to monitor this important issue and provide updates on the progress of negotiations, as well as provide opportunities for your voice to be heard at moments of maximum impact, like last week. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs, atrjackson@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
Latest Opportunity Nation Reports Shows Youth at Risk
 
Approximately 15 percent of Americans age 16-24 are neither in school or working, according a new report, putting at risk their ability to learn skills or gain experience they will need to achieve their full potential.
 
Opportunity Nation, a coalition of civic and non-profit organizations, released its findings last week, highlighting the struggles that low- and middle-income youth can face in having the opportunity to maintain self-sufficiency. Their Opportunity Index, an interactive online tool, illustrates on a county-by-county basis how local communities are providing support structures such as pre-school, affordable housing.


 

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Help Clean Up Our Air

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The Creation Care Ministry of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Sierra Club are sponsoring an information session informing citizens about the topic of “Beyond Coal”. Coal has caused great air and water pollution creating asthma and various other health problems.

Join us on Friday, November 8th at 7 PM in the Science Room in of Saint Thomas Aquinas School, located at 46th and Illinois St., to learn what to do about this problem as well as cleaner alternatives to create better quality of life for people living in Indiana.


 

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Climate Risks: Envisioning a Clean Energy Future in Indianapolis

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Climate Risks: Envisioning a Clean Energy Future for Indianapolis 

When:  Thursday, November 7,  at 7 p.m. 

Where: Epworth United Methodist Church, 6450 Allisonville Rd  Indianapolis, IN 46220
What: The risk of run-away climate change is real. Through a scratch-off style lottery game, find out the potential risks and rewards of environmental change (like converting to clean energy, civil disobedience, or increased floods). Participants can enter to win home energy efficiency kits, solar assessments, and other environment saving prizes.
 

During the event, three panelists will discuss the impact of climate change, corrective strategies that can be pursued, and riskier tactics like civil disobedience. The panelists include the national leader of Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign Mary Anne Hitt, climate scientist and geologist Dr. Kathy Licht from IUPUI, Board Chair for Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light Rev. Dr. Lyle McKee, and Sierra Club's Indiana representative for the "Beyond Coal" Campaign Jodi Perras.

Click here to RSVP to the Spirit and Place Festival!


 

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Melting Ice, Mending Creation

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The St. Thomas Aquinas Creation Care Ministry invites you to attend "Melting Ice, Mending Creation: A Catholic Approach to Climate Change"on Friday, October 4, (the feast of St. Francis) from 7:00 to 8:30 pm in the St. Thomas Aquinas school Science Lab (46th and Illinois).  This program includes a short video from James Balog, the science photographer who documented vivid evidence of climate change in his film, Chasing Ice, followed by a facilitated discussion based on Catholic doctrine.  RSVPs are encouraged (stacreationcare@gmail.com ) but walk-ins are welcome.

 

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Catholic Charities Action Alert

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ACTION ALERT: Use August Recess to Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Take Action!

 
 

Congress has left Washington, D.C., for its annual August recess, allowing representatives and senators time back in the district to hear directly from the people they represent.  With comprehensive immigration reform still a very real possibility, this is a critical time for all seeking a more fair and just treatment of those who have come to our country seeking a better life. 

 

We urge you to call on your elected officials to pass bi-partisan immigration reform that preserves and protects family unity and provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented persons living in the United States.

 

Even if you think your Representative is opposed to immigration reform, it is still important that they hear from you. 

 

With Representatives and Senators back home for the recess, we need you to take action during this critical time period: 

  • Visit, call, or write your Representative and Senators;
  • Write op-eds or letters to the editor in your local newspaper;
  • Participate in a town hall meeting with your elected officials and voice your concerns;
  • Invite your elected officials to see the good work going on at your parish, food pantry, or Catholic Charities that is service struggling, poor and hungry people.

 

Many advocates may remember the summer of 2006, when momentum around immigration reform dissipated over the August recess. To keep that from happening again, Catholic Charities USA is committed to supporting the efforts of the national Catholic Charities movement to work for justice for the often-marginalized members of the immigrant community. Additional resources are available through our partners at Justice For Immigrants.

 

 

 
 


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Washington Weekly for August 6, 2013

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WW
 
August 6, 2013
Volume 8, Number 24
 
  • House Pulls THUD Appropriations Bill 
  • Immigration Reform Still Under Discussion as Congress Recesses
  • Path Forward for Farm Bill Unclear
  • Census Bureau Announces Release Date of Key Poverty Indicators
  • Let Us Know!
 
Please note: Washington Weekly will be on hiatus during Congress’ annual August recess. Please be on the lookout for Action Alerts and other opportunities to make your voice heard from Catholic Charities USA, and for the latest updates from our nation’s capitol, follow us on Twitter at @EndPoverty!
 
House Pulls THUD Appropriations Bill 

The House of Representatives continued to find difficulty in passing spending authorization bills on Wednesday, as leadership pulled an appropriations bill funding the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
 
The $44.1 billion package, which provides funding for community development block grants (CDBGs), among other programs, was criticized by some House members for cutting too much in spending on these programs, and criticized by others for not cutting enough federal outlays. As drafted, the bill would have cut CDBG funding to 1970s levels. In advance of the House’s consideration of the letter, Catholic Charities USA sent a letter on the THUD appropriations levels.
 
It appears increasingly likely that most spending bills will be rolled over in a continuing resolution, which would maintain funding at current levels. Congress is unlikely to pass appropriations bills after the August recess when an impending debt-limit fight will likely take center stage. Catholic Charities USA will continue to monitor the appropriations process and provide updates and opportunities to weigh in at moments of maximum impact.
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


Immigration Reform Still Under Discussion as Congress Recesses
 
Despite media reports to the contrary, both Democratic and Republican offices have shown a willingness to consider comprehensive immigration reform in meetings with advocates in advance of the August recess. While the House is taking a slower, piece-by-piece approach to reform than the Senate’s comprehensive reform bill, there remain a substantial number of House members committed to addressing our nation’s broking immigration system before the end of the year.
 
Many offices have indicated an openness to support some type of reform and stressed the importance of hearing from constituents over the recess. Even if you think your Representative is opposed to immigration reform, it is still important that they hear from you. Please be on the lookout for Action Alerts, town hall information, and other resources from Catholic Charities USA during this critical time.
 
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


Path Forward for Farm Bill Unclear
 
On June 10, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill that included $4 billion in cuts to SNAP and nearly $6 billion in cuts to conservation programs over ten years. On July 11, the House passed a version of the Farm Bill that removed SNAP and the rest of the nutrition title from the Farm Bill. The House is now considering different options including cuts and structural changes to SNAP.
 
The path forward on the Farm Bill is uncertain. Congress could begin to negotiate the process to reauthorize the Farm Bill when they return in September, or the House may attempt to pass a separate nutrition bill. Given time constraints, Congress may instead choose to extend the Farm Bill for a short period of time before the current extension ends on September 30.
 
CCUSA will continue to monitor the farm bill and work closely with partners including the USCCB, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and others to provide opportunities to influence the future of this vital program.
For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs, atrjackson@catholiccharitiesusa.org


Census Bureau Announces Release Date of Key Poverty Indicators
 
The Census Bureau, whose research sets the official measure of those living below the federal poverty line, announced last week that the most recent population figures would be released on September 17.
 
The annual release includes detailed information on income ranges, health insurance status, and number of Americans who are living in poverty, health insurance, and annual income. Catholic Charities USA will carefully review the 2012 numbers upon their release and report on their impact in Washington Weekly and other resources.
 
For more information, please contact Julie Zorb, Manager, Policy and Research, atjzorb@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
 
***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.
 


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Washington Weekly for June 30, 2013

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WW
 
July 30, 2013
Volume 8, Number 23
 
  • New Economic Mobility Findings from the Equality of Opportunity Project
  • Farm Bill Progress Slow as House Seeks Food Stamp Deal
  • President Obama Calls for ‘Ladders of Opportunity’ in Economic Address
  • Let Us Know!
 
For the latest news from our nation’s capitol, please follow us on Twitter at @EndPoverty!
 
New Economic Mobility Findings from the Equality of Opportunity Project

Last week, researchers from Harvard University and University of California Berkeley released a new analysis looking at how likely a child of poor parents is to grow up to also be poor. The Equality of Opportunity Project examined millions of income records to assess the likelihood that children born in families at lower income levels move to higher income levels by the age of 30. 

Their findings show stark differences in intergenerational economic mobility across the country. The metro areas where children born in the bottom 20 percent of the national income distribution were most likely to rise to the top 20 percent were Salt Lake City (11.5% likelihood), San Jose, and San Francisco (both an 11.2% likelihood). Meanwhile, children born in the bottom income quintile in Atlanta, GA had only 4.0% odds of rising to the top 20 percent of area incomes, the lowest percentage of any metropolitan area in the nation. Full rankings are available on the project’s website.

For more information, please contact Julie Zorb, Manager, Policy and Research, at jzorb@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
Farm Bill Progress Slow as House Seeks Food Stamp Deal

On Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said that the House will attempt to pass billions of dollars in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) before negotiating with the Senate on the vital anti-hunger program.
 
Cantor said at a press conference that majority House members are still seeking agreement on a level of cuts to include in their stand-alone legislation dealing with SNAP. The version of the farm bill that passed the House (HR 2642) removed all SNAP provisions when a consensus could not be reached over the extent of SNAP cuts. The Senate bill (S. 954) does include funding for SNAP at a level that is $4 billion lower than the current funding amount. Any bill that passes the House would be sent to a conference committee with the Senate’s version of the legislation to seek a potential compromise, which would then be voted on by each chamber and sent to the President’s desk.
 
Congress currently has 12 work days scheduled before the expiration of the farm bill, which authorizes the funding for SNAP and other key programs. If a deal is not reached before September 30, Congress will either have to pass another continuing resolution to maintain funding levels or see farm subsidies revert back to 1949 levels.
 
For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, at rjackson@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
 
President Obama Calls for ‘Ladders of Opportunity’ in Economic Address
 
In an address on Wednesday, President Obama spoke about the need to provide greater opportunity to lift the middle class and create a stronger economy. "We've got to rebuild ladders of opportunity for all those Americans who haven't made it yet," said the President, addressing a crowd at Illinois’ Knox College.

The President sought to refocus attention on his economic proposals included in his FY14 budget proposal, including increasing access to high-quality early childhood education, raising the minimum wage, funding homeless assistance grants, and seeking permanent tax cuts for lower- and middle-class families.
 
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 

Let us know!
 
Do you have a unique relationship with your Representative or Senator? Does your member of Congress have a special connection to Catholic Charities (e.g. adoption, services, supporter, etc.)? Have you recently met with them? Is there something we should know? If so, please tell us. This information is very useful to us as we meet with congressional offices in Washington, DC.

Any time you interact with your elected officials please let Catholic Charities USA know by filling out this form. This will enable us to follow-up with them here in Washington.
 
For more information, contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, atlcobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.
 


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I-CAN Update on Federal Level Issues

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Federal Update
July 23, 2013
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
Although the Indiana legislature has adjourned, there are significant issues and bills being considered on the Federal level that require attention. While each has made it through one step of the process, there is still time for you to contact your members of Congress and Senators.  And during August you may see them in your community, as Congress will be in recess the entire month meeting with constituents.
 
Immigration reform passes Senate; House must act this fall.
The U.S. Senate passed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Competitiveness, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, by a vote of 68-32. Senator Donnelly voted to support the bill; Senator Coats voted in opposition.  While the bill is not perfect, it does comport with the Bishops’ principles for comprehensive immigration reform.  Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, CA, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, commented, “The Senate legislation would allow immigrants and their families to come out of the shadows and into the light and would protect families from separation”.
 
This is only the first step; the House of Representatives now needs to follow suit and pass legislation dealing with this same issue. The House intends to pass several separate bills dealing with the various aspects of immigration policy rather than the comprehensive bill that the Senate passed. While comprehensive reform is needed, there are different paths to the same objective. Please contact your member of Congress and ask them to support immigration reform measures that accomplish these objectives:
  1.  Provide legalization and a path to citizenship for undocumented person in our nation;
  2.  Preserve family unity as a corner-stone of our national immigration system.
  3.  Provide legal paths for low-skilled workers to come and work in the United States;
  4.  Address the root causes (push factors) of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity
The status quo of the current system causes much suffering among immigrants and their families. In the interest of all, immigration policy needs to be revised in a manner that is humane, realistic and respectful of the immigrant as well as serves our nation’s economic and security needs. This year is an opportunity to make a difference. IT IS IMPORTANT that U. S. Representatives hear from you during August.

Federal education policy
House passes bill; Senate must act
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of ESEA (NCLB) reauthorization in a vote of 221-207.    No Democrats supported the bill while 12 Republicans opposed final passage of the measure. The House bill contains language that fixes a problem with equitable participation and set asides that adversely affected students in Catholic and other non-public schools. This is a great victory and step forward thanks to U.S. Representative Todd Rokita from Indiana (District 4).Representative Rokita chaired the House committee that drafted the bill. Please thank him and U.S. Representatives: Susan Brooks, Luke Messer, Larry Bucshon, Marlin Stutzman, Todd Young and Jackie Walorski for their support of the bill.

The Senate HELP Committee passed its version of ESEA reauthorization recently, also in a partisan vote, earlier this month. The Senate bill, which does not contain similar language to fix the problem, will have to move to the floor in order for the two bills to be conferenced and have an opportunity to become law. The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is long overdue. There is a good chance that this Congressional term could be the year for action.

Farm Bill 
There are competing versions of the Farm bill again this session. The Senate included food programs for domestic and international aid. The House defeated the Senate version and then passed its own bill which eliminated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. The House intends to address food stamp in a separate bill. Whether separately or jointly, all members need to support a Farm Bill that provides for poor and hungry people both at home and abroad, offers effective support for those who grow our food, ensures fairness to family farmers and ranchers, and promotes stewardship of the land. Please contact both Senators and Representatives asking them to address these priorities.
 


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Washington Weekly for May 28

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May 28, 2013
Volume 8, Number 16


Inside this issue:

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Immigration Legislation
  • Senate Votes on Farm Bill Amendments
  • Poverty Level Rises in Suburbs, New Research Shows
  • Let Us Know!

Congress will be observing the Memorial Day recess this week. Washington Weekly will return on June 10. For the latest news from our nation’s capitol, please follow us on Twitter at@EndPoverty!


Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Immigration Legislation 

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which has jurisdiction over legislation that would dramatically revamp our nation’s broken immigration system, voted 13-5 to approve the bill and send it to the full Senate for debate and a potential vote.

The Judiciary Committee spent five days considering amendments and debating provisions of the bill, which would open a pathway to citizenship for many who entered the country without documentation. The final version of the bill includes new visa programs for both high-tech and low-skilled workers, as well as new spending dedicated to improving border security. 

The Congressional Budget Office is scheduled to release their estimate of the full cost of the measure within two weeks, and it is expected that the full Senate will take up the bill for debate and a vote shortly thereafter, possibly immediately following their return from the Memorial Day recess. 

Following the committee’s approval, Catholic Charities USA’s President, Fr. Larry Snyder, released a statement applauding the bi-partisan efforts which ensured the bill’s passage. “Catholic social teaching calls us to seek justice for newcomers,” he wrote. “We strongly believe that any proposal considered must – at its core – build up our communities and support our families by including a path to citizenship, allowing families to remain intact, providing worker protections and addressing the plight of undocumented children.”

For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org


Senate Votes on Farm Bill Amendments

On Wednesday, the Senate began debate over amendments related to reauthorization of the farm bill. It is expected that the Senate will conclude debate on the farm bill after the Memorial Day recess, with a vote projected for Wednesday, June 5. 

Among the amendments considered were two with particular impact on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.) The first, proposed by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.,) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.,) would allow homebound seniors and disabled persons to use SNAP benefits to purchase food from retailers that offer home-delivery services. This amendment was also included in the House farm bill, making it very likely it would be included in a final agreement. The second, proposed by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.,) would ban convicted murderers, rapists, and pedophiles from receiving SNAP benefits. Both amendments were approved by unanimous consent. A proposal by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to convert SNAP into a block grant was voted down by a tally of 36-60.

Catholic Charities USA  will continue to work with our partners to closely monitor the ongoing debate and provide opportunities for you to have your voice heard at moments of maximum impact. 
For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, atrjackson@catholiccharitiesusa.org


Poverty Level Rises in Suburbs, New Research Shows

A new book released Monday by researchers at the Brookings Institution reports that the number of those living in poverty in suburban America rose by 64 percent from 2000 to 2011, more than double the rate of those living in cities. 

Co-authors Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube found that while the suburban poverty rate remains lower than the urban rate, increasing poverty in the suburbs can be traced to faster population growth in those areas, as well as a decline in manufacturing and construction jobs. 

The suburban area with the highest level of people living in poverty is El Paso, Texas, with 36.4% living below the federal poverty line. Communities in California, New Mexico, and Florida also saw some of the highest suburban poverty rates in the nation. More resources and stories of suburban communities seeing an increase in poverty are available on the researchers’ website

For more information, please contact Julie Zorb, Manager, Policy and Research, atjzorb@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 

 
 
 
***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


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Senate May Vote on Farm Bill This Week

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May 20, 2013
Volume 8, Number 15


Inside this issue:

  • Senate May Vote on Farm Bill This Week
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Continues Immigration Bill Markup
  • HHS Announces National Child-Care Standards
  • Let Us Know!

For the latest updates from our nation’s capitol, please follow us on Twitter at: @EndPoverty

 
Senate May Vote on Farm Bill This Week
The Senate is expected to take up legislation to reauthorize the farm bill as early as this week. The farm bill is the source of funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), as well as conservation and international development programs. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry approved a bill last week that would cut SNAP funding by $4 billion. 

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Agriculture approved a five-year farm bill reauthorization that would cut $20 billion from SNAP by limiting the types of low-income benefits that would qualify low-income individuals for the program, as well as restrict lottery winners and undocumented immigrants from accessing SNAP benefits. An amendment sponsored by Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., that would have restored the funding cuts failed to garner majority support. Candy Hill, CCUSA's Executive Vice President of Social Policy and External Affairs, participated in a press conference on Thursday encouraging elected officials to protect the poor and vulnerable in discussions about cutting SNAP funding.
 
The House and Senate will be looking to reach agreement before the current farm bill authorization expires on September 30. Catholic Charities USA will continue to monitor both pieces of legislation as they progress through the legislative process and will provide opportunities on behalf of those who are helped by crucial nutrition programs at time when your voice will have the maximum impact. 

For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs, atrjackson@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
Senate Judiciary Committee Continues Immigration Bill Markup
 
Over the past week, the Senate continued its work on legislation that would comprehensively reform our nation’s immigration system. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which has jurisdiction over the bill, held more markup hearings on Tuesday and Thursday, part of the process of moving the bill forward to a potential floor vote. The Judiciary Committee will mark up Title II of the bill, which contains provisions related to the ‘path to citizenship’ and family reunification, next week.  

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) will continue to provide updates on major developments in this significant legislative effort and opportunities to lend your voice at times of maximum impact. We will also continue our work with our partners, including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other members of the Justice for Immigrants coalition to closely monitor the ongoing debate over comprehensive immigration reform.These partnership efforts include the Justice for Immigrants Advocacy Day, taking place today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C. 
 
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
HHS Announces National Child-Care Standards
 
On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the first national health and safety standards for all child-care facilities that accept government subsidies. The proposed regulations would apply to facilities that receive funding from the federal Child Care and Development Fund, and would include training workers in first-aid, safe sleeping, and CPR procedures. 

The new regulations would replace a patchwork of state-level requirements to set a standard of universal background and fingerprint checks of workers in child-care facilities, and would encourage states to streamline the process of application for low-income child-care subsidies through online filing and other practices. The release announcing the proposed rule is available on the HHS website.
 
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.
 
 
 


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Campaign to Reduce Poverty in the US

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On Friday April 26th, 100 leaders from most of our Catholic institutions around the state - including all five Indiana bishops - gathered at the Center for Social Concerns on the campus of the University of Notre Dame for the first-ever Indiana Catholic Poverty Summit.  

 

Inspired by the Catholic Charities USA Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's Poverty USA initiative, our own state is taking up the challenge of seeking the most effective ways to reduce poverty in Indiana. Although our Catholic schools, hospitals, social service agencies, and parishes already do tremendous work for those suffering the effects of poverty, we are seeking new ways to collaborate around a common goal while leading the non-Catholic institutions in Indiana to join us in an ambitious effort to reduce poverty and its resulting suffering.  

 

Those of us who are part of Catholic Charities will be on the front lines of demonstrating the most effective ways to alleviate poverty. We will be called upon to not only serve the immediate needs of those living in poverty, but we will lead the way in bringing new and creative ways to end the cycle of generational poverty. What we will do will leave a positive, indelible imprint on our state for years to come.

 

Until we establish our goals and the direction for our collaborative efforts for the next several years, I invite all of you to join in prayer for a successful summit.

 

Indiana Catholic Poverty Summit Prayer

Loving Lord of Compassion, You hear the cries of the poor and oppressed throughout all places and time. The prophets remind us to open our ears to the needs of those in our own midst. Give us the focus to move our faith into action.

 

Our community has been blessed at this crossroads to have the vision of holy women and men, Like Saint Mother Guerin and Blessed Basil Moreau, to connect our minds and heart in service to Your Kingdom. May the communion of saints continually guide us through obstacles and despair.

 

Send your Spirit to give us strength and wisdom, So our eyes and ears seek your truth in the public square as well as in your holy places. Grace our hands and feet to build a more just community. Bless our hearts to warm our world with hope and compassion.

 

We ask this in the name of Jesus, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, Now and forever, Amen.

 

Peace,

 

David Siler

Executive Director, Catholic Charities & Family Ministries

dsiler@archindy.org   

 



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I-CAN Legislative Wrap Up

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May 3, 2013
 
LEGISLATIVE SESSION WRAP UP
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
The 2013 General Assembly ended late last Friday, April 26 or actually early on Saturday morning about 1:30 AM. The session proved to be significant in that it was unlike the two previous sessions. The respective caucuses and chambers found ways to work in a bipartisan manner and accomplish much, depending on one’s perspective. From ICC’s perspective, as in most sessions, there are reasons to be satisfied and things left undone or not done well.
 
Medical/ Chemical Abortion issue was addressed in SB 371. Clinics who prescribe RU 486 or other abortion inducing drugs will now have to comply with regulations for abortion clinics that perform surgical abortions. In addition, other regulations will ensure that women are not left without proper support for follow-up care as well as restrictions on how and when these drugs may be used. An outcome may well be fewer chemical abortions in Indiana. Also, Indiana’s informed consent law for all abortions was clarified and improved.
 
School choice program was improved in several substantive ways. More students will have opportunity for school choice in both the voucher and the scholarship tax credit programs. Students with special needs and those who are assigned to an F school will automatically qualify for a voucher, provided the family meets income eligibility requirements. This includes students who are already enrolled in a Catholic school. And siblings of those who have received a voucher will now be eligible for the voucher also. In addition, current Catholic school families who meet income requirements are eligible for a tax credit scholarship thru an SGO. This could qualify them for a voucher the following year. There were technical aspects of both programs that were addressed also: The tax credit can now be extended into multiple years for those taxpayers that may need this. Also the DOE is required to process voucher program applications in a timely manner.
 
Undocumented students who were enrolled in a university in 2011 can now return to school and qualify for in-state tuition rates. SB 207 passed with strong majorities.
 
HB 1182, Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment form, passed with the support of all members. The bill provides better communication between medical settings and more consistent care for the individuals who are at the end stages of life. Those seeking the change in the law sought and followed the advice of the Church regarding end-of-life care and dignity of life and the individual.
 
Early childhood education was addressed in a modest manner. HB 1004, Early education evaluation program, passed but was reduced to requiring the Division of Family Resources to gather data about the school readiness of low-income children who have been in quality programs that require a parental engagement component.  It also establishes an early learning advisory committee to report on certain issues. The budget is where pre-K matching grant program of $2M/yr. was appropriated. The tax credits for quality child care were stripped out in the final hours.
 
SB 305, Child care regulations, passed and establishes basic health and safety requirements for providers that accept Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), such as sanitation standards, safe sleeping practices, written discipline process, minimum age of 18 years to supervise, orientation, medications inaccessible to children, child abuse training, volunteer definition (at least 8 hrs. /mo.) and parental consent to transport children. The bill also defines conditions (imminent danger) for emergency action and specifies that the Committee on Child Care will study due process this summer.
 
HB 1494, National criminal background checks, specifies comprehensive national background checks for child care providers and the types of crimes that would prohibit a person from working in child care. This bill will require fingerprinting for all newly hired staff (and volunteers working more than 8 hrs. /mo.) beginning in July and provides 1 year for current staff to have the check.
 
Medicaid expansion was left to the Governor to determine with the Federal authorities. The outcome of the health care for poor families, mostly working poor, is uncertain. It is hoped that with some flexibility granted by the Federal program the Governor will find a way to extend coverage for these families. The attempt to lower eligibility for prenatal coverage was stopped. Mothers will still be eligible up to 200 % of poverty.
 
Approval of a process to allow residents of Central Indiana to determine whether a mass transit system should be constructed was again delayed. This issue has been brought to the General Assembly for several years. Another study committee will review and report before next session.
 
In the end the Senate and House could not agree on the drug testing for TANF assistance, HB 1483. The bill died as the author was unwilling to accommodate a Senate provision to allow a third party to receive the benefit when children were involved.
 
Thank you for your interest and support throughout the session. Now we will turn our attention to Federal bills regarding freedom of conscience and immigration reform.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived Updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org
 


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Protect Rights of Conscience

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FEDERAL ALERT-Protect Rights of Conscience & Religious Liberty

 

Please contact your Representative today!
 
The Obama Administration’s contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization mandate will begin to be enforced against nonprofit religious schools, charities and health care providers on August 1. In the days to come, Congress must decide whether to address this problem through must-pass legislation before that deadline.
 
Members of the House should be urged to include the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940) in the next bill needed to keep the federal government operating.
 
See Fact Sheet for HR 940.
 
Please act today to protect conscience rights and religious liberty
 


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Washington Weekly for April 22, 2013

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April 22, 2013
Volume 8, Number 12


Inside this issue:

  • Catholic Charities Leaders Visit Capitol Hill
  • Bi-Partisan Immigration Bill Introduced
  • Gun Control Provisions Fail to Pass Senate
  • Quarterly Snapshot Survey Shows Potential Impact of Sequester
  • Let Us Know!
 
Are you on Twitter? Follow the Catholic Charities USA Social Policy team @CCUSA2EP for the latest news on ending poverty in America!

 
Catholic Charities Leaders Visit Capitol Hill
 
On Wednesday, April 17, leaders from Catholic Charities agencies across America came to Washington, DC, to meet with their legislators and call on them to support innovative and effective reform of the social safety net.

With continued focus on the budget debate in Washington, the annual Hill Day visits provided agency leadership the opportunity to illustrate the impact of federal budget cuts to those in their local communities who are suffering the most and seeking out the services of their local agency. Catholic Charities leaders participated in over 100 meetings with Congressional staff and Members of Congress. In addition, agencies encouraged their elected officials to support new and innovative approaches to reducing poverty in America. Catholic News Service accompanied Catholic Charities directors as they participated in Hill Day. 

To learn more about CCUSA's Hill Day and to join in the conversation, read this press releaseand follow the hashtag #TalkPoverty on Twitter. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 

Bi-Partisan Immigration Bill Introduced
 
Last week, a bi-partisan group of eight Senators introduced a comprehensive bill that would overhaul our nation’s immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
 
In addition to increasing the number of new permanent residents, the proposal would enhance high-skilled temporary-worker programs, create new visas for lower-skilled temporary workers and agricultural workers, and authorize $4.5 billion for border security.
 
Known as the “Gang of 8,” the group responsible for the bill is comprised of Senators Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
 
A summary of the bill is available from Sen. Rubio’s office, and the full text of the bill is available here. Shortly after the bill was introduced, Fr. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA issued a statement commending the introduction of the bill, saying “We look forward to analyzing this proposal in detail and working closely with Members on both sides of the aisle to bring to fruition a bipartisan path forward for the millions in our country waiting for action.” The full text of that statement is available here. The bill will now go to the Judiciary committee, where a series of hearings is expected prior to a vote. Please look for updates as the proposal moves through the legislative process.
 
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) released a summary of the bill, and our partners at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also released a statement.
 
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
Gun Control Provisions Fail to Pass Senate
 
A series of votes aimed at reforming the nation’s gun laws was defeated on the Senate floor on Wednesday, failing to achieve the 60 votes necessary to secure approval.
 
A proposal to expand required background checks to most gun sales received 54 votes; a bill that would limit the size of ammunition clips received support from 46 senators; and a ban on assault-style weapons received 40 votes. A provision that that would have expanded rights to carry concealed weapons also failed, receiving 57 votes.
 
Representatives from the families affected in the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School went to Capitol Hill in an effort to secure passage of the background-check provision, while President Obama vowed to use “whatever power this office holds” to continue to pursue avenues that could prevent future gun violence.
 
Father Larry Snyder, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, has joined other faith leaders in urging elected officials to take action to prevent gun violence.
 
For more information, please contact Candy Hill, Sr. Vice President, atchill@catholiccharitiesusa.org


Quarterly Snapshot Survey Shows Potential Impact of Sequester
 
Catholic Charities USA recently released its Fourth Quarter 2012 Snapshot Survey, giving a real-time look into the on-the-ground situations faced by Catholic Charities agencies around the country. This quarter’s survey focused on cuts to federal non-defense discretionary spending, known as “sequestration.”
 
Agencies report that eminent cuts to federal spending will force the already struggling agencies to serve even fewer clients, particularly those seeking basic assistance and refugee services. The majority of agencies indicated that decreases in federal funding would significantly impact their ability to provide refugee services (69 percent of agencies providing these services), basic needs assistance (59 percent), food services (56 percent), housing services (53 percent), and utilities assistance (50 percent). Additional findings of the survey can be found in this survey report.
 
For more information, please see this release or contact Julie Zorb, Manager, Policy and Research at jzorb@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

Let us know!
 
Do you have a unique relationship with your Representative or Senator? Does your member of Congress have a special connection to Catholic Charities (e.g. adoption, services, supporter, etc.)? Have you recently met with them? Is there something we should know? If so, please tell us. This information is very useful to us as we meet with congressional offices in Washington, DC.

Any time you interact with your elected officials please let Catholic Charities USA know by filling out this form. This will enable us to follow-up with them here in Washington.
 
For more information, contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, atlcobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.
 
 


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I-CAN Update for April 19, 2013

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April 19, 2013
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
Conference committees are meeting and many bills are passing on concurrence motions. The legislators are moving quickly to conclude the session; the goal is to end by next Friday and not go until the deadline of April 29. Most expect a conclusion by next weekend. This part of the session is very fluid and while I can give you some indication of what has taken place, there is little certainty in the outcomes, save for concurrence adoptions. Much will depend on budget negotiations over the weekend and early next week and will determine prospects for several education bills.
 
SB 207, Resident tuition, passed the House on a strong bi-partisan vote of 70 – 23. It does contain an amendment that provides resident tuition to veterans that move into Indiana. Another bill SB 177 also provides for this. Notwithstanding the duplication, we are hopeful that the Senate will concur with SB 207, since it maintains the Senate version regarding undocumented students. The bill only provides for those students who were enrolled in universities when the law changed in 2011.While this does not go as far as ICC would have preferred, it is a step in the right direction. ICC supports SB 207. Senator Jean Leising (R – Oldenburg) is expected to call the bill next week.
 
Conference committee for HB 1003, School scholarships (Voucher expansion), met Thursday afternoon. The Democrat and Republican caucuses exchanged different versions of a committee report. Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis) has asked that the minimum SGO scholarship be reduced from $1000 to $500 in order for the person to be eligible for a voucher the following yearOther changes included a raise in the elementary voucher amount to $4700 and to broaden the study committee objectives. Democrats countered with changes that would have removed siblings from eligibility and restricting schools from accepting voucher students. A bigger hurdle is the reluctance of the Senate Republican caucus to consider changes. Negotiations will continue over the weekend. If Representative Behning has to concur with the Senate version, we will seek changes to the SGO $1000 minimum in the budget bill.
 
A conference committee was convened on Thursday to consider HB 1004, Early education evaluation program. The two versions of the bill were discussed but not conclusions or recommendations regarding a compromise were offered. The committee was recessed to allow for discussions to continue and to reconvene on short notice next week. It is unlikely that the pilot program will be established. As an alternative, a grant program for preschool programs was added to a Senate bill, SB 338, last week. A conference committee on it has been set for Monday at 4 PM. This alternative grant program may be the avenue for preschool support this session.
 
Notwithstanding the work and collaboration on SB 305, Child care regulations, a conference committee was called on Thursday.  Eric Miller, representing some child care ministry providers, objected to language regarding the study committee and the conditions of eminent danger wherein the state could take action. Hence, a conference committee convened but not much to report as yet.
  
Representative Jud McMillin (R – Brookville) concurred with the Senate version of HB 1482, Expungement. It is eligible for action next week.
 
Representative Todd Huston (R – Fishers) concurred with the Senate version of HB 1159, School liability. The bill provides for special limited liability for schools, including accredited non-public schools, should the school allow community use of physical fitness activities to the general public.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived Updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org
 


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Washington Weekly for April 12

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[CORRECTION]
 
Washington Weekly – Special Edition
April 12, 2013
 
***Please note: The chart found below has been updated. Please disregard the previous version.***


President Releases FY2014 Budget Proposal
 
Yesterday, the President released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. The President’s budget comes after competing proposals from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. While budget resolutions have no force of law, they are intended as blueprints to express the government’s funding priorities and pathways towards reducing the federal deficit.
 
For a look at the funding levels allocated to key funding sources for programs run by Catholic Charities agencies across the country, please see this chart prepared by the Catholic Charities USA social policy team.
 
Following the President’s announcement, Catholic Charities USA released a statementstressing the importance of investing in programs that provide aid to those in need and enable those struggling to get by to build a pathway out of poverty.
 
 “Across this nation, Catholic Charities agencies continue to commit ourselves to the least among us and we cannot do this work without effective partnership and support from the federal government,” said Father Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA. “We call on our leaders in the White House and Congress – on both sides of the aisle – to prioritize investments in initiatives that have proven to be efficient and effective, ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent not on government bureaucracy, but on the people in communities across the country who continue to struggle.”
 
Unless Congress and the President find an agreement on an overarching budget, which most observers think is unlikely, the federal government’s operations and funding will continue to be authorized by a continuing resolution. The current continuing resolution expires on September 30. Ongoing discussions about the impact of sequestration and the nation’s debt will take place under the shadow of the approaching debt-limit ceiling cap, which is expected to need to be raised in mid-May.
 
Catholic Charities USA will continue to closely monitor these proceedings and will provide you with opportunities to make your voice at moments of maximum impact. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Advocacy and Civic Engagement, atlcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
Are you on Twitter? Follow the Catholic Charities USA Social Policy team @CCUSA2EP for the latest news on ending poverty in America!
 
 
 
***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


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Washington Weekly for February 25, 2013

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February 25, 2013
Special Edition - Sequester Update
 
For the latest news from the Catholic Charities USA Social Policy team, please follow us on Twitter @CCUSA2EP (CCUSA “2” End Poverty)!
 
 
Automatic Cuts Scheduled to Take Effect Friday
Help CCUSA illustrate the impact of these cuts on the poor and vulnerable!
 
 
Barring Congressional action, a package of automatic spending cuts, known as the “sequester,” are scheduled to take effect this Friday, March 1. The sequester will mandate an across-the-board cut of $85 billion dollars to domestic and defense spending this fiscal year. While leadership in the House and Senate is set to introduce competing plans to avert the cuts, time is running short for a compromise before the spending reductions take effect.
 
What This Means:
 
Those living on the margins of society are often the first ones to feel the impact of an economic downturn and the last ones to feel the recovery. Many of our brothers and sisters in need have barely recovered from economic recession. An additional crisis caused by an inability to reach bi-partisan consensus on avoiding cuts that both parties agree are blunt and indiscriminate will make it that much harder for thousands of individuals and families to make ends meet, much less reach their full potential.
 
What CCUSA Is Doing:
 
Catholic Charities agencies and the people they serve will be affected by these dramatic and sudden reductions in spending. Senior lobbyists from Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) have spent the last two months meeting with almost every newly-elected member of Congress. CCUSA will continue to meet with offices to encourage them to prevent the vulnerable from being disproportionately impacted by budget cuts and look for long-term solutions to reducing poverty in America.
 
We Want To Hear From You!
 
Show the CCUSA policy team what these federal cuts would mean to you and the people you serve. While not every program or even every agency receives funding from the federal government, the ripple effects of job losses, furloughs, or child care reductions in local communities could easily have a significant impact on agencies across the country.
 
Share the faces and stories of those whom you serve who would be impacted by these dramatic reductions in funding with Catholic Charities USA:
 
Catholic Charities USA will use these personal stories in their advocacy on the issue of the sequester, lending a human face to the numbers and statistics that illustrate the broad and indiscriminate reach of these automatic spending cuts.
 
For More Information:
 
The package of cuts orders administration agencies to make indiscriminate cuts to programs, sparing only some mandatory programs such as Medicaid and SNAP. Services such as Head Start, public health programs, meals for the elderly, among many other government services, would feel the blow of the mandatory cuts. While the sequester deadline is March 1, Congress will face another important deadline in a month, as the current continuing resolution authorizing government spending expires March 27. Catholic Charities USA will continue to advocate on protecting the poor and vulnerable in ongoing budget discussions, such as in this letter written by Father Larry Snyder on deficit reduction.

While the House passed two alternative proposals to the sequester last year, it has yet to pass a similar proposal this year. According to the approach outlined by the House Budget Committee, House leadership will attempt to shift the cuts away from defense spending by altering some pieces of Medicaid and reforming pay for government employees.
 
The White House and Senate leadership continues to stress the potential impact of the sequester on the federal workforce, including defense jobs and air traffic control. While pressing Congress to reach a consensus on a deal to avoid the cuts, the Administration has proposed replacing the sequester with a mixture of new tax revenue and tailored spending cuts. Additionally, the White House prepared a specific fact sheet for each state, illustrating the impact of the cuts on communities across the United States.
 
 
 
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Washington Weekly


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I-CAN Update for February 22, 2013

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February 22, 2013
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
Next week all bills must clear the house of origin. Hence, all bills had to clear second reading in the House this week. The Senate’s second reading deadline is Monday February 25.  Third reading deadline is next week Monday February 25 and Tuesday February 26, respectively for each.
 
Education
As expected, HB 1003, School scholarships, was amended in House Ways and Means Committee. It narrowed the eligibility and hence the fiscal impact, which is now estimated between $5 and $7M for each year of the biennial budget. While amendments were filed none were offered on second reading.
 
Although HB 1003 was altered, significant aspects of the bill stay in place. It provides for an expansion in critical areas; kindergarten students are eligible now and also siblings of voucher students. Both are major objectives of the Catholic Conference. While these are changes from Indiana’s current law, they are common features of school choice programs around the country. It also provides for additional entry points for families who have special needs children, for children of military and veteran families and for foster children. These children do not have to be in public school for two semesters to qualify, and these families have a higher income level for qualification. Another positive aspect is the expansion of the Scholarship Tax Credit eligibility to all families; under current law only those with kindergarten children or transferring from public schools are eligible. Hence, current Catholic school families would be eligible. Finally, the bill also establishes a Scholarship Tax Credit program for pre-school families whose income is under 200% of Free and Reduced Lunch. Third reading is pending and a positive vote is expected.
 
HB 1004, Pre-school scholarship program, passed the House on a 92 - 6 vote. The strong vote was somewhat surprising because the bill contains a provision that children eligible for this program also qualify for the school voucher program. This was a source of much angst in committee discussion, but all Democrats supported the bill on the floor vote. The only no votes came from Republican members.HB 1004 establishes a pilot program providing preschool opportunities for 1000 low income children. The program will be studied to see the effects on student achievement.
 
House Education Committee passed HB 1342, authored by Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis), on a party line vote. The bill removes the supervision of the voucher program from the Department of Education to the Office of Management and Budget under the Governor. Concerns arose when the Department of Education (DOE) had not taken steps to maintain the implementation schedule for voucher program. Following the committee hearing, the DOE made changes related to concerns expressed at the hearing. The bill did not receive a second reading in the House and dies this session.
 
Abortion
Bills dealing with abortion were heard in Senate Health Committee on Wednesday. SB 371, Abortion inducing drugs, authored by Senator Travis Holdman (R – Markle), passed the committee. The focus of the bill is medical or chemical abortion induced by RU 486. Due to nature of the drug and its effects, the bill requires that facilities where it is prescribed be the held to same standards as surgical abortion clinics. (It is now being dispensed at Planned Parenthood offices.) Also, the bill requires a follow-up exam after it is prescribed.
 
One objective is that fewer places will prescribe the drug and it may also reduce the incidents of prescriptions being dispensed via internet.  A second bill, SB 489, Certification forms before an abortion, authored by Senator Mike Young (R  - Indianapolis), passed Senate Health Committee 8 – 4. The objective of the bill is to clarify and strengthen current informed consent law. It will require further information of the fetal development and contact information of the physician who performs the abortion.   The Senate will consider it for second and third readings next week. ICC supports the bills.   See Action Alert here.
 
Immigration
SB 207, Resident tuition rate and other educational aid, authored by Senator Jean Leising (R – Oldenburg), passed Senate Education Committee 8 - 4. The bill will restore state tuition fees to students who had begun college before the legislature changed the law two years ago to require undocumented students pay out of state tuition. This effectively forced these students to drop out. While many hope to provide this for all undocumented Indiana residents who graduate from an Indiana High school, the bill only extends this to those who were already enrolled when the change came. ICC supports this bill and asks that Senators be contacted for support. It will be on second reading on Monday and Third reading on Tuesday.  See Action Alert here.
 
Child care regulations
SB 305 Child care regulation, although many amendments were offered, it passed second reading without substantive change. The bill adds health and safety requirements for child care ministries that receive child care vouchers.
 
SB 239 Tax Credit for quality child care, sponsored by Senator Travis Holdman, was heard in Senate Tax and Fiscal policy Committee. The bill provides for an income tax credit for children in child care that meets certain quality standards. Although the committee reduced the amount of credit, the fiscal impact is still considered too high by many. In order to limit its scope the bill may be limited to preschool ages rather than including children from infancy.
 
HB 1494 Criminal History Checks passed 90 - 0. It requires a national criminal history check for all employees and volunteers at child care facilities. Its mirror bill SB 114 passed the Senate 49 - 0.
 

In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived Updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org
 

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I-CAN Update on School Scholarships

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STATE ALERT - HB 1003 School scholarships

 

Support School Scholarship Program
 

HB 1003 School scholarships passed House committees. It is now eligible for vote by all members.  Contact your Representative and ask for support of HB 1003 as passed by Ways and Means committee!

HB 1003 improves the voucher program in these significant ways.  Expands eligibility for the School Scholarship/Voucher Program to more children, eliminating prior year public school requirement

  • Entering Kindergarten students now eligible to receive a voucher
  • Siblings of students who previously received a voucher or SGO scholarship are eligible
  • Foster children with family income below 200% of the Free or Reduced Lunch are eligible
  • Students with special needs with family income below 200% of the Free or Reduced Lunch
  • Children of  parents who are in the military or an honorably discharged veteran with family income under 200% of free and reduced lunch are eligible

Expands access for current voucher families

  • a family who meets the income requirements when they originally qualify can continue to receive a voucher even if the family exceeds the income cap in a subsequent year, as long as they do not exceed 200% of the amount to qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch

Increases the cap on the K-8 voucher amount

  • from $4500 to $5000 12/13 school year and $5500 the following year

Creates a Preschool Scholarship Program (Tax Credit/SGO Program) similar to the K-12 program

  • provides scholarships for eligible preschool students (students between ages 3 and 5), if the family income falls below 200% of free and reduced lunch
  • All families who meet the means test (200% of free or reduced lunch) are eligible for an SGO scholarship
 


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Washington Weekly for February 19, 2013

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February 19, 2013
Volume 8, Number 6

Inside this issue:

  • President Addresses Poverty, Opportunity in State of the Union Address
  • Senate Sends Violence Against Women Act to House
  • Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Immigration
  • Alternatives to Automatic Cuts Proposed
  • Let Us Know!
 
Please note – Congress is on recess this week. The next edition of Washington Weekly will be published March 4.
 
 
For the latest news from the Catholic Charities USA Social Policy team, please follow us on Twitter @CCUSA2EP (CCUSA “2” End Poverty)!
 
 
 
President Addresses Poverty, Opportunity in State of the Union Address
 
On Tuesday, February 12, President Barack Obama spoke to Congress and the nation about a wide array of domestic issues during his annual State of the Union address. 

During his hour-long speech, the President touched on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, telling Congress that the time to act is now, and that he would sign a bill that reunified families and provided a pathway to citizenship. The President dedicated a portion of his address to increasing opportunity in America, calling for universal access to high-quality preschool and raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour. He ended by raising the issue of gun violence, calling on Congress to pass a package of proposals aimed at reducing the number of firearm-related incidents, saying that the victims of Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Tucson “deserve a vote.”

Two days following the speech, members of Catholic Charities USA government relations staff were invited to a follow-up briefing at the White House. During this meeting, Vice-President Joe Biden reiterated the President’s commitment to reducing gun violence, achieving immigration reform, promoting opportunity, and establishing economic growth. 

Please visit our newsroom for Catholic Charities USA’s response to the State of the Union.

For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs, atrjackson@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
Senate Sends Violence Against Women Act to House
 
On Tuesday, February 12, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) by a 78-22 vote. The bill extends and strengthens provisions from the original 1994 legislation to protect and assist victims of domestic abuse for an additional five years. Last year, the House and Senate passed conflicting versions of VAWA reauthorization bills that were not reconciled before the end of the legislative session. 

Speaker of the House John Boehner has said that the House will take up the bill in a timely fashion, but it is unclear whether the House will consider the Senate version of the bill or a version of its own. 

Among the controversial provisions that could hinder compromise is language in the Senate bill that grants new authority for American Indian tribes to try domestic violence offenders in tribal courts. However, this year’s Senate bill does not include provisions for additional protections for undocumented immigrants, which proved a major sticking point in reconciliation attempts last year.

The bill passed by the Senate Tuesday also included an amendment reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. This act is the key piece of federal legislation in the fight against human trafficking, with provisions that address both international trafficking and domestic trafficking.
 
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Immigration
 
On Wednesday, February 13, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing entitled “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” the first of an expected series of hearings as legislative efforts to achieve meaningful reform get underway. 

The witness during the first session of the hearing was Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who talked about efforts to secure the border. The session consisted of five witnesses, who each represented different viewpoints on the issue of comprehensive reform: Jose Antonio Vargas, a former journalist and founder of Define American; Jessica Vaughan, an analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies; Steve Case, AOL co-founder and chairman of Revolution, LLC; Chris Crane, President of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 119, and; Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. 

To view a webcast of the hearing or read witness testimony and member statements, pleasevisit the hearing page on the Committee on the Judiciary website. In addition, read this post from Fr. Larry Snyder for his thoughts on the ongoing discussions around immigration reform, available on his blog, “Think and Act Anew.” 


For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
Alternatives to Automatic Cuts Proposed
 
 
With less than two weeks before the March 1 deadline, leadership in the Senate and House continued to disagree over the path to take to avert the package of across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to go into effect. 

The package of $110 billion automatic cuts to government agencies, known as the sequester, has been estimated to have a wide impact across many sectors of the economy, including putting 750,000 jobs at risk and threatening the current funding that makes Head Start programs accessible to 70,000 preschoolers. 

Senate leadership offered a plan on Thursday that would change the effective date of the cuts to January 2014 by replacing the sequester with a new package that would cut defense spending and increase tax rates on households making more than $2 million annually. House leadership has made clear that, even if it were to pass the Senate, a package along those lines would not be brought up for a vote in that chamber. It remains to be seen whether the House will vote on a proposal of its own to avert the cuts. 

To read the letter sent by Catholic Charities USA to Capitol Hill on the sequester, please visitour resource page on Scribd

 
For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs, atrjackson@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
 
***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.
 


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I-CAN Update for February 15, 2013

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February 15, 2013
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
Committees are hurrying to get bills heard before the deadline coming next week. Committee reports are due next week Tuesday in the House and Thursday in the Senate. Third reading deadline in each chamber is Tuesday, February 26.
 
SB 114 and HB 1494, National criminal history checks, passed the Senate Judiciary and House Committee on Children, Families and Human Affairs, respectively.  Both passed unanimously. They are mirror bills that change the law to require national criminal background checks of persons who are employed by child care facilities. Current law requires a state criminal check only. However, most Catholic programs already conduct a national background check. ICC supports the bills. The bills now go to the floor for passage.
SB 305, Child care regulation, passed Senate Health committee with a bi partisan unanimous support. The bill updates current law specifying requirements for child care that qualifies for child care vouchers. The bill includes maximum number of children in a facility, requirements for adult supervision and training for recognizing signs of child abuse and additional basic safety requirements.The bill now moves to Senate floor. ICC supports SB 305.
 
How to provide health care for low income people is a major issue for this legislative session. The Federal health care law will provide support for families with incomes above $35,000 to purchase health insurance, if they are not covered through employment; people with incomes below $11,000 and with virtually no assets are covered in Indiana’s Medicaid program. Those in the middle could be covered with an expansion of Medicaid through the Federal law. But how to provide for approximately 450,000 people is the question.  The financial and health implications are significant for families and all Hoosiers. Beyond the political and economic reasons, health care is a moral issue. For this reason, ICC is asking legislators and State administration to find a way to cover people in this gap.
 
SB 551 and HB 1591, Federal health care reform, take up the question of how Indiana will respond to health care for families without health insurance. Senate Health Committee passed SB 551; it proposes negotiating with the Federal government to seek a block grant for Medicaid and to utilize some aspects of Indiana’s HIP program.  HIP was developed in 2005 to provide for coverage of people not covered by Indiana’s Medicaid program, which focuses only on children and very low income persons. HB 1591, which passed House Health Committee, is similar; it utilizes the HIP program and seeks waivers from the Federal program in order for Indiana to design its own system of coverage. Most medical providers and those who serve the disabled and vulnerable population are encouraging Indiana to find a way to cover these persons. The bills will continue to move and change throughout the session.
 
HB 1003 will be heard in Ways and Means committee next week. Due to costs of the bill as passed in the Education Committee, we expect several changes in the bill. The major costs are due to covering families who qualify due to income but already have children in nonpublic schools; and the expansion of the tax deduction for nonpublic school expenses also increases the fiscal impact. These and other features could be removed in order for the bill to move.
 
HB 1004, Early education scholarship pilot program passed second reading on Thursday. An attempt to amend it to exclude eligibility of these children for school scholarships (vouchers) failed. It was amended to focus the program for 4 and 5 year old children, and to enable the Department of Education to track the academic growth of children in the pilot.
 
Senate Civil Law Committee heard SB 344, Child protection registry, on Monday. The bill seeks to establish a “do not call list” for electronic addresses for children and families. The objective is to keep ads that explicitly advertise illegal and harmful products from contacting children. Senator Randy Head (R – Logansport) is attempting to tighten the language to ensure that ads for grocery and other stores with a broad range of products, that may include alcohol for example, are not subject to the law. ICC supports the bill as a tool for parents to keep obscenity and pornography out of their homes.
 
HB 1483, Drug testing of recipients of assistance, authored by Representative Jud McMillian (R – Brookville), passed the House Committee on Children, Families and Human Affairs. The bill will require persons who apply for and receive TANF support to submit to random drug tests if there is a suspicion of drug abuse. Every applicant will be given a survey to identify potential drug abuse problem. If so identified, the person would be subject to random drug screening. If someone tests positive for drug use, the person would be required to seek drug treatment as a condition of continued eligibility for assistance. This has been tried in other states. In some instances because of the nature of the test, it has been found to be unconstitutional. And the number of people receiving TANF who test positive for drug use has been lower than the general population.
 
While the bill does attempt to help people who need assistance in overcoming destructive behavior, is it necessary to screen every applicant? The bill assumes that these individuals are using illegal drugs or prone to abusing drugs. The survey creates another barrier and disincentive to seek help when the families are in real need. Often vulnerable persons see obstacles as one more way to keep them from participating in the community and discourage them from utilizing the help.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived Updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org
 

 

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Bishops Address HHS Issues with Administration

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WASHINGTON-The Feb. 1 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) shows some movement by the Administration but falls short of addressing U.S. bishops' concerns.

"Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage. We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions-we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in a February 7 statement. "Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration's invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all. At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary."

 

# # # # #

 

Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare. As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same. We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

 

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions. The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue. With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year. We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study. Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

 

In evaluating Friday's action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

 

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate's "exceedingly narrow" four-part definition of "religious employer," one that exempted our houses of worship, but left "our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need" subject to the mandate. This created "a 'second class' of citizenship within our religious community," "weakening [federal law's] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity." And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring "among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith."

 

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test. This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest. The Administration's proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an "accommodation," rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously-the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

 

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed "religious employers" would suffer the severe consequence of "be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions." After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our "accommodated" ministries to have the illicit coverage-they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children-under a separate policy. In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies. Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

 

Third, the bishops explained that the "HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values." This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it. Friday's action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this "third class." In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath. We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

 

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few. Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage. We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions-we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks. Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration's invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all. At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York

February 7, 2013



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I-CAN Weekly for February 8

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February 8, 2013
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
HB 1003, School scholarships, passed the House Education Committee on a party line vote. The bill provides for significant expansion of the school scholarship (voucher) program and adds a scholarship tax credit program for preschool education. It expands access to vouchers for families with children in non-public schools who meet the income criteria.  Kindergarten students would be eligible, thus removing the criteria of prior public school enrollment or receiving a tax credit scholarship. Also, special education students, children of military and recently retired veterans, and foster children would qualify for vouchers.  Tuition caps for elementary education would be raised. The tax credit scholarship for preschool education would be similar to the program for elementary and secondary students. Also, the tax deduction for education expenses of students in non-public schools would increase. Due to the fiscal implications it now will be considered by Ways and Means Committee.  ICC is supportive of the bill.
 
HB 1004, Early Education scholarship pilot program, passed the House Education Committee with only one vote against. Authored by Representative Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis) and Representative Suzanne Crouch (R – Evansville), the bill will provide assistance to families who meet income requirements and whose children are often without sufficient opportunities that benefit their social and cognitive development. The proposed program protects the rights of parents to choose the setting that is most appropriate for their children’s needs and in keeping with parental values. It now goes to the Ways and Means Committee.  ICC supports the bill.
 
HB 1182, POST, Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment, passed the House 99 – 0. The bill deals with end of life issues and meets the concerns and expectations of our Ethical and Religious Directives established by USCCB.  ICC has been working with the groups developing the bill to ensure that it applies only to terminal conditions and end stages of life. Moreover, the bill provides safeguards regarding conscience protections and ability of the patient or health care representative to revoke or make changes at any time. The bill is authored by Representative Tim Brown (R – Crawfordsville), an emergency physician in Crawfordsville.  The bill now moves to the Senate.
 
Human trafficking, SB 509, sponsored by Senator John Waterman (R – Shelburn), passed the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. It extends the law passed last year that make it illegal to arrange for a person younger than 16 to participate in any sexual act. The bill extends this law to persons younger than 18. ICC supports SB 509.
 
HB 1482, Expungement, passed the House 82 -17 on a bipartisan vote. The bill addresses the problem of persons with records who even after demonstrating good behavior for many years are still being punished because of conviction decades ago. Many are unable to acquire jobs due to the record. The bill provides that the criminal record will be expunged after 10 years if the person has not committed a new offense and no new charges are pending.  This would apply to only nonviolent felonies and some delinquency adjudications.  ICC supports the bill.
 
Although House has heard two bills dealing with child care ministries, opponents have pressured legislators who are fearful of reprisals. It is uncertain whether substantive bills dealing with regulations will move. HB 1494, requiring national background checks for employees and volunteers in daycare settings, was held for further clarification after an initial hearing on Wednesday.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived Updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org


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I-CAN Update for January 25

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January 25, 2013
 
Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
Bills dealing with major topics are moving.
 
The issue of the Affordable Care Act and its implementation was the topic of HB 1319, Health benefit exchange provisions. Indiana to this point has decided not to establish a state health insurance exchange; consequently, the Federal government will provide this service. HB 1319 requires the insurance programs offered in the Federal exchange to comply with the insurance regulations and expectations as all other Indiana insurance providers. Insurance is a state regulated industry. The bill also establishes requirements to insure the integrity of the process that allows for persons to assist people in determining the better options that will be offered in the exchange.
 
A larger question is what to do about several hundred thousand people who will not have health insurance coverage next year unless Indiana changes its Medicaid coverage. Representative Ed DeLaney (D – Indianapolis) offered an amendment for Indiana to expand its coverage as recommended in the ACA. However, the committee decided that because this was a budget issue, it should be taken up in the Ways and Means Committee. In addition, many people now covered in Indiana’s HIP, which targets those who are not eligible for Medicaid but without the means or opportunity to buy health insurance, will be without coverage upon implementation of ACA next year. Support to purchase insurance on the exchange at reduced rates depending on income begins at 100% of poverty. Indiana’s Medicaid program covers pregnancy and those who are under 27% of poverty, leaving a large gap.  As health care is a fundamental need of all persons, ICC is supportive of expanding coverage and finding a way to provide for lower income families who work in places without insurance and others who have no options for insurance coverage.
 
HB 1142, Department of Child Services, passed the House Committee on Family Children and Human Affairs, on Wednesday.  The bill requires DCS to hire more family case workers and others to respond more quickly to child abuse reports. The bill is a response to a summer study committee regarding DCS and its operations.  The agency has come under scrutiny because of several high profile cases wherein children have died due to neglect or abuse.
 
HB 1011, Public mass transportation, was heard in the House Roads and Transportation Committee and received wide support from many officials and others from Central Indiana. The bill would provide for a creation of a transit district and allow counties to join it after a referendum. Many support it due to its support of economic development; others see it as a means of enabling low income families and individuals sustain employment and provide for family needs. ICC is supportive for this reason. The committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.
 
SB 184, Choice scholarship eligibility, was not called for a vote and for the time being will not move in Senate Education Committee. The author, Senator Carlin Yoder (R – Middlebury), decided to hold the bill because of the requirement to assign it to Senate Appropriations Committee where its Chairman, Luke Kenley (R – Noblesville), has expressed opposition to moving the bill. Rather Senator Yoder is waiting to see what the House 
will do with its bill dealing with school choice issues. The House bill contains a provision that makes siblings eligible, the objective of SB 184. The House bill is expected to be heard next month.
 
SB 53, Child solicitation, passed the Senate 47 - 0. The bill addresses professional relationships with minors at least 16 years of age but younger than 18 who may use their influence and relationship to engage in sexual conduct.
SB 119 Vehicular manslaughter passed the Senate 45 - 2. The bill adds the death of a fetus that has attained viability to the statute dealing with drunk driving.
Both bills now move to the House for consideration after crossover, beginning in March.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived Updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org
 

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Washington Weekly for January 22

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January 22, 2013
Volume 8, Number 2

Inside this issue:

  • President Obama Sworn In For Second Term
  • House Approves Hurricane Sandy Relief Funding
  • White House Unveils Gun Violence Prevention Initiatives
  • January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month
  • Let Us Know!
 
For the latest news from the Catholic Charities USA Social Policy team, please follow us on Twitter @CCUSA2EP (CCUSA “2” End Poverty)!
 
 
President Obama Sworn In For Second Term
 
President Obama was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and a small gathering of onlookers as he was sworn in for a second term as President of the United States at the constitutionally-appointed date and time of noon on January 20. The ceremony was repeated the next day in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands on the National Mall as the nation’s capital celebrated the 57th Presidential Inauguration in our country’s history. 

Staff members of Catholic Charities USA took part in ceremonies recognizing the President’s swearing-in, including the inauguration ceremony and National Prayer Service. Catholic Charities agencies across the country encouraged staff and volunteers to participate in the National Day of Service held in conjunction with the inauguration festivities. 

For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
House Approves Superstorm Sandy Relief Funding
 
After delaying the initial vote past the swearing in of the 113th Congress, the House approved $50.5 billion in emergency aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy by a vote of 241-180 on Tuesday. The legislation had been tied up for weeks due to debate over offsets and some spending provisions. 

The House-passed legislation was stripped of some of the long-term recovery funds that were included in the Senate’s bill. As passed, the House approved the aid in two parts - $17 billion for immediate relief funding and $33.5 billion in spending for long-term reconstruction. 

The bill is expected to be quickly taken up in the Senate and fast-tracked for approval.  

For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at LCobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
 

White House Unveils Gun Violence Prevention Initiatives 
 
On Wednesday, President Obama held a press conference announcing the steps the Administration will undertake to attempt to curb gun violence. The President was joined by four children who had written letters to the White House encouraging action to address the recent spate of shootings, such as the deadly attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

The executive orders that were signed on Wednesday included requiring a universal background check for all firearm sales, pledging to nominate a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, reviewing and enhancing safety standards for gun safety procedures and gun locks, and launching a national dialogue about mental illness. Some of the actions are to be implemented through executive action, while the others will require congressional approval. A full list of the proposed actions can be found here

Catholic Charities USA’s President and CEO, Fr. Larry Snyder, joined with faith leaders across the country to sign a letter to Congress, encouraging them to “respond to this crisis in our nation.” That letter can be found here. 

For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs, atrjackson@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org

 
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month
 
Catholic Charities USA joins with government and non-profit organizations in recognizing January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. 

A coalition of religious anti-trafficking advocates is making a number of prayer resources available, including a Prayer for Human Trafficking Awareness Day put together by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. 

For more information, please contact Julie Zorb, Manager of Policy and Research, atjzorb@catholiccharitiesusa.org


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Washington Weekly for December 234

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Fiscal Cliff Still Unresolved
 
On December 23, President Obama called for a partial deal that would avert tax increases for most Americans and defer spending cuts. The President’s proposal urges the Senate to pass legislation to extend the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes under $250K, extend unemployment benefits, and delay defense and domestic spending cuts. Republican Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Johnny Isakson of Georgia support the temporary scaled-down proposal and have called on Senate leaders to work for agreement when Congress reconvenes on December 27.
 
When Congress returns, they will have only four days to reach a deal before higher taxes on all taxpayers and automatic spending cuts take place as the sequestration law (PL 112-25) goes into effect on January 1, 2013.
 
Please look for an update in the next edition of Washington Weekly. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs, at rjackson@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
 
Superstorm Sandy Disaster Aid Pending in Senate
 
On December 20, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered an alternative proposal of $60.4 billion in disaster relief for the communities hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. While the proposal is similar to the White House request and the previous proposal announced by appropriators last week, this measure includes provisions that would allow other regions affected by setbacks to receive funding. The new proposal would provide $500 million in funding - $400 million more than the previous proposal - for the impacted regions that suffered major disasters or for aiding “small, economically distressed areas” with less severe calamities declared in 2011 and 2012.
 
 
As previously reported, the package also includes:
 
  • $15 million in funding for the Emergency Food Assistance program to provide USDA commodities to food banks;
  • $1 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation for technology and disaster coordinators to assist low-income people in affected areas;
  • $760 billion in funding for the disaster loan program to support lending to individuals and businesses with physical damage to their property and small businesses with economic injury;
  • $500 million in funding for the Social Services Block Grant to be used for a range of services including child care, repair to damaged facilities, mental health services, and other human services;
  • $100 million in funding for repairing approximately 265 Head Start centers damaged by Sandy and other supplemental costs associated with continuing services to affected children;
  • $50 million in funding for the expansion of training and employment services to assist dislocated workers; and
  • $15 billion in funding for disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in areas impacted by Sandy.
 
Following a procedural vote, the Senate is expected to debate the proposal this week. It remains uncertain if the proposal will pass the chamber as contention remains over the proposed funding level and offsets to pay for the Sandy aid package.
 
  
CCUSA will continue to monitor all developments related to Superstorm Sandy relief efforts. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, atlcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
***
 
Washington Weekly
 
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
 
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
 
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314

socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org    
For information about advocacy, please contact
 
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.
 
 

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Washington Weekly for December 10, 2012

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“Fiscal Cliff” Negotiations Face Tight Timeline
 
The ongoing negotiations around the mix of automatic spending cuts and tax increases known as the “fiscal cliff” remained at a standstill this week, as the White House and Congressional leadership continued to disagree over both the type of tax rates to be raised  and amount collected of new revenue. On Sunday, President Obama and Speaker John Boehner met face-to-face for the first time since July 2011 in hopes of reaching a deal before the impending December 31 deadline. 

During an event on Thursday, the President asked Congress to pass a plan that raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans, saying the fiscal issues currently facing the country are “solvable.” In contrast, Speaker of the House John Boehner said Friday that there was “no progress to report” on a deal, saying that the major sticking points between the two parties are regarding the proposed tax hikes on individuals and families that make an annual income of $250,000 or more a year. Earlier in the week, the White House announced it did not see a framework for compromise in the proposal offered by House leaders. 

To see how your household may be affected by the proposed tax increases, please visit this external resource. As always, stay tuned to Washington Weekly for future updates from Catholic Charities USA on how you can make an impact on upcoming discussions around the fiscal cliff. 

For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs, atrjackson@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
CCUSA President Defends Charitable Tax Deduction on Capitol Hill
 
On Wednesday, Catholic Charities USA joined more than 300 nonprofit and charitable sector leaders for “Protect Giving – D.C. Days.” Attendees urged Congress to protect a nearly century-old American tradition of commonsense tax policies that help support critical programs and services on which millions of Americans rely.  

Rev. Larry Snyder, President and CEO of CCUSA, addressed the crowd before they began their scheduled meetings with members of Congress and staff: “Doing away with the charitable deduction at a time when people are still reeling from the recession and facing the consequences of government cutbacks is bad timing and bad logic. Those who need the most support will be hit hardest by any limits to the charitable deduction.” 

For additional information, please visit www.protectgiving.org or contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
White House Requests Superstorm Sandy Relief Package 
 
On Friday, the White House requested $60.4 billion in funds for communities hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. The proposed package includes $6.2 billion for repairing public transportation, $13 billion in crating safeguards against damage from future storms, $6 million for the emergency food assistance program, and $500 million for the Social Services Block Grant. The package also includes a recommendation to allow the states of New Jersey and New York the flexibility in administering the Community Development Block Grant. Also accompanying the request was an executive order announcing the establishment of a Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Taskforce of several agencies to be lead by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.
 
Congressional leaders are still working towards a financial package that will provide funding for disaster relief to individuals in regions that were impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Disaster aid will be considered separately from the deficit reduction plan and would be considered a “one-time allocation”. It is expected that the spending would be exempt from any deficit-reduction measures passed by Congress.
 
To view the White House request, please click here. CCUSA will continue to monitor all developments related to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org


 
Brookings Institution Holds Forum on “Poverty and Opportunity Agenda”
 
On Wednesday, the Brookings Institution held a forum titled “A Poverty and Opportunity Agenda: What’s in Store for the Next Four Years,” which featured keynote addresses by Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council at The White House, and Tevi Troy, former Deputy Secretary at HHS under the Bush administration.

The event also included a panel discussion with former government officials and think tank researchers, who found common ground on the need to bring evidence-based innovation to the social services sector. 

To hear an audio recording of the panel, please click here, or for more information, please contact Patrick Brown, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, at pbrown@catholiccharitiesusa.org
 
 
Catholic Social Ministry Gathering Registration Now Open!
 
Registration is now open for the 2013 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, which will take place from February 10-13, 2013 in Washington, DC. Please note: the special early registration rate ends on Wednesday, December 12!

This is an opportunity to connect with Catholic social ministry leaders from across the United States. Exciting plenary presentations, briefings, workshops, and strategy sessions will focus on pressing domestic and international social concerns and our response as Church, especially in this Year of Faith. Then join us when, as one faith community, we take those concerns directly to members of Congress.

As part of this event, Catholic Charities USA is pleased to announce its sponsorship of a breakfast address by Mark Shriver, Sr. VP of US Programs at Save the Children and author of the “A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver.”
 
For more information or to register for the confernce, please visit their website or "like" CSMG 2013 on Facebook!
 
 
***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
2050 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

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USCCB Launches Pastoral Strategy

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WASHINGTON-The U.S. Catholic bishops have launched a pastoral strategy addressing critical life, marriage and religious liberty concerns. The five-part strategy or call to prayer was approved by the bishops in November and is set to begin after Christmas. The overall focus is to invite Catholics to pray for rebuilding a culture favorable to lifeand marriage and for increased protections of religious liberty.

            Campaign components include monthly Eucharistic holy hours in cathedrals and parishes, daily family rosary, special Prayers of the Faithful at all Masses, fasting and abstinence on Fridays, and the second observance of a Fortnight for Freedom.

            The call to prayer is prompted by the rapid social movements and policy changes currently underway, such as the mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that coerces employers, including heads of religious agencies, to pay for sterilizations, abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives, as well as increased efforts to redefine marriage.

            "The pastoral strategy is essentially a call and encouragement to prayer and sacrifice-it's meant to be simple," said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. "It's not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which engages the New Evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith. Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are not only foundational to Catholic social teaching but also fundamental to the good of society," he said.

          Details of the strategy follow:

  1. Starting with the Sunday after Christmas (Feast of the Holy Family) and continuing on or near the last Sunday of every month through Christ the King Sunday, November 2013, cathedrals and parishes are encouraged to hold aEucharistic Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty.
  2. Families and individuals are encouraged to pray a daily Rosary, especially for the preservation of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty in the nation.
  3. At Sunday and daily Masses, it is encouraged that the Prayers of the Faithfulinclude specific intentions for respect for all human life from conception to natural death, the strengthening of marriage and family life, and the preservation of religious libertyat all levels of government, both at home and abroad.
  4. Abstinence from meat and fasting on Fridays are encouraged for the intention of the protection of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, recognizing the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church.
  5. The celebration of a second Fortnight for Freedom at the end of June and the beginning of July 2013 is being planned. This Fortnight would emphasize faith and marriage in a particular way in the face of the potential Supreme Court rulings during this time. The Fortnight would also emphasize the need for conscience protection in light of the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, as well as religious freedom concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption, and humanitarian services. 

      A website with resources from the USCCB is available at:www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty.  

      "With the challenges this country is facing, it is hoped that this call to prayer and penance will help build awareness among the faithful as well as spiritual stamina and courage for effective witness. We also hope that it will encourage solidarity with all people who are standing for the precious gifts of life, marriage, and religious liberty," Archbishop Cordileone said.


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Washington Weekly - September 24, 2012

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Second Annual National Poverty Summit a Success

Over the weekend, Catholic Charities USA and its national steering committee partners took part in hosting the second annual National Poverty Summit in Washington, DC. Following on the success of last year’s Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, the conference brought together academics, service providers, and nationally recognized figures to raise the topic of poverty on a national level. In advance of the Summit, Congressional staff members, members of the media, and others took part in a full-scale poverty simulation, putting themselves in the shoes of the millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. Attendees heard from Fr. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, Caroline Ratcliffe of the Urban Institute, noted author and law professor Peter Edelman, and Bill Evans, a professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame, among others. The event closed with a call to action by nationally-syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne, who spoke about the need to restore civility and a sense of the common good to our politics, especially in an election year. The third annual National Poverty Summit will be held next year. For more information, please contact Patricia Cole, Strategic Communications Advisor

 

 

Congress Reaches Continuing Resolution Accord Before Recess

The Senate joined the House in passing a “clean” continuing resolution, averting the threat of a government shutdown without significant change to funding levels just before recessing for the elections. The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by President Obama, extends spending authority for six months – past the “fiscal cliff” scheduled for January 1 – and largely maintains overall spending at a total of $1.047 trillion, the same amount agreed to last summer during the debt-limit negotiations. The bill, which passed by a vote of 62-30 early Saturday morning, sets a mechanical formula that automatically increases most non-emergency spending by 0.612 percent, or about $8 billion. The House and Senate are not expected to come back into session before election day, but depending on the outcome of November’s elections, could come back for an action-packed lame-duck session. Catholic Charities USA plans on having a webinar on the impact of the sequester and a lame-duck session in the upcoming weeks. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs

 

No Movement on Farm Bill Before Deadline

Congress left town for campaign season late Friday night, meaning all chance of passing a farm bill re-authorization before its expiration on September 30 left as well. Although the House Committee on Agriculture passed a version of the farm bill weeks ago, the bill has remained in limbo due to uncertainty over the level of support among House leadership. The chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas (R-OK,) urged his colleagues to pass the farm bill before recess, but leadership indicated they did not think there was broad enough consensus around their version of the bill. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June. Theoretically, without an extension of the current 2008 law, the federal price supports for farmers would revert to the 1949 level. However, the administration is expected to ignore that law and current continue farm policies while negotiations are ongoing. It is expected that the makeup of the Congress following the November elections will have a large impact on the bill’s future. Possibilities for reauthorization range from a short, one-year extension of the current law to a large-scale, five-year overhaul of the bill, which includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Catholic Charities USA will continue monitoring the situation and will alert you of opportunities to make your voice heard on these important programs when your input will have the most impact. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs.

 

*** Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA and is published regularly when Congress is in session.

 
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Washington Weekly -- September 17, 2012

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Census Bureau Releases Numbers Showing Poverty Rate Held Steady

On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released its newest report, Income, Poverty and Health Coverage in the United States: 2011. The report, based on data from the 2011 Current Population Survey, found that the poverty rate remained statistically unchanged compared to 2010, while median household income declined, and the uninsured rate also decreased. While this ends a three-year trend of increasing poverty rates, we must not forget that these numbers represent real people --they are our children, our neighbors, our friends -- and we shouldn’t feel content that there are still record number of people in this country struggling to make ends meet. Read CCUSA's full statemtent on the report in our press release. For more information, please contact Julie Zorb, Manager, Policy and Research.

 

House and Senate Reach Agreement to Keep Government Operating

On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would provide funding for the government to keep operating through next March. Rather than letting appropriation levels expire on October 1, the continuing resolution will keep funding at the same level through the beginning of the year. The Senate is expected to pass the resolution next week, and the White House has indicated that the President will sign the bill into law. The continuing resolution was a “clean” re-approval, meaning that there were no changes made to the current funding formula. The 329-91 vote kept funding at the current $1.047 trillion funding level set in the 2011 debt-limit deal, rather than $1.028 trillion level passed by the House earlier this year. The agreement will spare the government from the threat of a shutdown until after the election of a new Congress. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs.

 

Congress Expected to Face Sequester After Election Day

Congress is expected to be in session for another week before leaving the capitol for election season, leaving untouched the looming threat of the sequester. As a result of last summer’s debt-limit deal, an automatic series of budget cuts are scheduled to be enacted on January 1. Depending on the results of November’s elections, it is likely that Congress will reconvene before the swearing-in of the new Congress in what is known as a lame-duck session. Depending on the partisan make-up of the new Congress, there may be deals reached to mitigate the effects of the automatic spending cuts, as well as deal with the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. On Friday, the White House announced its plan for enacting the automatic spending cuts. A report from the Office of Management and Budget estimated the reductions would reduce discretionary defense spending by 9.4 percent and domestic discretionary spending by 8.2 percent. A copy of the report is available here. Catholic Charities USA plans on having a webinar to explain the potential impact of the sequester and what you can to prepare for the effects of a lame-duck session. Please see future issues of Washington Weekly for more information on this ongoing issue. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs.

 

Farm Bill Remains in Limbo

House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas (R-OK) is calling on the House of Representatives leadership to vote on a one-year extension of the current farm bill reauthorization before the current law expires on September 30. However, the House is not expected to take up the farm bill before recessing again, and may not act on the bill before the end of the year. The debate over the farm bill largely centers on the amount of money allocated to the Supplemental Food and Nutrition Program (SNAP). The version of the farm bill passed by the House Agriculture committee bill would cut $16 billion from the program formerly known as food stamps, while the version that was passed by the full Senate would enact $4.5 billion cuts to SNAP. Finding agreement on a funding level for SNAP remains a contentious issue and a large obstacle to consideration of the bill on the House floor. Catholic Charities USA will continue to monitor the situation and will provide opportunities to lend your voice on this issue. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Sr. Director, Government Affairs.

 

 

 

***

Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA

and is published regularly when Congress is in session.

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Eucharistic Rosary Rally for Protection of Religious Liberty

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Join fellow Catholics on Sunday, September 30, at 2:00 PM at the Marian University St. Vincent Health Athletic Field, 3200 Cold Spring Road, Indianapolis, IN 46222. In the event of inclement weather the event will be held in the Marian theatre.

The event will include a Eucharistic procession, recitation of the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. You are encouraged to attend with your family and friends. Following the 11:30 AM Mass in Bishop Chartrand Memorial Chapel located in Marian Hall, adoration will be available until the Eucharistic procession begins. Everyone is welcome to join the procession, although those who are unable to process may wait at the St. Vincent Health Athletic Field. Free parking with special assist for the handicapped will be provided. Join Fr. Robert Robeson, Fr. Jerry Byrd and your fellow Catholics for this important event. If you need more information please call: 317-888-0873.

"I offer my sincere encouragement to you in this endeavor and thank you for the work that you are doing to pray for and support religious freedom."  - Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne, SLD, Apostolic Administrator

 

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New Poverty USA Web Site Offers Statistics to Catholics

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Catholics can learn about the state of poverty in the United States and concrete ways they can make a difference at a new website from the the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The site, www.povertyusa.org, was launched August 15 and offers tools and resources to spread the word about poverty in America. Resources include an interactive poverty map with state and county level poverty statistics, a Poverty Tour video which gives viewers a sense of what it is like to live at the federal poverty line, videos and links to PovertyUSA’s social media sites, including www.facebook.com/povertyusa.
 
The website, which is an initiative of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, will feature selected news stories related to the state of poverty in the United States. Also, on the county-level view of poverty statistics, visitors will be able to find examples of local organizations working to alleviate poverty in their communities.
 
We are committed to providing educational content related to poverty as well as hopeful examples of what we can do to make the state of poverty better,” said Ralph McCloud, national director of CCHD. “We welcome comments regarding the new site or suggestions for future feature articles or guest editorials.”
 
Comments and suggestions may be sent to the Justice, Peace and Human Development main email. Those wishing to receive additional resources on a regular basis can sign up for the email newsletter, Notes for Neighbors.  
 
CCHD is the domestic anti-poverty program of the USCCB and works to break the cycle of poverty by helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families and communities. It has a complementary mission of educating on poverty and its causes. This dual pastoral strategy of education for justice and helping people who are poor speak and act for themselves reflects the mandate of the Scriptures and the principles of Catholic social teaching.
 
CCHD is made possible by the generous support of Catholics in the United States, especially through an annual parish collection. CCHD's grants to local anti-poverty efforts are screened, awarded and monitored in close partnership with local Catholic dioceses. CCHD grants to groups in a local community require the explicit approval of the bishop of that diocese.
 

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Bishops Urge Congress to Act on Religious Liberty

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WASHINGTON-Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called on Congress to address the crisis in health care sparked by the Obama administration's contraceptive/sterilization coverage mandate in an August 3 letter to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The mandate, which was announced a year ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, he said, "would forbid Americans to provide or purchase health coverage unless it includes female surgical sterilizations, all FDA-approved prescription drugs and devices for preventing pregnancy - including drugs and devices which can destroy a human life at its earliest stages - and 'counseling and education' to promote these to all women and girls of childbearing age." His letter can be found here. Cardinal DiNardo called the mandate "unprecedented and misguided federal policy." He added that "most of those who initiate or renew employee health plans as well as student plans at educational institutions after August 1 must comply with this mandate, notwithstanding their moral or religious objections, or drop their health coverage altogether as some colleges have now begun to do."

"For our part, the Catholic bishops of the United States continue to advocate for life-affirming health care for all, especially for poor and vulnerable people. We do not see this policy as a step in that direction," he said. "Despite widespread opposition to this coercive policy by religious organizations, lawmakers and the general public, Congress has still taken no action to counter it. The time for such action is, to say the least, overdue," he said. "The fundamental importance of the religious freedom issue at stake demands a timely congressional response," he said. "Through this mandate, the Administration is promoting an approach to religious freedom that is more grudging and arbitrary than any yet seen in federal law."

He added that a minority of religious employers - those which, among other things, engage primarily in prayer and preaching - are said to be exempt from the mandate.

"By contrast, religious organizations which live out their faith by reaching out to all in need with health care and other humanitarian services are deemed 'not religious enough' for the exemption. Many, though not all, of these organizations will qualify for a one-year delay in enforcement, after which partial control of their health plans will be handed over by the government to others willing to implement the mandate." Cardinal DiNardo highlighted the plight of employers who may have moral or religious objections to some or all of the mandated services, people who are "devout individuals and families who own and operate businesses, who without any word of protest from employees have been offering health coverage that does not violate their moral convictions."

With the mandate "their longtime practice will be contrary to federal law, punished by a tax of $100 a day per employee and other penalties," he said. "In court, the Administration has insisted that these companies are entirely 'secular' with no claim on religious freedom. In effect, if an organization is 'for profit,' it is not allowed to be 'for' anything else. The owners who have imbued their companies with faith-based commitments to employee well-being, community service and social responsibility strongly disagree. And at a time of grave concern over business and banking scandals, does anyone think that rewarding businesses obsessed solely with company profits is sound government policy?" Cardinal DiNardo noted several current lawsuits opposing the mandate brought by institutions and individuals. "Vindication of the fundamental rights of these individuals and organizations may take years of litigation," he said.

"The validity of the religious freedom claim against the contraceptive mandate is clearer than ever - even for those supposedly 'secular' companies whose rights are completely ignored under that mandate," he said. "Yet timely and uniform protection of these rights cannot be expected from the current lengthy judicial process. Therefore the Catholic bishops of the United States and many others fervently hope Congress will address this urgent and fundamental issue before it completes its business this year." 

 

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Bishops Encouraged by Immigration Decision

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WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops greeted with hope and caution the June 25 Supreme Court decision to strike down provisions of an Arizona immigration law that would have allowed warrantless arrests of
people suspected of an offense that is deportable, that would have made it a crime to seek work in the state and that would have made undocumented presence a state crime.
 
The bishops found hope in the decision in Arizona vs. United States and said it reflects the bishops’ call for humane and just immigration laws and concern for laws that could tear families apart. Their caution lay in the lifting of an injunction against immigrants having to show papers in some circumstances.
 
The bishops had filed a friend of the court brief in the case.
 
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, expressed concern regarding the one part of the 5-3 decision that narrowly upheld a provision that permits state law enforcement personnel to determine the immigration status of any person stopped, detained, or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is not lawfully in the United States, and to verify the immigration status of any person arrested before releasing that person.
 
In the opinion, the justices left the door open that the provision that was upheld — known as 2(B) of SB 1070 — could later be found unconstitutional.
 
“While we are concerned with the Court decision not to uphold section 2 (B) of the law, we are encouraged that the Court did not rule it constitutional,” Archbishop Gomez said.  “As we articulated in our amicus brief, the implementation of this provision could lead to the separation of families and undermine the Church’s ability to minister to the immigrant population.”
 
 A copy of the brief can be found at here
 
 “We stand in solidarity with our brother bishops in Arizona, as they prepare to respond to the implementation of this provision and its potential human consequences,” Archbishop Gomez said.
 
 Opponents of the law have expressed concern that the decision would lead to the racial profiling of immigrants and the violation of civil rights laws.
 
Archbishop Gomez highlighted the Court’s other provisions.
 
 “The Court’s decision to strike down the other provisions of the Arizona law reaffirms the strong role of the federal government in regulating immigration,” said Archbishop Gomez.
 
Archbishop Gomez urged state governments not to rush to pass laws similar to SB 1070 and called upon Congress to assume its responsibility and enact comprehensive immigration reform.  He vowed that the Catholic Church in the United States would continue to fight for humane and just reform of the nation’s immigration system.
 
“The U.S. Catholic bishops across the nation will urge their state governments to not pursue laws such as in Arizona, but rather to pursue humane reform on the federal level,” Archbishop Gomez said.  “Humane enforcement of our nation’s laws are part of any solution, but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown.”

“The Church will continue to stand by immigrants and their families and seek justice on their behalf,” stated Archbishop Gomez.

 

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Washinton Weekly for May 29, 2012

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Student Loan, Anti-Violence Bills Remain Stalled in Senate
 
While the House was out of session, the Senate attempted to move bills relating to student loan interest rates and the Violence Against Women Act. Each of these efforts ended in partisan gridlock, sending both houses home for the Memorial Day recess with unsolved matters still on the table.
 
On Thursday, May 24, the Senate held competing votes to find funding offsets to maintain the current 3.4 percent interest rate of federally-subsidized student loans. Both the Republican- and Democrat-proposed funding plans failed to reach the necessary 60 votes to end debate, meaning that the loan rates will double to 6.8 percent on July 1 if an agreement is not reached.
 
Senate leadership also tried to use a legislative workaround to avoid a constitutional dispute with the House on the Violence Against Women Act, as reported in last week’s Washington Weekly. This attempted workaround was objected to and fell through, leaving VAWA’s reauthorization status up in the air as the two chambers seek to reconcile the two versions of the bill. For more information, please contact Candy Hill, Sr. Vice President, Social Policy and Government Affairs, at cchill@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org

 
 
House and Senate Leadership Plan Busy Legislative Summer
 
Leadership in the House and Senate laid out an aggressive timeline for their respective chambers as Congress readied itself for an election year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) each set forth their agenda for the upcoming summer of legislation, showcasing their competing agendas.
 
The Senate will look to complete the reauthorization of flood insurance and farm programs that have traditionally held bipartisan support, as well as a tax credit for job creation and workplace pay equity. The House plans to react legislatively to the expected ruling in June from the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act and reauthorizing the Food and Drug Administration’s user fee programs, as well as incentivizing job creation through the tax code.
Both chambers of Congress will look to finish their legislative business before the traditional August recess and the competitive election cycle. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, at rjackson@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 

Farm Bill and EFSP Appropriations Update
 
As reported in last week’s Washington Weekly, the full Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the Homeland Security appropriations bill (S. 3216,) which contains $150 million in funding for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) for FY 2013. The House Appropriations Committee provided $120 million for EFSP for FY 2013, meaning that the two bills will be sent to a conference committee to reach a compromise if both are passed in their current form. Please be on the lookout for an Action Alert from CCUSA on funding for this important program.
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has signaled that he could bring up the Senate 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization (S. 3240) when the Senate returns from Memorial Day recess the first week of June. Of specific interest will be an amendment to be offered by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to restore the $4.49 billion in SNAP benefits cuts that the Senate Agriculture Committee approved. An estimated 500,000 households a year would lose $90 per month in SNAP benefits.

Catholic Charities USA, working in coalition with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference will be in support of the amendment to restore this funding. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, at rjackson@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
New Study Covers Impact of Health Care Expansion on Undocumented
 
While the Affordable Care Act’s status before the Supreme Court remains in question, a new study from the Urban Institute shows the impact the law will have on the number of uninsured Americans if the law is upheld.
 
The study estimates that health care reform will help approximately 30 million Americans obtain health insurance over the next decade, leaving about 26 to 27 million uncovered. Of those, roughly one-quarter are undocumented workers and their families. Because these members of the population are not included in the law’s coverage expansion and new state-run insurance exchanges, they could be at risk of finding it more difficult to obtain health coverage, the study finds.
 
To read the study and accompanying information, please visit the Urban Institute’s resource page at http://www.urban.org/publications/1001618.html. For more information, please contact Julie Zorb, Manager, Policy and Research, at jzorb@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org

 

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Save Energy, Save The Environment

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The St. Luke Care for Creation Committee’s effort to help us cut household energy use continues into the summer.  We’ve been given a boost by the Energizing Indiana program which will send St. Luke $25 for each family which completes a free energy audit.

Please download the information sheet and the application.


 

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Support Farm Bill

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Action Alert: Tell the Senate to support the Farm Bill

Urge Your Senators: Ensure our nation feeds the hungry, preserves God’s creation, supports small family farmers and rural America
 
Every five years, the U.S. Congress decides how our federal government will help feed hungry people here at home and overseas, support growth in U.S. rural communities, assist farmers, and promote environmental conservation. The legislation that includes all of these important objectives and many more is called the “Farm Bill.” It needs to be renewed before the current version expires at the end of September 2012. The Senate is expected to introduce its version of the Farm Bill soon. Your voice is needed now to make sure that the new Farm Bill feeds the hungry, preserves God’s creation, and supports small family farmers and rural America.

Your faith and your Church bring deeply rooted principles to this debate. As Catholics, we believe that each person’s life is a sacred gift from God and that it must be protected. Since food is required to sustain life, the Church teaches it is a basic right for all people. We believe that must support those who grow our food in their times of need, to care for God’s creation, and ensure our brothers and sisters who are poor and hungry have access to nutritious food.

Your Church also brings tremendous experience to the debate around the Farm Bill. Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) feed and assist millions of people living in poverty at home and overseas. Our National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) has been serving the rural people and their communities for 80 years. Your Church knows from personal experience how the Farm Bill affects us all, but most significantly, how it impacts those who are hungry, living in poverty, and struggling to keep farming a viable way of life.

That is why your Church, led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with CRS, CCUSA, and NCRLC, is united in support of a Farm Bill that provides for poor and hungry people in the United States and around the world, offers effective assistance for those who grow our food, ensures fairness to family farmers and ranchers, and promotes stewardship of the land.

Join us in our call to the Senate to put hungry people first, to support small family farms and poor farmers here at home and overseas, and to promote environmental conservation. Your voice is powerful and can make change happen. For all of us, for our brothers and sisters, and for God’s creation.


 

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Washington Weekly - April 21

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House Subcommittee Votes to Remove Funding for SSBGs
 
On Wednesday, April 18, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a draft budget proposal that would repeal the Social Services Block Grant and cut other social spending in an attempt to find $53 billion in savings over the next ten years. The measure, along with two others to recapture overpayments from federal health insurance and require a Social Security number to claim the refundable child tax credit, was sent to the House Budget Committee along by a 22-14 vote.
 
A competing proposal to finance SSBGs through a surtax on those making over $1 million annually was ruled non-germane. The limited amounts of spending on SSBGs was a result of the House leadership’s call for committees to find additional budget-cutting to avoid the automatic cuts, known as sequesters, that were passed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
 
The proposal now goes to the House Budget Committee, which will consider whether or not to pass it along to be voted by the full House. If the bill were to pass the House, it is not expected to be considered by the Senate. Catholic Charities USA will continue to closely monitor the progress of this legislation and provide opportunities for you to make your voice heard on the importance of these programs. Please take a moment to visit this action alert to send information about local programs funded by SSBGs directly to your Members of Congress. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, at rjackson@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
House Agriculture Committee Discusses SNAP Cuts
 
The House Committee on Agriculture on Thursday, April 18, voted along party lines to cut $33 billion in 10 years from SNAP (formerly known as food stamp) benefits. While the vote was taken in an attempt to meet lower spending limits to cut the federal budget deficit, it is been seen largely as a symbolic move that will not become law. The committee recommended a cut of $19.7 billion in five years, and the balance in the following five years.
 
Watch for an action alert from Catholic Charities USA, and be prepared to urge Members of Congress to ensure that SNAP benefits continue to be available for seniors, children, and others in need. Even though it is not expected that these cuts will be passed in the Senate, it is still important to engage in advocacy over this important program.
 
Catholic Charities USA will continue to monitor these cuts and will provide an action alert for you take action. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, at rjackson@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
House Budget Committee Holds Hearing on Strengthening Safety Net
 
On Tuesday, April 17, the House Committee on the Budget held a hearing entitled “Strengthening the Safety Net.” The Chair of the committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI,) called the hearing to discuss ways in which the safety net is in need of reform and finding more efficient ways to provide services to those in need.
 
There were four witnesses on the panel: Casey Mulligan, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, Ron Haskins, Co-Director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and
Robert Greenstein, President for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
 
While discussion largely centered around the long-term budgetary impact of elevated levels of social safety net spending, witnesses and Members of Congress also talked about finding efficiencies in social spending and ensuring that recipients of SNAP and other programs received the services they need to achieve self-sufficiency.
 
For copies of the written testimony from each of the witnesses, including the opening statement by Chairman Ryan, please visit http://budget.house.gov/HearingSchedule/Hearing4172012.htm. For more information, please contact Patrick Brown, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, at pbrown@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
 
Senate Scheduled to Take Up Farm Bill Reauthorization
 
While the House Agriculture Committee voted to cut the SNAP program, the process of authorization continued in the Senate. The Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI,) announced that she hopes to be able to make a draft of her committee’s farm bill public by early this week, with the full committee voting on its provisions (in what is called the mark-up process) starting next Wednesday, April 25, 2012.
 
In the House, the Agriculture Committee is planning to hold a series of hearings on the programs covered under the Farm Bill, including the aforementioned Supplemental Food Assistance Program. They are expected to last through the middle of May. The reauthorization of the Farm Bill will need to be passed by the House and the Senate and signed by the President – it is expected that disagreement between the chambers will continue due to the contentious election year.
 
Please join with our partners at other Catholic organizations by taking action to support a Farm Bill reauthorization that stays true to our faith's principles. Catholic Charities USA will continue to monitor this and other legislative activity pending before Congress and provide opportunities for you to weigh in during the legislative process. For more information, please contact Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, at rjackson@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org.


 


***
Washington Weekly
is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
Sixty-Six Canal Center Plaza, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA 22314




 

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Washington Weekly for April 2, 2012

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Congress will be on a two-week recess for the Easter break. The next issue of Washington Weekly will be published after they return to Washington. Happy Easter!
 
For the latest news from the Catholic Charities USA Social Policy team, please follow us on Twitter @CCUSA2EP (CCUSA “2” End Poverty)!
 
House Passes Budget Proposal
 
On Thursday, March 29, the House passed a budget proposal authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) by a vote of 228 to 191, ending a series of budget-related votes and passing the budget on to the Senate. However, it is not expected that the Senate will take action on the plan or propose one of their own, leading to a possible October showdown over spending limits.
 
Much like the budget proposed by the White House weeks ago, the budget proposal is a suggested road map to lay out tax and spending changes, and is not expected to be enacted into law. The House voted down the budget proposed by the President by a vote of 414-0 on Wednesday. A budget plan based on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission was also voted down, with only 38 members voting in favor of the plan.
 
The budget’s passage means that House appropriators will get to work writing their spending bills following their two-week recess. The House has set April 27 a target to have spending bills drafted that find an additional $261 billion in savings to forestall the automatic spending cuts agreed to under the Budget Control Act passed last August.
 
Catholic Charities USA will continue to follow the budgeting process and provide updates when they become available. For more information, please contact Patrick Brown, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, at pbrown@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
Administration Proposes Immigration Waiver Process
 
On March 30, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposed rule to the Federal Register that would allow certain groups of undocumented immigrants to become lawful permanent residents. Under the proposed rule, undocumented immigrants who are immediate family members of U.S. citizens would be permitted to apply for a waiver provided they have not committed any crime and show that a separation would produce “extreme hardship.” This would significantly reduce the amount of time that families are separated, as individuals awaiting processing are forced to wait up to 10 years. The rule would also allow students enrolled in school or who have joined the military to also remain in the United States legally.
 
The proposed rule follows an announcement on March 29 that the Department of Homeland Security would suspend deportation proceedings in Detroit, New Orleans, Orlando, and Seattle while officials review cases of undocumented immigrants who have remained in the country without applying for green cards. The Administration is also expected to halt deportations in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
 
USCIS is accepting public comment from April 2 until July 7. Details on the proposed rule are available by visiting this link. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.
 
 
Supreme Court Holds Hearings on Affordable Care Act
 
Two years after being signed into law, key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were argued before the Supreme Court over the course of three days of hearings. In determining the constitutionality of key components of the legislation, the nine justices of the Supreme Court heard from opponents and defenders of the law and are expected to hand down their decision by late June.
 
Recognizing the importance and wide reach of the law, the Court allowed more time for oral arguments than in any other case in the past 45 years. On Monday, the justices heard arguments over whether a tax statute from 1867 prevented this case from being heard until the law is fully enacted. Tuesday was focused on a key part of the law, the individual mandate, and whether the Commerce Clause in the Constitution grants Congress the permission to require every citizen to obtain health insurance. On Wednesday, the Court heard arguments about whether the law should be treated as a whole or in severable parts and whether Congress can tie Medicaid funding to new insurance coverage thresholds for individual states.
 
This important case will likely reach a resolution by the end of June. For more information, please contact Patrick Brown, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, at pbrown@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
House Holds Hearing on At-Risk Youth Legislation
 
On Monday, March 26, the House Education and Workforce subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary education held a hearing on the Youth Promise Act (HR 2721), legislation aimed at providing communities with much needed support to develop comprehensive responses to youth gang, crime and delinquency challenges.
 
The witness panel included:
Hill Harper: actor (CSI: NY), author of bestselling books Letters to a Young Brother and Letters to a Young Sister, philanthropist, and founder of Manifest Your Destiny, a nonprofit organization that works to empower underserved youth;
John Prendergast: author, activist and co-founder of the Enough Project, a nonprofit human rights organization affiliated with the Center for American Progress. Prendergast co-authored the book Unlikely Brothers with his mentee;
Michael Mattocks: co-author of Unlikely Brothers and mentee of John Prendergast;
Dr. Catherine Gallagher: Director of the Cochrane Collaboration College for Policy & Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University;
Dr. Jorja Leap: Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Welfare at UCLA and author of Jumped In;
Bobby Kipper: former Newport News police officer, founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, and author of the bestselling book No Colors; and
Frank Carrillo: restorative justice activist and student.
 The bill, introduced in August 2011, includes provisions that would allow communities facing the greatest challenges with youth gang, delinquency, and crime activity to collaborate via a local council, including law enforcement, community-based organizations, schools, faith-based organizations, health, social services, and mental health providers—to develop and implement a plan to support young people and their families. Such an approach has the potential to make communities safer, reduce victimization and helps ensure that our nation’s most at-risk children are afforded the resources they need to grow into productive adults.
 
To view the bill text, please click here: http://www.bobbyscott.house.gov/images/stories/ypa_white_paper.pdf
To view the hearing, please click here: http://www.c-span.org/Events/Rep-Scott-D-VA-Holds-Discussion-on-Preventing-Youth-Incarceration/10737429335-1/
 
Catholic Charities USA supports policies that focus on prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation of our nation’s youth. For more information, contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs, at lcobbs@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org



 

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March 30 Day of Fasting and Prayer

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The bishops have asked that all set March 30 as day of prayer and fasting for religious liberty. They have noted with gratitude the great support from the laity and the spontaneous outpouring of prayer from so many parishes, organizations, associations, and individuals.  The bishops seek to encourage that effort with new prayer resources posted at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/resources-on-conscience-protection.cfm


In addition to prayer, an understanding of the real issues at stake is important if we are to change this unjust policy. Herein is an edited copy of the recent USCCB Administrative Committee’s statement explaining their concerns regarding the Health and Human Services mandate:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day. In our role as Bishops, we approach this question prayerfully and as pastors—concerned not only with the protection of the Church's own institutions, but with the care of the souls of the individual faithful, and with the common good.

We begin, first, with thanks to all who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate: to our brother bishops; to our clergy and religious; to our Catholic faithful; to the wonderful array of Catholic groups and institutions that enliven our civil society; to our ecumenical and interfaith allies; to women and men of all religions (or none at all); to legal scholars; and to civic leaders. It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate. With your continued help, we will not be divided, and we will continue forward as one.

Second, we wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church's hand and with the Church's funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops' somehow "banning contraception," when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops' Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.

So what is it about?

An unwarranted government definition of religion. The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a "religious employer" deserving exemption—employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith. We are deeply concerned about this new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none. Cf. Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 20-33.

A mandate to act against our teachings. The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be "religious employers" will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world

A violation of personal civil rights. The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing "services" contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so.

We will continue our vigorous efforts at education and public advocacy on the principles of religious liberty and their application in this case (and others). We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the Executive Branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours. We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom. All of these efforts will proceed concurrently, and in a manner that is mutually reinforcing.

Most importantly of all, we call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom—religious liberty—which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition. Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength—for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.




 

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Washington Weekly for March 26, 2012

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Catholic Charities Network Visits Capitol Hill
 
Last Wednesday, 60 directors of local Catholic Charities agencies convened in Washington D.C. to speak to their Members of Congress and their staffs about poverty in America. Representing nearly 40 states, the directors delivered messages and discussed solutions tailored to their unique districts with their elected officials. Following the day on the Hill, the directors and Catholic Charities USA staff came together to debrief on the day and discuss how the directors might continue conversations on poverty reduction back in their local districts. Leaders from across the Catholic Charities network asked their elected officials to spend time visiting a local agency or devote a town hall meeting to the topic of poverty.
 
The directors met with elected representatives and their senior staff to push for a conversation about innovation in the social service delivery system while ensuring that those who need help will still receive it. The principles of systems-changing, results-driven, and market-based reform that were brought to the meetings were taken directly from Catholic Charities USA’s signature legislation, the National Opportunity and Community Renewal Act.
 
Please keep an eye out for more stories and pictures from the Catholic Charities network’s visit to the Hill in upcoming issues of Washington Weekly, on our website, and on our Twitter feed. For more information about these visits, please contact Anna Porto, Manager, Strategic Partnerships, at aporto@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
GOP Budget Chairman Releases 2013 Budget Proposal
 
On Tuesday, March 20, House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, released a proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 that set forth principles of reforming the income tax structures, protecting defense spending, transitioning Medicare into a premium support plan, and lowering levels of discretionary spending.
 
The House budget proposal aims to reduce the federal deficit by $3.1 trillion over the next ten years by making changes to the 2010 health care overhaul, reducing federal subsidies for high-speed rail and financial aid for college, and reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent. The budget proposal also targets Medicaid spending and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for conversion into block grant programs and reducing government support for crop insurance.
 
As written, the proposal would set the discretionary spending cap at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion cap originally laid out in the debt limit deal last August. The budget would also overhaul the tax code, consolidating the current six income tax brackets into two, set at 10 and 25 percent. Much like the President’s budget released several weeks ago, the budget is not expected to be enacted into law. The budget was passed by the House Budget Committee and is expected to be brought to the House for a vote. If it passes the House, the Senate is unlikely to agree to spending levels laid out in the budget.
 
Catholic Charities USA is currently reviewing the entire proposal and invites to check back regularly for updates and more information. The budget proposal can be found in its entirety on the House Budget Committee website. For more information on the budget, please contact Patrick Brown, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, at pbrown@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org
 
 
Senate Passes ‘JOBS’ Act
 
In an election-year display of bi-partisanship, the Senate passed the JOBS Act by a vote of 73-26 on Thursday, March 22, two weeks after the House passed the measure 390-23. Minor changes to the bill on the Senate side will require it to be passed again by the House, but if it garners passage again, it will head to the President’s desk to be signed.
 
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act is intended to spur small businesses by relaxing federal regulations that apply to start-up companies. The bill would directly impact a set of six regulations promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and would make it easier for companies to go public. Opponents of the legislation said that it would undo critical financial oversight, but supporters argued that the bill will cut red tape and lead to more hiring and investment to aid the economic recovery.
 
The bill is expected to be passed and sent to the President by the end of this week. For more information on this legislation, please contact Patrick Brown, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, at pbrown@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org



 

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March 14 USCCB Statement

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WASHINGTON-The U.S. bishops are strongly united in their ongoing and determined  efforts to protect religious freedom, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in a March 14 statement.
            The Administrative Committee, chaired by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, is the highest authority of the bishops' conference outside the semi-annual sessions of the full body of bishops. The Committee's membership consists of the elected chairmen of all the USCCB permanent committees and an elected bishop representative from each of the geographic regions of the USCCB.
            The full statement can be found at www. www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Admin-Religious-Freedom.pdf
           The Administrative Committee said it was "strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day." The bishops will continue their vigorous work of education on religious freedom, dialogue with the executive branch, legislative initiatives and efforts in the courts to defend religious freedom. They promised a longer statement on the principles at the heart of religious freedom, which will come later from the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.
            The bishops noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that forces all private health plans to provide coverage of sterilization and contraceptives - including abortion-inducing drugs - called for an immediate response. Of particular concern, they said, are a religious exemption from the mandate that the bishops deem "arbitrarily narrow" and an "unspecified and dubious future 'accommodation''' offered to other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.
            The bishops thanked supporters from the Catholic community and beyond "who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate."
            "It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate."
            The bishops said this dispute is not about access to contraceptives but about the government's forcing the Church to provide them. Their concerns are not just for the Catholic Church but also for "those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block."
            "Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church - consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions - to act against Church teachings," they said.
            The Church has worked for universal healthcare in the United States since 1919, they added, and said the current issue "is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue."
            The bishops called the HHS mandate "an unwarranted government definition of religion," with government deciding who is a religious employer deserving exemption from the law.
            "The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom," the bishops said.
            "Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry," they said.
"If this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity," they said.
            The bishops said the government's foray into church governance "where government has no legal competence or authority" is beyond disturbing. Those deemed by HHS not to be "religious employers," the bishops said, "will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world."
            The bishops also called the HHS mandate "a violation of personal civil rights."  The new mandate creates a class of people "with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to live in accordance with their faith and values," the bishops said. "They too face a government mandate to aid in providing 'services' contrary to those values - whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees, or as insurers themselves - without even the semblance of exemptions."
            The bishops called for the Catholic faithful, and all people of good will throughout the nation to join them in prayer and penance "for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom - religious liberty."
            "Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength," the bishops said, "for without God we can do nothing. But with God all things are possible."

 

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I-CAN Update for March 8, 2012

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The General Assembly is finishing up on Friday and as of this writing, many items are still in play with conference reports being amended and caucuses meeting to discuss changes.
 
Transportation of non-public school students remains alive in the conference committee process. However, now it is part of an omnibus bill dealing with many education matters including some with broad consensus and others that are divisive. In regard to transportation, there is one small change from the initial language. It now requires that the students be dropped off at a point from which they can walk to school, rather than “safely” walk to school. The adverb caused some to be concerned about liability and setting a legal standard. The change is acceptable. Now we need to see if 384 will pass.
 
The issue dealing with in-state tuition for undocumented students, but residents, did not move out of the Senate. The bill was not called down because the Senate leadership received many calls in opposition. The bill died. Its contents is one of the bills which will now become part of SB 384, without the language granting in-state tuition.
 
The conference committee dealing with SB 296, Certified scholarship program, did not fare well. Despite efforts by Senator Jean Leising (R – Oldenburg) to add grade 8 as an entry point the House Republican caucus did not want to deal with the issue. Senator Leising is expected to concur with the House version of the bill. As it returned from the House, the bill does make a small improvement in the law by allowing students whose family income exceeds the limits but later is within the income guidelines to again be eligible without having to transfer to the public school first.
 
The definition and regulations of child care ministry have been an ongoing issue within the General Assembly for several years and it looks like it will return again next year. The Senate attempted to define “registered child care ministry” to more closely affiliate with a church or religious institution, but many in the evangelical community objected since the language had not been vetted in the committee process; rather it was added on second reading. Hence, the House rejected that part and instead asked for this to be considered by a study committee. The original bill requires the Division of Family Resources to establish a child care ministries advisory committee, which remains in the bill. The conference report is still pending.
 
However, some issues are settled.
 
HB 1141, Home energy assistance, has passed after some technical changes in how the funds were administered. Now the next step is the Governor’s signature. There is no indication yet what he intends to do.
 
Next week we should have a wrap-up of the session.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC website www.indianacc.org


Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 

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I-CAN Update for February 17

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Committees were active this week and several bills are moving through the process. Typically at this time each body makes changes in the other’s bills. Often changes are made by stripping out the original bill and inserting a bill that did not get a hearing in the other house or by adding a bill that did not move before cross-over. For example, SB 15 passed the Senate and deals with traumatic brain injury care; it essentially sets up a study committee to provide a path for this specialized care here in Indiana. Representative Tim Brown (R – Crawfordsville), Chairman of the House Public Health Committee, has proposed an amendment to SB 15 to add his HB 1114, Physician Scope of Treatment form, which was heard but not voted on in January. The amendment is still being worked on and is expected to be voted on next week. ICC is following HB 1114 and now the amendment, for it deals with ethical and moral actions for end of life care. Dr. Brown’s intent is to develop a form that can be reviewed at the next General Assembly. The current amendment establishes the form, but makes its use voluntary.   ICC, along with the medical community is following this closely.
 
Several bills ICC has supported are moving but are changing course and not always as we hoped.
HB 1134, which provides clarity regarding transportation to school of non-public school students, passed the Senate Education Committee but was reassigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee. This means that it must this committee before it can move to the Senate for consideration.   Because the bill also contains a provision regarding bus fleets and transfer of bus replacement funds, it raised some opposition. The transfer of the bill may be an attempt to remove or address these concerns. No one raised issues with the language clarifying transportation of our students but this delay provides another opportunity for problems to arise and for the bill to stall completely.
 
SB 296, which provided an opportunity for current non-public students to access the Scholarship Tax Credit Scholarship program for high school, will receive a hearing on Monday, February 20. However, it is expected that this provision will be removed. Apparently, the House Republican Caucus is unwilling to deal with the school choice issue in any substantive manner. We expect that the bill will be amended to allow for students who have received a scholarship but whose income later exceeds the limits to be eligible again when income drops and the family again qualifies. Under current law, eligibility continues only if the student continuously receives the scholarship after the student qualifies in kindergarten or as a transfer from a public school. ICC sponsored the amendment and supports the initial bill to provide access for our 8th grade students into the program. Keeping the bill moving is needed not only to change the current law, it will allow the 8th grade provision, which passed the Senate, to be eligible for conference committee and possible final passage before the session ends.
 
In some good news
HB 1141, Home energy assistance, passed the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee unanimously on Monday. It was amended to extend the exemption to 2020 rather than for only one year. The change came as proceeds generated from money that is received by the state under a multistate agreement related to litigation concerning mortgage foreclosure will reimburse the state general fund for the amount of state sales tax revenue that was not collected because of the sales tax exemption for home energy acquired through LIHEAP. The bill should pass the Senate next week.
 
SR 9 passed Senate Education Committee 6 – 3. The resolution addresses a problem created by passage of a bill last session that requires undocumented students who have graduated from Indiana schools to pay out of state tuition at state universities. The resolution calls for a study of the impact of this change in policy, not only for the people involved but the cost to the universities and long term costs of the policy. ICC supported the resolution sponsored by Senator Jean Leising (R- Oldenburg). Passage in the Senate will be difficult.
 
Next week is the last week for committees to move bills along. Leadership is proposing that the session end on March 9, a few days before the statutory deadline of Mach 14.
 
Bills that ICC is watching during this week include:
SB 201, Transfer of human organisms, will be heard on Wednesday in the House Public Health Committee. The bill provides for resale of ova for IVF. The bill contains provisions that curtail the use of embryonic stem cell research but the underlying premise of the bill promotes the IVF process which is illicit.
 
SB 72, Abortion matters, provides for regulations regarding chemical abortions. It is in the House Public Policy Committee and we do not expect it to receive a hearing. House leadership does not want another controversial topic. Although it passed the Senate, getting it through conference committee would be very difficult.
 

 

Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.

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Voices United to End Hunger

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The St. Luke Christian Social Action Commission invites you to hear the voices of the hungry and those who serve them, exploring what is needed to end hunger, on Saturday, March 3, from 9 AM until 6:30 PM at the Christian Theological Seminary.

Morning sessions feature keynote speaker Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister & President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Indy Hunger Network panelists Cindy Hubert (Gleaners), Pat Jerrell (St Vincent de Paul), R Zimmerman (SNAP), Kent Hatcher (DOE), Jennifer Vigran (Second Helpings), Douglas Hairston (Mayor's Office), Orion Bell (CICOA) and Barb Morris (Meals on Wheels). Ambassador Tony Hall (Alliance to End Hunger) and Rev. David Beckmann (Winner of 2011 World Food Prize and President of Bread for the World) will also be presenting. Following afternoon break-out workshop sessions and closing worship with singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer, the CTS bookstore will host a closing reception and book signing with Rev. Beckman.
For more information on the conference day, you may visit the Indiana Bread for the World website.

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I-CAN Update for February 10

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The atmosphere of the session has changed dramatically. Now that Right to Work issue is no longer being discussed, the Capitol almost seems empty. But the process on many other bills continues. The Senate has begun the committee process, while the House took this week to decide which committees will handle bills and what the leadership wanted to do with many controversial bills coming from the Senate. One can expect committees to be in action next week on both sides of the Statehouse.
 
Following cross-over legislators look to allies in the other chamber to support their bills and to find ways to provide for measures not passed during the first part of the session. Bills that did not pass either body during the first part of the session are dead, and generally, the topics each deals with are not given an opportunity to be inserted in bills that are still moving. However, there are ways to resurrect some topics into similar bills in the opposite chamber. Hence, legislators often shop for homes for some of their bills. Two such bills, supported by the Conference, are looking for a home. HB 1143, Child and dependent tax credit, authored by Representative John Day (D-Indianapolis) is one, and SB 102, Food stamp assistance after drug conviction, authored by Senator John Broden (D-South Bend), is another. The path is usually difficult and not always successful but the path to becoming law is not easy, and often not a straight line. We will keep you posted.
 
This week Wednesday the Senate Education Committee heard HB 1134 which deals with transportation issues. The bill as written now will clarify Indiana’s law regarding transportation of non-public students to school.  The committee will vote on the bill next week.  Testimony was positive regarding the bill and no questions were raised regarding the transportation of non-public students.
 
Bills expected to receive hearings
SB 72, Abortion matters, attempts to prohibit “telemed” abortions by requiring the doctor to do a physical exam before and after prescribing RU 486. In some states,  prescriptions for RU 486 are provided by doctors via a computer screen from a remote location. The House sponsor is Representative Sue Ellspemann (R-Ferdinand). The bill is in the House Public Policy Committee chaired by Representative Bill Davis (R-Portland).
 
HB 1141, Home energy assistance, exempts state sales tax  allowing all Federal funds to be used for energy assistance.  It is assigned to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Committee chaired by Senator Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek). Its sponsors are Senators Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), John Broden (D-South Bend), and Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington).



Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.

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Urge Co-sponsorship of Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

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As you now know, on January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed the rule first issued last August that virtually all private health care plans must cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception. Non-profit religious employers that do not now provide such coverage, and are not exempt under the rule's extremely narrow definition of religious employer, are given one year to comply.
 
Responding to the announcement, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated: "In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences." Cardinal-designate Dolan urged that the HHS mandate be overturned. See: www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-012.cfm.
 
A first step is to continue to urge Members of Congress to co-sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). This measure will ensure that those who participate in the health care system "retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions."
 
NCHLA's Action Alert on this bill has been updated. Please see: nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=292.

For more information related to the HHS mandate, see: www.usccb.org/conscience.
 
Excerpted from an email from Michael Taylor, Excecutive Director, National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, Inc.

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I-CAN Update for January 20

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The House continues its inability to move bills on the floor but committees are meeting preparing bills to be ready when the stalemate ends. Meanwhile, the Senate continues moving bills on the floor as well as in committees.
 
Senator Brandt Hershman (R – Buck Creek) has introduced SB 433 which proposes sun setting all tax credits. The bill was heard in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee but no vote was taken. It will be voted on next week. ICC is concerned about the approach to sun-set all credits at once, and sun-setting them without a review to determine if they should be. Many tax credits such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Scholarship Tax Credit and Neighborhood Tax Credit benefit low income people and are achieving their purpose of helping families and the common good. We expect an amendment that may call for periodic review, which we support.
 
Senate Health Committee heard SB 201, Transfer of human organism exemption, on Wednesday. Senator Patricia Miller’s (R- Indianapolis) intent in sponsoring the bill is to reduce the number of embryos created during the in-vitro process. However, the bill as introduced only provided a means for a fertility clinic to buy ova and freeze them, allowing them to re-sell to infertile women. In addition to objecting to the process, ICC raised concerns about the expanded commercialization of this industry and sale of human organisms. Moreover, there were no restrictions on the number of embryos created at one time, nor restrictions regarding their use. Senator Miller held the bill and will work on amendments. It may be voted on next week.
 
Another health related bill will be heard in the House Public Health Committee on Monday, January 23. HB 1114, Physician order for scope of treatment form, is sponsored by Representative Tim Brown, (R – Crawfordsville) who is a physician. The bill’s objective is to replace current law regarding Do Not Resuscitate Orders for terminally ill patients.  It has been brought forward by many in the medical field, yet it is complex and with medical, ethical and legal aspects. Many, including ICC,  are working to ensure that the form meets Catholic principles regarding end of life and medical care. The author may only want to air the reasons and concerns surrounding the issue rather than move the bill at this time.
 
Due to fiscal constraints of the property tax caps, some suburban school districts have stopped or severely cut back on transporting students to school. In addition, several districts have eliminated bus transportation for students in Catholic schools. In some instances, the district will pick up the child but only transport them to a public school and not take them to the Catholic school. State law requires the public school district to take the child to the non-public school or the nearest and most easily accessible point to the non-public school;  but at least one district believes this point is miles away. In effect, this eliminates bus service for our students. We are asking lawmakers to clarify the law and have asked for amendments in SB 226 and HB 1134, which deal with school transportation issues. The amendment would require the bus to drop the students within safe walking distance to the Catholic school.  Senate Appropriations Committee held SB 226 for amendments until next week.  HB 1134 will be heard in House Education Committee Friday morning January 20.
 
Three bills all related to school choice will be addressed in Senate Education Committee on Wednesday next week.  Last year’s school scholarship (voucher) law excluded currently enrolled students. SB 198 by Senator Doug Eckerty (R – Yorktown) would provide eligibility for all students whose family’s income meets the requirements for the voucher. Another bill, SB 331 authored by Senator Carlin Yoder (R – Indianapolis), seeks to provide eligibility to siblings of students who do qualify.  Under current law, younger children would have to go to a public school for Grade 1 before being eligible. This bill would provide an exemption for these children. Senator Jean Leising’s (R – Oldenburg) bill, SB 296, would make students in grade 8, enrolled in Catholic and other non-public schools eligible for the Tax Credit Scholarship. Presently, current students are ineligible for this program; but this bill would provide another entry point and would then make these students eligible for scholarships to attend a non-public or Catholic high school. Due to fiscal considerations, it may be difficult to move these bills this year. However, getting the issues discussed, paves the way for the topics in the coming sessions.
 
SB 4, Human Trafficking passed the Senate and as expected is being expedited in the House. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee on Friday, January 20. If the House convenes, it will be given priority for a vote in order for it to become law prior to the Super Bowl.
 
Many bills which passed committee are awaiting disposition in the House because they do not have a quorum. Until the right to work standoff is resolved, bills continue to stack up awaiting further action.  Time is running out, according to the published schedule. Both bodies initially set next week as the end of committee hearings and set the last days of January for bills to pass the first house. As last year proved, the schedule can be adjusted. But this year also provides a shorter timeframe for the session; it must end no later than March 14. We expect some late days should the House Democrats return and many bills will fall through the cracks if the original schedule is kept.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under “policy tools” click on “issues and legislation” and access the state or federal bills by clicking “current legislation”. Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org

 

Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 

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Protect Unemployed Workers and Their Families This Christmas!

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A Message from the USCCB dated December 21, 2011
 
Call your representatives now and urge them to protect unemployed workers and their families by extending emergency unemployment programs! The House of Representatives will vote TODAY or TOMORROW on a package that includes unemployment programs.

Current Situation
Unless Congress extends emergency unemployment programs, in two weeks many unemployed workers throughout the country and their families will lose the basic income security that is provided to them through their unemployment benefits.

USCCB Position/Church Teaching
Church teaching is clear: during times of economic pain and high unemployment, there is a moral obligation to ensure unemployed workers and their families have a basic level of security. Last week, Bishop Stephen Blaire, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to Members of Congress to urge them to extend unemployment benefits. The full text of the letter can be found here: http://bit.ly/rCDRGj.


Thank you for taking action!



 

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Wonderful Parish Help for Thanksgiving Sharing

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Last week, we made a plea for additional help to deliver Thanksgiving Baskets. There was such a generous outpouring of spirit that we have received more than enough help to deliver our 130 Thanksgiving Baskets!

On behalf of the Christian Social Action Commission, thank you for your help during this holiday season!

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Thanksgiving Sharing

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Thanksgiving Sharing is one of our oldest and most treasured social action ministries at Saint Luke. Our Commission helps those less fortunate by preparing and delivering 130 baskets of food, including a turkey and "all the trimmings."

We Need Your Help.

Parishioners will gather on Sunday, November 20, to assemble the non-perishable food products in large cardboard boxes after the 11:30 AM Mass in the Parish Hall.

Then, on Tuesday, November 22,  your help is need to place turkeys into the boxes and load the baskets into cars for distribution.

Of course, we also need your help as volunteers to deliver the boxes to the recipients on November 20.

Interested in joining our group? Just click here!

Interested in purchasing a basket for a family in need? Click here to buy a basket.

For more information, please contact the coordinator, Denise Purdie-Andrews.




 

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First Sunday Sharing is This Weekend

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This weekend, November 5th and 6th, is First Sunday Sharing at St. Luke. As usual, we will be collecting non-perishable food and men's clothing to help the homeless of our city. Volunteers help distribute these items to the Beggars for the Poor and the Saint Vincent de Paul food pantry at neighboring St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.

But we will also have a special collection of baby wipes for the children at our parish partner, Holy Family Shelter.  Each year Holy Family Shelter serves more than 300 homeless families, including more than 600 homeless children. The Shelter, located at 30 East Palmer, serves married couples with or without children, single parents with children, and single pregnant women.

Please bring boxes of baby wipes to the narthex this weekend to help this marvelous ministry.

In the weeks and months ahead, you will be hearing much more about Holy Family Shelter and its ministries, and our children and adults will have the opportunity to volunteer in a variety of projects and programs at the Shelter as we continue to develop our parish partnership with this vital Catholic Charities agency

Thank you and God bless!

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I-CAN: Support Trafficking Protection Act

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Trafficking of people is a modern day scourge that afflicts millions of people, particularly women and children, around the world resulting in extreme forms of sexual exploitation and forced labor. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) established the United States’ efforts and leadership to combat the multi-billion dollar industry. Since then, the U.S. government has worked to prevent trafficking in persons; prosecute those who profit from it; and protect victims. Catholic Relief Services partners with U.S. government agencies and others to prevent trafficking and protect victims in more than 35 countries around the world.
 
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act expires on September 30, 2011 and Congress must act to reauthorize it. If the bill does not pass, U.S. pressure on countries across the globe to combat modern-day slavery will suffer. In this precarious economic environment, more vulnerable and marginalized people may fall victim to those who would exploit them.
 
 Contact your Senators and ask them to support S. 1301, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and express strong support for the following:
 
1.  The bill’s increased authorization of funding for trafficking victim services and strong emphasis on partnerships with organizations like Catholic Relief Services to combat trafficking in persons.
2.  Authorization of funding for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, tasked with assisting governments in responding to urgent needs.
3.  Establishment of child protection compacts that would help specific countries to develop and implement comprehensive anti-trafficking plans to protect children. and urge them to preserve life-saving, poverty-focused international assistance in the upcoming deficit reduction negotiations and the FY 2012 appropriations process



 

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Comment Period Ends September 30

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Conscience Rights Violated by Sweeping HHS Contraceptive Mandate
 
In implementing the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the new health care reform law), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a rule requiring almost all private health plans to cover contraception and sterilization as “preventive services” for women. The mandate even forces individuals and groups with religious or moral objections to purchase and provide such coverage if they are to receive or provide health coverage at all. This poses an unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom.

The rule includes a religious exemption so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one. It covers only a “religious employer” that has the “inculcation of religious values” as its purpose, primarily employs and serves persons who share its religious tenets, and is a church organization under two narrow provisions of the tax code. A great many religious organizations -- including Catholic colleges and universities, as well as hospitals and charitable institutions that serve the public -- will be ineligible. Individuals and religiously affiliated health insurers will not qualify for the exemption.

The new rule would force insurance plans to cover “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.” Never before has the federal government required private health plans to include such coverage. The FDA-approved “emergency contraception” (EC) drugs that are covered by this mandate can work by interfering with implantation of a newly conceived human being. Also, the drug the FDA most recently approved for EC, "Ella,” a close analogue to the abortion drug RU-486, has been shown in animal tests to cause abortion. Thus, the mandate includes drugs that may cause an abortion both before and after implantation.

The public comment period on this interim final rule ends September 30.

Please send an e-mail message to HHS by visiting www.usccb.org/conscience. Once you send your comments to HHS, you will be automatically invited to send a message to your elected representatives in Congress, urging them to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179/S. 1467) to ensure that such federal mandates do not violate Americans’ moral and religious convictions.




 

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I-CAN Action Alert

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The new mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), requires contraceptive and sterilization coverage in almost all private health plans nationwide.
 
Here are the latest developments:

  • The HHS has established a period for public comments that ends on September 30.
  • On August 31, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' General Counsel submitted a lengthy comment letter to HHS explaining why this mandate violates other federal laws and longstanding policy precedents, infringes on constitutional rights, and poses a threat to freedom of conscience more sweeping than any posed by laws in the 50 states.
  •  A new webpage dedicated to Conscience Protection provides a conduit to NCHLA's two alerts, and links to new background on the issue as well as to the USCCB's HHS comment letter and other helpful materials.

 

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Catholic Charities Washington Update

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Congress is on recess until September 7. Your Senators and Representatives are home and it is critical that they hear from you during this period at home in your district. When they return to Washington D.C., they will be forced to make decisions that will have an impact on almost every program as they attempt to reduce the national debt. A bi-partisan “super committee” will be tasked with drawing up plans to aggressively reduce funding levels, and programs that serve those in need will doubtless be at stake.
 
We urge you to communicate with your members of Congress to let them know about the challenges that are facing families in your community.
 
What you can do:
 
Participate in a town hall meeting:


During the summer recess, many representatives will hold town hall meetings and other events to hear directly from their constituents. It is critical that community members take part in these events and share the challenges they are currently facing with their elected officials.  To find out if your elected officials are planning a town hall meeting, please click here.  For information on participating in a public forum, please click here.


Call your member of Congress and urge them to continue to fight to ensure that those in need are not affected disproportionately by federal cuts to critical services. To identify your legislators, please visit this link.

Take the time to cultivate relationships with your members of Congress. Schedule a visit with your member’s district office to discuss issues affecting your community, or invite your member of Congress to visit your programs. Click here for information on conducting a visit with your legislator. For information on how to conduct a site visit, please click here.
 
Please be sure to provide Catholic Charities USA staff with feedback regarding any meetings or interactions that you have with your legislators as this is helpful to our advocacy efforts during meetings with congressional offices in Washington, DC.
 
 
What you can ask your legislators:
 
·         As a local social service provider, I am seeing more and more people coming to my agency for help and we simply cannot meet the need. What are you doing (and/or) will you do to ensure that those in need are not disproportionately affected by the cuts to reduce the nation’s deficit?
·         Our organization believes that spending can be cut without those living in poverty being denied critical services.  Data has shown that as much as twenty to forty cents of every dollar allocated to certain existing federal initiatives that provide greatly needed assistance to Americans are lost in the bureaucratic red tape associated with those programs.  What will you do to ensure that the government focus on creating and maximizing bureaucratic efficiency and not on sacrificing vital services?
·         Nearly 45 million Americans are living in a crisis of poverty and rely on the worn safety net system that is threatened by many of the potential cuts. This is a critical time for our nation – We need to find ways to address the needs of so many in our country, and help provide greater self-sufficiency for the millions of Americans currently living in need. Are you willing to engage in discussion on how we can permanently make a difference in the lives of those living poverty?
·         Much of the discussion in Congress has been around the budget and reducing the national debt. What steps will you take to help create jobs in our community?
 
 
Background:
 
On August 1, the President signed into law legislation to allow the U.S. government to increase the national debt by $2.1 trillion. However, the legislation that was passed requires that this spending be offset by equivalent reductions in spending over a 10-year period.
 
While the legislation does not affect mandatory spending such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, it does call for significant reduction in discretionary spending. The measure calls for a bipartisan “super committee” to determine spending cuts, and for Congress to vote on these reductions by December 23, 2011. If Congress fails to approve the committee’s recommendations, the legislation would enact an automatic trigger that would result in $1.2 trillion in reductions to defense appropriations, domestic spending, and some Medicare programs. Given that both parties have substantial reasons to be displeased with the triggers if they fail to approve the Committee’s recommendations, it is likely that they will work on reaching an agreement to reduce spending in the next couple weeks.
 
In anticipation of potential cuts to programs, there is likely to be an all-out lobbying frenzy by special interest groups to protect their programs. Now is a critical time for the Catholic Charities USA network to mobilize and explain our vision of transformative change in the social service delivery system in America.
 
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs or Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs.

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Protect the Poor and Vulnerable

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urges Congress and the Administration to protect programs for poor and vulnerable persons during deficit reduction negotiations that are happening now.
 
Some proposals under discussion include disproportionate cuts to programs that serve the poorest, most vulnerable people at home and abroad.  Fiscal responsibility is important and it requires shared sacrifice and a priority concern for poor persons at home and abroad in our budget choices.
 
Unfortunately, very few advocate the priority claim of poor and vulnerable people, which makes our voices so much more important and prophetic.
 
Most recently, Bishop Stephen E. Blair and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives expressing their concerns.  
 
Earlier this year, a letter from Bishop Blaire, and a joint letter from Bishop Hubbard and Ken Hackett, President of CRS, went out to the U.S. Senate, calling for more attention to the needs of poor and vulnerable people.
 
What You Can Do


1. Call your Members of Congress and tell them:
Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work, or in poverty should come first.
Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic time.
A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.

2. Write to your Representative and Senators with the below message, telling them, specifically, how these cuts will hurt your diocese/parish/community in efforts to serve the poor and vulnerable people.

3. Help your diocese, parish, community organizations, and families understand the consequences of these deficit-reduction proposals on poor and vulnerable people. See these  documents and the letters above for more details.

4. Post information about this call to action online including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, websites, and other media. 

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Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

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The 2010 comprehensive health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), poses new risks to religious freedom and rights of conscience. To correct these problems, Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK) introduced the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179). This measure will ensure that those who participate in the health care system “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions” and ensure that PPACA does not create new pressures to exclude these participants from PPACA’s plans or programs.

In an April 6 letter to Congress, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, stated that PPACA’s list of “essential health benefits” and a separate list of mandated “preventive services for women” may be used to require almost all private health plans to cover various procedures rejected by teachings of some religions, such as abortifacients, contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, and treatments using material from deliberately killed unborn children. PPACA includes no provision to keep such lists of mandated benefits from violating conscience. Cardinal DiNardo urged Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 1179 and promote its passage.

Recent developments have only confirmed the need for H.R. 1179. On July 19, an advisory body recommended to the Department of Health and Human Services a list of “preventive services” for women to be covered under PPACA. Cardinal DiNardo objected to the report’s mandated coverage not only for surgical sterilization but also for “all FDA-approved birth control (including the IUD, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella)” and for “education and counseling” to promote these among all “women of reproductive capacity.” If HHS accepts these recommendations, all insurance plans will be required to cover these controversial practices without a co-pay from recipients. “The considerable cost of these practices will be paid by all who participate in health coverage. . . . [S]uch a mandate would require all . . . to carry health coverage that violates the deeply-held moral and religious convictions of many.” Now it is “especially critical” for Members of Congress to co-sponsor and pass H.R. 1179.

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Washington Weekly, 7/7/11

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Senators Propose Medicare Change


On June 28, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced a new plan that would adjust Medicare’s eligibility and payment structure. The bill’s sponsors say the proposal would reduce Medicare spending by $600 billion over the next 10 years.
As introduced the bill would:

  •  Raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. This increase would occur in two month increments starting with people turning 65 in 2014 until the threshold reaches 67 in 2025. Doing so is projected to save $124 billion over 10 years.
  •  Increase Part B premiums for individuals making more than $150K a year o couples making more than $300K a year. Under the plan, they would have to pay 100 percent of the costs of their Part B coverage, which covers non-hospital doctor’s care. Currently, premiums are now covered at 25 percent. The projected savings would be between $5-10 billion over 10 years.
  •  Establish a combined annual deductible of $550 for both Part A and Part B Services and restructure Medigap Coverage that picks up costs not covered by Medicare. Out-of-pocket expenses would be capped at $7,500 a year. For individuals with incomes between $160,000-213,000, expenses would be capped at $22,500. The projected savings would be $130 million over 10 years.
  •  Phase out Medicare payments for bad hospital debt. Currently, Medicare reimburses hospitals and providers for unpaid deductibles and copayments. Eliminating this reimbursement is expected to save $23 billion over 10 years.
  •  Increase Part B premiums for Medicare beneficiaries by 2 percent over 5 years, including a “hold harmless” provision that would prevent an increase in the Part B premium in the event if it would be larger than the Social Security annual cost-of-living adjustment. The projected cost savings is $241 billion over 10 years.

While the proposal is said to be too controversial to pass as a whole package, elements of the proposal could be included in debt negotiations or longer term discussions on Medicare. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs at [lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org].
 

 
Debt Limit Update
 
With an August 2nd deadline approaching, President Obama and Congress remain at odds in their negotiations to avoid forcing the first Federal government default on debt obligations in U.S. history. Congress, which has the authority to raise the debt limit, is responsible for making sure the Treasury department is able to cover the government’s financial obligations through 2012.
 
For the Republicans in the House, they are adamant that any debt limit deal must include no tax increases. Democrats, led by President Obama, take the position that any budget reductions must include tax increases requiring the nation’s top earners to pay their “fair share.” “We need to take on spending in domestic programs, in defense programs, in entitlement programs, and we need to take on spending in the tax code, spending on certain tax breaks and deductions for the wealthiest of Americans,” Obama said. “This will require both parties to get out of our comfort zones and both parties to agree on real compromise.”
 
Republican leaders have vowed to oppose any tax increases, while leaving open a small possibility of increasing revenue through ending some tax loopholes or raising user fees.   The bottom line for the Republicans is that any effort to raise the debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts of an equal amount. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) warned that any plan to increase taxes “cannot pass the House, as I have stated repeatedly…I’m happy to discuss these issues at the White House, but such discussions will be fruitless until the President recognizes economic and legislative reality.”
 
President Obama has invited the top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate to a meeting at the White House on Thursday, July 7th, 2011 for a summit to attempt to hammer out a deal that all parties can agree on and avoid a default on the nation’s debt.
 
Catholic Charities will continue to very closely monitor the developments in this very critical and sensitive Congressional and Administrative issue. For more information, contact Ron Jackson, Senior Director, Government Affairs, [rjackson@catholiccharitiesusa.org].
 
 
 
 
Senate Committee holds DREAM Act Hearing
 
On June 28, the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee held the first-ever hearing on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The legislation addresses the plight of immigrant children who grew up in the U.S. and graduated from high school, but cannot attend college because of current immigration laws.
 
Witnesses at the hearing included:

  •  Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, who testified to the importance of the DREAM Act for our country, the benefits to our economy and the armed forces
  •  Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, who testified to his Department’s support for the legislation and its importance for our country’s global competitiveness
  •  Clifford Stanley, Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), who discussed the DREAM Act and its impact on our Armed Forces.
  •  Ola Kaso, an immigrant student, who shared her experience as a child coming into the U.S. legally thirteen years ago and excelling in her education, but who now faces deportation in less than a year.

 
If enacted by Congress, the DREAM Act would put children of undocumented immigrants on a path to legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship if they attend college or join the military for two years. The Act would apply to those children who entered the U.S. prior to age 16, have lived in the United States for at least five years, and have graduated from high school. In addition, the proposal would allow students to attend college at in-state tuition rates.
 
It is unlikely that the bill will receive consideration in the House. As previously reported, Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that the measure could be attached to a web-based employment proposal expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives. In addition, the Congressional Quarterly reported that expanding the E-Verify system is a top priority of House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who is expected to introduce such legislation later this year.


To view testimony and/or the webcast from the DREAM Act Hearing, please visit the following link: [http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=3d9031b47812de2592c3baeba604d881]
 
Catholic Charities USA will continue to provide you with updates on the DREAM Act as the bill moves through the legislative process. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Policy and Legislative Affairs at [lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org].
 
 
***


Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
Sixty-Six Canal Center Plaza, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA 22314
socialpolicy@catholiccharitiesusa.org     
For information about advocacy, please contact
Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


 



 

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Final I-CAN Update for 2011 Session

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Despite the 5 week walk-out by House Democrats, the General Assembly ended on time and conducted all necessary business. The budget, congressional maps and realigning House and Senate districts were decided without fireworks. Moreover, several substantive and controversial issues were addressed. It was a very productive session although significant legislation passed mostly along partisan lines. And it was memorable in part due to the walkout and continued daily protests by workers and other groups.
 
From the perspective of the ICC, it was a memorable year because significant reforms were enacted in education and pro-life legislation, realizing long standing goals. As with all legislative sessions, there were also some disappointments and losses.
 
Education
For the first time in Indiana, low and moderate income families will now be able to select the school, public or private, that best fits the needs of their children. HEA 1003 provides scholarships (vouchers) based upon the state's investment should that child be educated in the public school.  The law applies only to students who have been enrolled in a public school for at least one year. However, the law included provisions that enhance the scholarship tax credit program which provides scholarships for children entering kindergarten. These children are then eligible for the voucher in subsequent years.
 
Another long term issue had been support for special needs children attending non-public schools. While Indiana had provided funding to provide services for these students, many school districts did not include these funds in providing services. This year we were able to change this. Local school districts will have to use funds allocated for non-public students to be spent on non-public students. These new laws will make a significant difference for families and students.
 
Pro-life/ abortion
This session saw the realization of long sought pro-life legislation also. Indiana strengthened its informed consent law and added provisions that should have the effect of reducing abortions. After years of attempting to pass the hospital admitting privileges requirement for abortionists, it passed.  And for years, attempts to strengthen informed consent provisions to include information about risks and alternatives to abortion as well as the fact that life begins with conception and information regarding fetal pain during the abortion process were always thwarted. But now it is law. HEA 1210 included other provisions: Indiana joins other states that exempt elective abortion coverage from any health insurance exchange established as part of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  And Indiana prohibits contracts for services other than abortion with organizations that also perform abortions.  In addition, HEA 1210 addressed late term abortion. Abortions are prohibited now after 20 weeks; prior to the change, abortions were prohibited at viability, generally 24 weeks.  This latter provision became a priority after late term abortionist Dr. Leroy Carhart had indicated an interest in practicing in Indiana following Nebraska's new law that restricted late term abortions.
 
Immigration
For the fifth year in a row, immigration bills also required our attention.  This time we were not successful in fending off passage of problem bills.
 
The more expansive and egregious immigration bill was SB 590. With the persistence of the Alliance for Immigration Reform Indiana, the bill was significantly altered in both the Senate and the House. Law enforcement provisions that would result in racial profiling and allowing police to stop and check for citizenship for almost any reason were removed. Also, problematic provisions for agriculture and social agencies were ultimately removed in conference committee. A major focus was employer sanction rather than penalties for the individuals. Businesses who hire undocumented workers would lose tax benefits; also, requirements for state contractors to use E-Verify and harsh penalties and restrictions on immigrants limiting access to benefits and awards remain. Even though there are exemptions from the harbor/transport provisions, the language invites cab drivers and others to "turn in" possible illegal immigrants.
 
Another bill targeted immigrants who came as children and lack legal status. It prohibited resident tuition at state universities for these residents and high school graduates. Despite appealing to the best interest of Indiana and its workforce and the fact that many states expressly allow these children to receive this benefit, the bill passed both chambers with limited opposition.
 
Since the General Assembly will not be in session, this will be the last regular I-CAN Update. In the meantime, there will be notices when alerts or action on the Federal level are needed.
 
Indiana Catholic Conference is very appreciative of the involvement and support of the I-CAN network. While ICC is a voice and provides the eyes during the session, it is the voices and involvement of the individuals in the network that makes the difference. Thank you.
 
Please continue to check back on our website, www.indianacc.org , for current events.
 



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I-CAN Update for April 29

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Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of

the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.

 
"Sine Die", without a day, means the session ends Friday, April 29. Despite several weeks' interruption in March, the session will complete its task of providing a budget for the state and new congressional and legislative maps based on updated census data. In addition, many other priorities were also accomplished.
 
As expected, the House concurred with the Senate changes in HB 1003, School scholarships. On Wednesday, HB 1003 passed 56 - 43, mostly on party line. A couple of changes to the Senate amendments have been added to the budget bill HB 1001, which will pass on Friday. The changes will take out the annual inspection by the Department of Education and provide for visits on a schedule and time table that DOE can better manage. It will also require that non-public schools conduct annual teacher evaluations. Many who argued against the bill cited some of the contradictory provisions in the bill. The bill provides some protection from unnecessary regulation of non-public schools but also contains specific requirements regarding teaching of citizenship and other topics and materials. The requirements are already expected for state accredited schools and provide no change or addition to the curriculum.  Others were asking why the tax deduction applied only to families with children in non-public schools.
 
It has been 40 years since Indiana passed a bill that directly supported families and students in choosing a non-public school. On March 12, 1971 the General Assembly passed a tax credit bill for families with students in non-public schools; however, the bill was vetoed by Governor Whitcomb, a Republican. The irony is that when it passed in 1971 it was the Democrats that promoted it. This time the school choice bill was promoted by the Republican Governor and the Democrats opposed it. While this is a victory for parents and students, it is a modest step in recognizing that public policy should support the education of all children. The bill calls for implementation this fall and unless there are court challenges, children and families should be able to benefit soon.
 
Also passing on Wednesday was HB 1210 dealing with abortion law; it also contained a provision that prohibits the state from contracting with organizations that perform abortions. This latter provision was the source of several parliamentary attempts to separate it from the bill. Many argued that the bill should go to a conference committee to remove this from the bill. While the bill passed 66 - 32; many who voted against the bill did so because of the defunding provision; several of those voting in opposition had supported the original bill that dealt with informed consent and hospital admitting privileges only. The bill now goes to the Governor. Some have asserted that the defunding provision will result in the state losing Medicaid funding. This question is yet to be decided, although other states have similar administrative rules and have not lost funding. There is certainty that the law will be challenged in court by Planned Parenthood and the issue will be settled in court.
 
SB 590, Illegal immigration matters, was taken to a conference committee on Tuesday evening. The House made significant changes from the Senate version. The conference committee is to see what Senate provisions can be restored or what has to be removed in order for the bill to pass. Due to a provision regarding definition of child abuse and neglect added in the House, the bill contains a large fiscal obligation. Hence, the Senate will not concur with the bill; in order for it to pass at least this provision must be removed. Then, a conference committee report and votes by both Senate and House are required for the bill to pass. Although the committee heard three hours of testimony, most of which was repetitious from earlier hearings, nothing was resolved.  Unless the Democrat conferees agree to changes, no report will be signed for consideration. It may come to the last hours until we know if an agreement is reached. If no agreement is reached, the bill dies and does not become law.
 
The Senate concurred with the changes to SB 340, Charity gaming, by a vote of 39 -11. The bill provides some changes requested by many charity organizations and provides for a study committee to review other requests such as using proceeds to pay for staff members of the charity organization.

In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under "policy tools" click on "issues and legislation" and access the state or federal bills by clicking "current legislation". Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org


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I-CAN Good Friday Update

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Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the
Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
This week all action was focused on getting major bills moved in both houses. Several priorities for the Conference passed and now will be either concurred upon or go to conference committee.
 
Pro-life
HB 1210, Abortion matters, passed the Senate 35 - 13. It is a major victory for the pro-life community because it accomplishes several goals. First, it strengthens the informed consent law in Indiana. Women will have to be given information in writing as well as orally. The information will include the fact that life begins at conception and that there are options to abortion and support for women who carry the baby to birth. It also requires the woman to refuse to see the ultrasound prior to the abortion. Secondly, the bill will prohibit an Indiana health insurance exchange established under the federal health care act from including elective abortion coverage. The bill was changed to provide for coverage for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. This is language that is similar to the Hyde Amendment in Federal law. Thirdly, the bill includes a prohibition for Indiana to contract with an organization that conducts abortions. The primary target of the amendment was Planned Parenthood but will include any organization that provides abortions, except hospitals. This amendment passed second reading 36 - 13.  HB 1210 now returns to the House to consider the changes made in the original bill. The House is expected to concur with the changes rather than dissenting and going to conference committee to work out differences. The House will have to vote on the bill again to accept the changes.
 
Education
HB 1003, School scholarships, passed the Senate 28 - 22!  It was amended on second reading to provide a benefit for current private school parents. Parents of students in private or home schools with unreimbursed expenses can deduct $1000 per student from their adjusted gross income in computing state income tax. While the income tax reduction is modest, the provision recognizes that in the scholarship program (voucher) current students are not permitted to participate and yet these families deserve support also. Another important provision of the bill increases the tax cap for the scholarship tax credit program; this will allow a greater number of scholarships for students entering kindergarten who under the current bill are excluded. However, once awarded a tax credit scholarship, the student is eligible for the voucher the following school year.  HB 1003 now returns to the House for concurrence or dissent.  We expect a concurrence vote and if changes are necessary, these would be addressed in conference committee in another bill.
 
HB 1341, Special education grants, passed the Senate 43 - 6. Because no changes were made in the bill from the House version, it now goes directly to the Governor for signature. This is a major victory for many Catholic school students and parents. The bill requires that state funds allocated to benefit students in non-public schools be used to provide services for them. State law will mirror Federal law that requires a proportional amount of the funds generated by students in non-public schools be used to provide services for them.
 
Immigration
SB 590, Illegal immigration matters, passed the House.  The bill was amended further on second reading. Salient changes include protection for those renting property and homes and an alternative to E-verify, provided the option is approved by Homeland Security. The House also tightened the criteria by which employers would be held liable under the bill. It now requires that the employers have actual knowledge that the employee was unlawfully present at the time of hiring. Attempts to take out provisions that the agricultural community found problematic were not accepted.
 
The focus of the bill is employers who hire undocumented workers but it also contains many troubling provisions that remain unclear as to implementation and effect.  Because of the many significant changes in the bill, the Senate is likely to dissent and call a conference committee.
 
HB 1402, Prohibiting resident tuition for illegal aliens, passed the Senate 38 - 12. The bill will increase costs for students who have lived here for most of their life and yet cannot become citizens. An attempt was made to provide an exemption for students who had lived in Indiana at least 3 years and graduated from high school but it was defeated 15 - 33. The bill now goes to the Governor since the Senate made no changes in the House bill.
 
A Joyful and Blessed Easter!
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I-CAN Update for April 15

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Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops
in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
Committee work comes to end this week. Significant bills were amended in committees. All bills must pass the respective chambers by Thursday next week. Conference committee work begins Easter week.
 
HB 1003, School scholarships, passed the Senate Education Committee on a party line vote 7 - 3.  HB 1003 was amended to remove the requirement for schools to comply with Federal ADA regulations and to implement the state teacher evaluation regulations. An amendment was added that will require schools not discriminate on basis of race, color, or national origin. Also, an amendment was added to clarify that the state would not be authorized on the basis of the scholarship program to interfere with curricular or operational matters of participating nonpublic schools. HB 1003 now goes to Senate floor for second and third reading. All are encouraged to contact their Senator asking for support of HB 1003. While the HB 1003 is not perfect, it represents important progress and will assist many parents in choosing the education that best fits the needs of their children and their values. Take action now  the vote will be next week!
 
Although substantially amended in Senate Health Committee HB 1210, Abortion matters and physician privileges, is still a strong bill that significantly improves Indiana's abortion law. It will require written as well as oral notification, added information about fetal development and that human life begins at conception, informs women about alternatives to abortion and information about adoption. Also, women will have to refuse to see the ultrasound rather than only be told that they could see it. It also prohibits abortions after 20 weeks which increases current law which now states viability. HB 1210 also requires abortionist to have hospital privileges in a local hospital in order to perform abortions.
 
The bill was amended to take out the reference that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer and the provision to add breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings for low income women was removed. Other committee concerns also removed the provision to exclude abortion coverage in any future Indiana health insurance exchange that would be established as part of the Federal Health Care Act. Because several committee members wanted to provide exclusion for rape and incest to this provision, Chairman Miller removed this from the bill. We are looking for a home for this provision inside another bill.
 
HB 1474,  Terminated pregnancy form, passed the Senate 48 - 0 and now goes to the Governor. The bill addresses a technical but important aspect of abortion records regarding the father. In particular, it also requires abortion doctors to report potential sexual abuse.
 
SB 590, Illegal immigration matters, was heard in the House Public Policy Committee on Thursday. The bill was amended substantially for the better. All the law enforcement provisions that would have led to many harmful consequences were taken out. These included the reasonable suspicion stops and probable cause arrests. (Federal Appeals Court has enjoined similar provisions in the AZ law.)  Also dropped from the bill were all English only provisions regarding government and government services.  Due to time constraints the committee recessed to Friday morning to further refine and move the bill.
 
House leadership has heard and responded to the concerns of the business, agricultural, corporate, social agencies and religious communities. ICC appreciates the efforts and changes in the bill. The amendments were a sincere attempt to find a compromise among many in both parties that do not want to pass a bill and those that want to pass something. While many problems with the bill were removed, problems remain; for example, contractors with the state will have to use E-verify and parts dealing with landlords may still be unconstitutional as already determined in PA and OK.  Although the letter of the proposed law has improved somewhat, the spirit of the bill remains still. An example of a provision that speaks to the spirit and therefore the flaws of the bill is the prohibition of being able to use the consular identification. The consular ID has a picture and provides secure identification; it is not a US document but it does assist authorities and community members to identify who someone is. Why make its use illegal? The bill will be on the floor for action next week. The bill is likely to pass the House. We expect this to go to conference committee the last week of April.
 
Another immigration bill, HB 1402, Prohibiting resident tuition for illegal aliens, passed committee without amendment 6 - 4. An attempt to provide resident tuition to young people who have resided in Indiana at least 3 years and graduated from high school was rejected on a bipartisan 4 -6 vote.  Unless the bill is changed on second reading, it is likely to pass the Senate and not have to be returned to the House. The bill as it stands now will require changes for most universities' admissions policies and practices. There will be implementation problems for most state universities.
 
SB 340, Charity gaming, passed the House 93 - 0. The bill was not changed from the committee action last week. Many of the more significant provisions were removed to a study committee. These issues may appear in a bill next year.
 
SB 461, Health care matters, passed 65 - 31. The bill now returns to the Senate with many changes. The bill deals with the preparations and conditions for the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This is one place as a possible home for the abortion exclusion in the health care exchange.
 
HB 1022, Officeholder qualifications, nepotism, and public contracts, passed the Senate 34 - 16. It returns to the House with many provisions not in the original house bill.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under "policy tools" click on "issues and legislation" and access the state or federal bills by clicking "current legislation". Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org



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Spending Cuts Announced

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Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA and is published regularly when Congress is in session.

On April 12, Appropriators unveiled details of the spending package that would fund the federal government for the remaining fiscal year 2011. As previously reported, the deal reached by President Obama and House and Senate leaders would make nearly $40 billion in cuts to discretionary programs. The measure would eliminate several programs including the Housing Counseling Program and proposes significant reductions in the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, Community Development Block Grant, Corporation for National Service and several other programs.
 
As previously reported, President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced an agreement on a spending deal to fund the government for the remaining FY2011. Subsequently, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed a short-term continuing resolution to prevent the government shutdown until details of the agreement were drafted.
 
The deal proposes a $17.8 billion cut to mandatory programs and a $20 billion reduction to domestic discretionary programs, with a $1.1 billion across-the-board cut in discretionary programs. The following are some detailed aspects of the proposal:
 
  • Child Care: Provides $2.2 billion for the Child Development Block Grant, an increase of $100 million from FY2010 enacted level;
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program: Funded at $176 million, nearly $5 million above FY2010 enacted levels;
  • Community Development Block Grant: Funded at $3.3 billion, $650 million less than the FY2010 enacted level;
  • Community Service Block Grant: Funded at $680 million, $20 million below FY2010 enacted level;
  • Corporation for National Service: Funded at $1.08 billion, $72 million less than FY2010;
  • Emergency Food and Shelter Program: Funded at $120 million, $80 million below the FY2010;
  • Head Start: Funded at $$7.6 billion, a $340 million increase from the FY2010 enacted level;
  • Homeless Assistance Grant: Funded at $1.9 billion in funding, a $40 million above FY2010 enacted levels. (This includes a set-aside for $225 million for Emergency Solutions Grant-a recently enacted bill to support homelessness prevention and rapid response housing activities);
  • Homeless Veterans: Funded at $50 million for vouchers to house homeless veterans through the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program;
  • Housing for Elderly and Disabled: $400 billion for elderly housing and $150 million for housing for disabled;
  • Hunger Free Community Grants: Eliminates funding for this program funded for the first time in FY2010 at $5million;
  • Job Training:Provides $2.8 billion, $182 million below FY2010 enacted level for job training grants to states for Adults, Youth and Dislocated workers;
  • Juvenile Justice programs: Funded at $148 million, $14 million below FY2010;
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program: Funded at $4.71 billion, $390 million below FY 2010 enacted level;
  • Migration and Refugee Assistance: Funded at $1.69 billion, $5 million above FY2010 enacted level;
  • Rental Assistance: Section 8 funded at $18.4 billion, $233 million above FY2010 enacted levels;
  • Senior Employment Program: Funded at $450 million, $375 million below Fy2010 enacted levels;
  • Senior Nutrition: Provides $847million, the same amount of funding enacted for FY2010;
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): Level funded at FY2010 enacted level of $49.5 million. However, funding for TEFAP Infrastructure Grants Program is eliminated. This program was funded for the first time in FY2010 at $6 million; and
  • Women, Infant, and Children (WIC): Funded at $6.748 billion, $504 million below the FY2010 enacted level.
To prevent a government from shut down, the proposal will need to pass in both the House and Senate by Friday, April 15.
 
For a listing of addition programs, please click here http://www.cq.com/flatfiles/editorialFiles/temporaryItems/2011/41211Finalprogramcuts.pdf.
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Washington Update for April 11

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Fiscal Year 2011 Spending Update
On April 8, President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced an agreement on a $38 billion spending deal to fund the government for the remaining FY2011.Subsequently, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed a continuing resolution to prevent the government shutdown until details of the agreement are drafted.

The deal proposes a $17.8 billion in cut to mandatory programs and a $20 billion reduction to domestic discretionary programs with a $1.1 billion across-the-board cut in discretionary programs. While details of the cuts to programs have yet to be released, the Congressional Quarterly reports that White House Communication Director said the cuts included $13 billion from the Labor, Education and Health and Human Services departments, $8 billion from the foreign affairs programs and $30 million from a job training program for student loan processors. However, current level funding for Head Start and Pell grants are maintained.

House and Senate leaders will now have until April 15th to pass the final spending bill and to prevent the possibility of another government shutdown.


Stopgap Bill includes $2 billion in Cuts
On April 9, President Obama signed into law a weeklong continuing resolution to keep the government operational until April 15th. While the stopgap spending measure was passed to allow Congress to work out the details of the compromise for FY2011 spending, the bill included more than $2 billion in cuts to the following programs:
Housing and Urban Development Fund including the Community Development Blockgrant ($220 million)
Eliminates funding for the Economic Development Initiative, Neighborhood Initiative grants, and the Universities Community fund
High speed and intercity passenger rail ($1.5 billion)
Transit new starts ($280 million)
Federal Aviation Administration Facilities and Equipment account ($8.7 million)
Transportation Planning, Research and Development account ($6.3 million)
FAA Research, Engineering and Development account ($3.5 million); and
Federal Railroad Administration Research and Development account ($2.5 million)



Deficit Reduction Discussions Underway
With Congress heading toward a final agreement on FY2011, spending President Obama is expected to release a long-term deficit plan aimed at reducing the nation's reliance on borrowed money. This is likely to be a contentious debate as lawmakers seek to address the issue of spending more money than what is received. Details of the proposal are expected later this week.
In addition, the House of Representatives is expected to take up the FY2012 budget resolution proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that would set discretionary appropriations, excluding war costs, for the next fiscal year at $1.019 trillion, $102 billion below President Obama's budget request.

The budget resolution is the next step in the budget process after the President introduces his blueprint for spending the next fiscal year (October 1)-which was released in early February. This step in the process is were the House and Senate go to work to set overall spending and cuts for the coming fiscal year-typically this should be completed by mid-April-but usually last into mid-May.

Please stay tuned to Washington Weekly for details of the proposals.

To review Catholic Charities USA statement on the House budget resolution, please click on the following link, CCUSA Budget Statement.


Virtual Hill Day
On Tuesday, April 12 Diocesan Directors from local Catholic Charities agencies, members of the Social Policy Committee and other advocates for social justice will visit with members of Congress to ask them to support legislation to reduce poverty in our country. Catholic Charities USA needs your help to make this event even larger! Please be on the lookout for a message on how you can participate virtually.
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I-CAN Update for April 1

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Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops
in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
The Democrats returned on Monday and the House passed the bills left on the calendar from 5 weeks ago. Among the more than 70 bills passed:
 
HB 1003, School scholarships, passed 56 - 42 and now moves to the Senate for consideration.
HB 1001, Budget bill, passed 60 - 40; this means that the Senate will not have to amend another house bill in order to have a budget for the coming biennium.
HB 1210, Abortion matters, passed 72 - 23; it now moves to the Senate for consideration.
 
While action has begun and there is hope that some bills have an opportunity to pass, there continues to be uncertainty. Deadlines for committee reports regarding bills in the second house end next week. Unless there are extensions there will not be time to consider many of the Senate and House bills. The House is talking about a one week extension. Extension in the Senate would also allow hearings on some bills passed this week in the House. Unless bills move in the House, the Senate will have to amend many of its bills into House bills still pending in Senate committees. While the Senate committees held hearing this week, most did not vote on bills in order to see what amendments will be needed.  Decisions and agreements will have to be made this weekend.
 
As part of the agreement with Democrats to return, HB 1003 was amended. Over 75 amendments were submitted and 25 were considered. Most of the amendments designed to weaken the bill were defeated. Some of the amendments were not significant such as reducing the number of scholarships available in the first two years to 7500 the first year and 15,000 the second. (There are no limits thereafter). However, two amendments were adopted that add unnecessary regulations; these need further refinement in the Senate. Also, the restriction on students being eligible for scholarships in Kindergarten is another part that must be addressed before the end of the session. It is likely that the Senate will provide a hearing for the bill. Now the effort is on the Senate for passage. All are encouraged to contact your senator to ask her/him to support HB 1003.
 
HB 1210 also was the target of many amendments. And when debate is about abortion, it is often contentious and emotional. Three of the 12 amendments offered were accepted. One would add breast and cervical cancer screening for low income women. This is likely to be removed in the Senate due to cost, should the Senate move the bill. A severability clause was added to protect existing statute should aspects of this bill be challenged in court. And a fund was established to provide for costs of defending the law should the constitutionality of the law be challenged. The bill adds to existing informed consent law. Another provision prohibits abortion coverage in any Health insurance exchange adopted as part of the federal health reform law.  An amendment referencing Texas law and information was not accepted. The intent of the amendment was to provide extensive information regarding abortion and fetal development. To avoid the cost of developing this for Indiana, the plan was to require a link to the State of Texas website. Because of the confusion this could cause the amendment was withdrawn.
 
HB 1001, Budget, makes significant changes in funding of schools and provides for reductions in allocations for many state programs. Over 300 amendments were filed by the Democrats. After several hours of debating amendments the bill passed on partisan lines.
 
HB 1474, Termination of pregnancy form, passed the House 83 - 11. It provides that Indiana's pregnancy termination reporting be amended to require that abortions done on girls under the age of 14 be reported to authorities within three days of the abortion in order to streamline the reporting of child sexual abuse.  The bill also requires that pregnancy termination reports list the age or estimated age of the father as another provision to help authorities identify potential cases of child sexual abuse.
 
HJR 6, Marriage amendment, passed the Senate 40 -10. The process regarding this issue is now over for the session. Resolutions are not signed by the Governor. It will have to be passed again in 2013 or 2014 before it can go to the voters to be adopted in the Indiana Constitution.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under "policy tools" click on "issues and legislation" and access the state or federal bills by clicking "current legislation". Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org



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Federal Alert: D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program

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The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is a federally funded program which has allowed over 3300 children from low-income families to attend private, including religious, schools in the District of Columbia since 2004.  Nearly 9000 families have applied to participate in DCOSP.  Unfortunately, since 2009, Congress and the Administration have not allowed new children, including siblings, to apply for scholarships.  Opponents of the program ignored the study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education that concluded that students who used their scholarships had a 91% graduation rate and that parental satisfaction and demand for the program were overwhelming.  Opponents have also ignored the aspects of the legislation that provided additional funding for D.C. regular and charter schools as part of a three-sector approach to improving educational opportunities for children in the District of Columbia.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, a long-time supporter of this program, has introduced H.R. 471, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR) to reauthorize the program so that new students can receive scholarships.  The bill continues the three-sector approach by authorizing $60 million to be evenly divided for use by private school families, regular public schools and public charter schools.   A companion bill, S. 206 has been introduced by Senator Joseph Lieberman in the Senate.

On March 10, 2011, H.R. 471 was passed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform by a vote of 21-14.  Current information is that the full House of Representatives will consider the vote during the week of March 28th.

Please contact your member in the House of Representatives and let her/him know that you support the reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana
regarding state and national matters.
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I-CAN Update for March 25

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Stalemate continues but actions and plans are underway to get bills passed should the Democrats return for final votes in April.
 
With the continued walkout by House Democrats the Senate and House Republicans are making plans to pass legislation stalled in the House. Even with a possible return of Democrats next week and assuming some bills are passed, there will not be enough time to move all stalled bills out of the House and not enough time to hear and move all House and Senate bills. Hence, Senators are finding homes for their bills in House bills being considered by the Senate.
 
Decisions on which bills and strategy will be made next week. In the meantime, Senators are hearing bills but not taking votes. This week, the Appropriations Committee began discussions about the budget with a plan to amend their version into a House bill pending in committee. As part of this discussion the committee heard testimony on a range of education reform proposals. Included in the list was the choice scholarship in HB 1003. It, along with other education reform items, could be included in the budget bill.
 
Show support for school choice by attending the rally on Wednesday March 30!
Make your voice heard and join Hoosiers from around the state in supporting student-centered education reform. Make sure lawmakers know that kids come first.
Time:  11 AM - 2 PM
Location: Indiana State Capitol - North Atrium
At recent rallies supporting school choice options over 1100 people gathered in Ohio and over 3000 people gathered Nebraska. Let's show that Hoosiers are supportive too.
 
Another possible vehicle for Choice scholarships is HB 1341, Special education grants. The Senate Education Committee heard HB 1341 on Wednesday. This bill provides that state funds allocated on behalf of special education students in non-public schools be spent on these students. (It passed the House 98 -1.) Although testimony was given, no vote was taken. A decision should be coming this week as to which bill the choice scholarships (vouchers) will be attached. (Should the Democrats return this week, there remains a chance for HB 1003 to move out of the House.)
 
An example of Senate bills that may be amended into House bills is SB 590, Illegal immigration matters. HB 1402, which prohibits resident tuition for undocumented students, could be amended to include SB 590 or parts of it. The Senate leadership seems committed to passing something dealing with illegal immigration.
 
Bills dealing with abortion related issues remain on hold. Senate members are looking for ways to amend SB 328 which strengthens the informed consent law into a House bill now pending in the Senate. Also, Senate and House members are looking for bills in which to amend two provisions of the House's informed consent bill, HB 1210, which awaits floor consideration in the House. The provision that would prohibit abortion coverage in a health insurance exchange could be added to a bill dealing with insurance. Finding a home for the provision that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks is more difficult.
 
HJR 6, Marriage amendment, passed Senate Judiciary on a 7 -3 vote. The resolution will be considered by full Senate next week. It is expected to pass.

In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under "policy tools" click on "issues and legislation" and access the state or federal bills by clicking "current legislation". Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org

Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops
in Indiana regarding state and national matters.

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Catholic Charities Weekly Report - 3/21/2011

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Washington Weekly

FY2011 Spending Update
On March 18, President Obama signed into law another short-term bill approved by the Congress that would fund the government through April 8. The current continuing resolution will expire on March 18.  The Congress will now have three weeks to figure out funding for the remaining FY2011 or face a government shutdown.

The short-term bill does not include the cuts to programs that were a part of the broader long-term package (HR. 1) passed by  House which included reduction and elimination of funding for the EFSP, Refugee Resettlement, Housing programs, and the Corporation to name a few. The new short-term bill is comprised of rescinding unneeded funds from the 2010 Census, elimination of earmarks, and elimination and reduction of 25 programs-many which were included in the President's FY2012 budget proposal.

For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Advocacy and Civic Engagement at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

CCUSA Hosts National Hill Day

Catholic Charities USA continues to be dedicated to the goal of cutting in half the number of people living in poverty in America by 2020. We need your voice advocating Congress to help achieve this goal and to continue the conversation started at our Centennial which advances 21st century solutions to reduce poverty.

We anticipate the reintroduction of the National Opportunity and Community Renewal Act prior to your arrival in Washington, DC for our 2011 National Hill Day. Your Members of Congress need to hear your voice, your stories and your experiences in order to make the best choices for your community and the people you serve. We are excited to welcome back our colleagues from Soapbox who will organize our Hill Day.

Meetings will take place in the afternoon and early evening. If you have any special requests, please make sure you complete the survey that is sent with confirmation of registration.

To Register Now!
For more information, contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Advocacy and Civic Engagement at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

 
Congress Goes on Recess
As Congress goes on recess, decisions regarding funding for the FY2011 remain uncertain. When Congress returns from recess on March 28, they will have a short-time frame before the continuing resolution just signed into law by the President expires.

While members are back home in their districts, don't forget to visit their offices, make calls, and or send them messages, letting them know how their decisions will affect your community.

Please look for a town hall alert telling you when and where members will hold town hall meetings.

For more information, contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Advocacy and Civic Engagement at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


Farewell
It is with sadness for CCUSA and our Social Policy team, that we announce that Monica Maggiano has accepted another position.  Monica has truly left her mark on the work of CCUSA and our network through her leadership in managing Katrina Aid today, her enthusiastic work with Steve Liss, the Consumer Advisory Council and her passion for the Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America.  Our network has been enhanced by her service and dedication and the people we serve have been blessed by her work. We know that she will bring the same enthusiasm and passion to her new position as an Account Director at Powell Tate, a division of Weber Shandwick- the largest public relations company in the world.   Her first project is to oversee the Bank of America local market implementation strategy in 15 cities working with the local banks and local PR teams to help them be a better community partner. She will also be helping with some of the agencies Corporate Social Responsibility and social innovation accounts.

Please join us in wishing her well.


Registration for CLINIC Annual Convening

Register now for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) 14th Annual Convening in Seattle, WA, May 18-20, 2011.

From the basics of immigration law to the most advanced issues that arise in filing petitions, CLINIC's 14th Annual Convening in Seattle, WA will offer workshops for legal services providers and immigration advocates at any level.

CLINIC's three-day conference offers excellent updates on immigration law, insightful trainings, and opportunities for networking.

Come meet fellow advocates and learn new strategies for fundraising, program management, and advocacy.

Registration and additional information is available online here.

For more information, contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Advocacy and Civic Engagement at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


***

Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.



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I-CAN Update for March 18

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Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana
regarding state and national matters.
 
The House Democrats continue to be absent; the House remains at a standstill. However, the Senate continues to move a few bills and some committees continue to hear bills but votes are not being taken. The reason for not moving the bill is to keep bills available for amendments later in the session. Depending on when or whether the House can move remaining bills will determine if amendments, which include Senate bills now stalled in the House, to existing House bills will be necessary. Even when the House resumes business, time may be a factor in moving its remaining bills and the bills the Senate passed in January and February.
 
Action this week in the Senate
A bill on which we expected to see a vote taken was HJR 6, the proposed amendment to defend marriage as between one man and one woman. It would also prohibit civil unions from being recognized by the State. The language in the proposed amendment passed the Senate in 2009 and was expected to pass the committee again. However, Senator Bray, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not take a vote at the conclusion of testimony on Wednesday. The reason for not taking a vote was that the length of testimony did not permit adequate time for committee discussion. There has been criticism of the proposal because it would prohibit the state from enacting laws to establish civil unions as a legal entity. Also, critics cited possible prohibition of benefits for unmarried couples. However, benefits have not been a problem in states where identical or even more restrictive language has been adopted. ICC testified in support of HJR 6.
 
The delay or change in the proposal will not change the timing of an amendment to be submitted to the voters. A proposed amendment must pass two separate General Assemblies. In this case by legislators elected for the 2011 and 2012 sessions and those for the 2013 and 2014 sessions. The same exact wording of the amendment must pass two separately elected General Assemblies before it is submitted to the electorate for ratification. Hence, the amendment could pass either this year or next and still meet the same timeline for the 2014 election.
 
HB 1357, Local government reorganization, was heard in the Senate Committee on Local Government. The bill has become a possible home for many of the Senate bills now languishing in the House. At the hearing, amendments were proposed to include SB 386 which deals with many of the same topics as HB 1357, requirements of local units of government when proposing reforms. Also proposed as an amendment was SB 68 which deals with requirements for changing a town to city government. Both bill passed the Senate by large margins.
 
HB 1022, Office holder qualifications and nepotism was also considered but held. A proposed amendment would provide conditions in which relatives can not work together and clarification regarding salary limits when family members do work together. Also, the amendment proposed conditions under which contracts may be let to family members if full disclosure is made. No vote was taken on the bill or the amendment.
 
HB 1402, Prohibiting resident tuition for illegal aliens, was heard in Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. While no vote was taken testimony was offered regarding the impact of the bill. The effect is on students who have known only this country and state as their home and whose families pay taxes as other Hoosier families do. Questions were raised as to why place another hurdle in the way of persons trying to provide for themselves and their family. Many believed that this was contrary to the state's efforts and policy to build up a well educated work force. Other questions were raised about costs of administration to determine that tens of thousands of students were legal residents. No one spoke in favor of the bill. ICC raised some of the same concerns.
 
School Choice Rally
While the House remains out, the efforts to demonstrate support for or opposition to legislation continues. Union workers continue to gather each day at the State House, although much smaller in size. Efforts to demonstrate support for School Choice also continue to be ongoing. In addition to calls and contacts to State Representative and State Senators, School Choice Indiana is sponsoring a School Choice Rally at the Indianapolis Statehouse on March 30 with its Private School Choice component beginning at 12:30 PM EDT. Michelle Rhea, former chancellor of DC public schools, will speak at 11 AM during the charter school part of the program (all are welcome to attend her presentation).  See more, sign up ?http://www.edreformrocksrally.com
 
The full program for the Choice Rally will be announced in the next week. At this point, mark your calendars and share the date with others who might be interested in attending. Considering the size of some of the recent rallies in Indianapolis having a good turnout for this rally is very important.
 
In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under "policy tools" click on "issues and legislation" and access the state or federal bills by clicking "current legislation". Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org
 


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I-CAN: Update for February 25, 2011

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Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in Indiana regarding state and national matters.
 
The session has ground to a halt over collective bargaining issues primarily but school choice has also been cited as another reason the House Democrats refused to take part in the process. This week is the half-way juncture for the session. Typically, House and Senate switch bills for consideration. But if the Democrats come back next week the House will try to extend the first half by a week to clear the budget and other significant bills. This is an attempt to keep bills moving.
 
In the House, collective bargaining issues lay quiet until Monday when the Employment Committee heard HB 1468, Right to work. HB 1468 makes it unlawful for an employer to require an employee to join a union (create a union shop). The bill does not affirmatively outlaw unions or deny workers the right to organize but the bill could impede unions and their strength. It passed committee 8 - 5 on a party line vote but died because the committee report was not accepted by the House, which is why the Democrats kept the House from having a quorum to conduct business.
 
There are enough Republicans in the Senate to have a quorum; hence, Democrats could not stop action on bills dealing with similar topics. SB 575, Teacher collective bargaining, passed the Senate 30 - 19. It allows collective bargaining but puts limits on the terms and conditions which may be negotiated; primarily it limits bargaining to wages and benefits. SB 273 deals with state employment. Besides establishing a civil service system, it prohibits the state to recognize, bargain collectively with, enter into a collectively bargained agreement with, or require an employee to join or financially support an employee organization. It allows a state employee to be a member of or otherwise associate with an employee organization but prohibits state employees from striking. SB 273 passed committee and second reading, but it was not called for third reading.
 
Despite pleas to consider the significant costs to state and local law enforcement and the harm to individuals, families and businesses, SB 590, Illegal immigration matters, passed the Senate 31 - 18. Those who opposed the bill reminded the proponents that the bill's features are like those in Arizona, which are being litigated and unenforceable at this time. If this becomes law, Indiana too will incur litigation costs. SB 590 is one of the most stringent and sweeping laws in the nation. Because of its breath and severity SB 590 received more no votes (18) than previous bills. In fact, one senator spoke against the bill because of its effects, but said he would hold his nose and vote for it. The real answer to enforcement of immigration laws is to address it on the Federal level. The best way to send a message to Indiana legislators and to Congress is to sign the Indiana Compact. You can do so by going to www.indianacompact.com
 
SB 328, Abortion matters and physician privileges, passed the Senate 39 - 9. It now goes to the House for consideration. The House's version of this bill, HB 1210, was held up during the walkout. HB 1210 contained similar language informing the woman of fetal development and alternatives. However, the House also proposed to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. The House could amend its language into SB 328 when it considers it next month. Or it could move should the House extend the time one week. HB 1474, Terminated pregnancy form, requires recording the age of father of a terminated pregnancy is in the same situation.
 
A pro-life bill that died in the walkout was HB 1205, Abortion funding. It would have prohibited Indiana from contracting for services (other than abortion) with any organization that provides abortions. In effect, it would take funding from Planned Parenthood. It died when the committee report could not be accepted due to the walk-out.
 
SB 340, Charity gaming, provides more flexibility to charities in conducting fund raising events and in the use of the proceeds. Among its provisions it would allow non-gaming income at events to be excluded from the licensing fees and makes it easier for volunteers to sell raffle tickets. It also allows the charity to use the proceeds to pay salaries of full time employees. The bill passed 47 - 2 and now moves to the House.
 
Reform of township government failed to pass the Senate. SB 405 failed 21 - 28. Also, SB 303 which provided for counties to reorganize using a single executive rather than the Commissioners structure failed 22 - 27. However, bills dealing with nepotism and public employees holding elected office did pass in both houses. HB 1022, Officeholder qualifications and nepotism, passed 79 - 21, and SB 302, Nepotism, public employee holding elected office, passed 30 - 19. Both prohibit public employees from serving on a fiscal body overseeing the city or county while serving as an employee. Both deal with nepotism regarding contracting with and supervision of close relatives. Differences will have to be reconciled in the coming month before becoming law.
 

In addition to the Update, one can obtain more detailed information regarding the bills and detailed information about the legislative process through the ICC Legislative Action Center. Under "policy tools" click on "issues and legislation" and access the state or federal bills by clicking "current legislation". Also, you can access the archived updates, ICC positions and other background information at the ICC web site, www.indianacc.org
 


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I-CAN: Support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

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On January 20, Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) reintroduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3). The measure already has 208 other sponsors.

On February 8, the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H.R. 3. On Wednesday, March 2, at 10:00 am, the full Judiciary Committee is scheduled to markup the bill.  Opponents of H.R. 3 are expected to offer amendments to weaken and defeat the measure.

For many years Congress has supported the policy that federal tax dollars should not be used for elective abortions. Each year many provisions must be renewed in law as part of the various annual appropriations bills to maintain this policy. The time is overdue to establish this policy in permanent law in all federal programs. To this end, on January 20, Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), along with 160 other original co-sponsors, introduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3). This measure was first introduced in 2010 and enjoys bipartisan support.

In a January 20 letter to Members of Congress, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged Representatives to support and co-sponsor H.R. 3. "While Congress's policy [on restricting funding for abortion] has been remarkably consistent for decades, implementation of that policy in practice has been piecemeal and sometimes sadly inadequate." The Cardinal cited the recently passed health care reform law as an example of why this legislation is needed. That law "contains at least four different policies on federal funding of abortion" in various sections; three of the policies are incompatible with the Hyde Amendment, and "each of them is incompatible with all the others." See: nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/1.hr3letter21.11.pdf.

Your representative needs to hear from you!



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I-CAN: State HB1003 Enhances Opportunities

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Enhance Opportunities for Low/Middle Income Students
 
HB 1003 enhances opportunities for low and middle-income students by improving the state's Scholarship Tax Credit Program and creating a new Choice Scholarship program that allows more students to attend the school of their choice.

HB 1003 would improve Scholarship Tax Credit program

 *Incrementally increasing the percentage of the state tax credit from 50% up to 80% in 2014.
* Increasing the amount of tax credits by $10 million when 90% of the total cap was reached.
* Increasing family income eligibility from 200% of free and reduced lunch to 250%

HB 1003 creates a new scholarship program allowing families to choose a non-public school

* Scholarships would follow students to pay for tuition.
* Scholarships are based on state support of the public school district in which the student resides
* Scholarship amounts are on a sliding scale based on family income.

ICC supports HB 1003
* The programs support parents constitutional and natural right to choose the educational setting best suited to their children.
* The programs are designed to give options to the families who are least able to exercise choice in education.
* The programs will support quality education and promote the common good at a reduced cost, allowing savings to be used for other public needs.

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Catholic Charities USA: Washington Weekly, February 14

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Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA
and is published regularly when Congress is in session.

House Committee Sets FY 2011 Spending
Last week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced proposed spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. Currently, government programs are operating on an extension known as a continuing resolution until March 4, 2011. The budget allocations released by Chairman Ryan would set overall discretionary spending at $1.055 billion with $420 billion allocated to non-discretionary programs, $43 billion below the fiscal year 2010 spending level, and defense funding at $635 billion, an $8 billion increase from the fiscal year 2010 level.

Some reports suggest that programs that provide services to the most vulnerable are at risk of being reduced. One such program is the Emergency Food and Shelter program which could be cut by as much as fifty percent. During its 27 years of operation, the program has disbursed over $3.4 billion to over 12,000 local providers in more than 2,500 counties and cities. In addition, several other programs are slated for cuts including reductions to the following:

  • Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies -$30M
  • Juvenile Justice -$2.3M
  • Rural Development Programs -$237M
  • WIC -$758M
  • Job Training Programs -$2B
  • Community Health Centers -$1.3B
  • Maternal and Child Health Block Grants -$210M
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services -$96M
  • Community Services Block Grant -$405M
  • HUD Community Development Fund -$530M
Catholic Charities USA believes that budgets should not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable, and suggest rather that first line cutbacks happen at the bureaucratic  levels of the federal, state and local levels and not to programs specifically designed to get resources to those most in need.

For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Advocacy and Civic Engagement at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


President's Budget Proposal
 
Today, President Obama released his FY2012 Budget proposal. We are carefully reviewing the proposal. Please look for more detailed information in next week's Washington Weekly. For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director, Advocacy and Civic Engagement at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org



Hearing on E-Verify
 
On February 10, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held a hearing on E-Verify-Preserving Jobs for American Workers. E-Verify is an electronic employment verification system that allows employers to verify an individual's eligibility to obtain employment in the U.S.
 
During the hearing, Rep. Smith reported that according to Pew Hispanic Center, seven million people are working in the U.S. illegally and that one effective program to help ensure jobs are reserved for citizens and legal workers is E-Verify. Other panel witnesses included: Theresa Bertucci, Associate Director, Enterprise Services Directorate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who explained the E-Verify process and testified to efforts made by the agency to increase accuracy and efficiency, maintain its integrity and expand use of the program; and Richard Stana, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, Government Accountability Office who discussed challenges in the current e-verification system.
 
In addition to the panel witnesses, the Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez, Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles, California and Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration submitted written testimony that included the following recommendations to Congress:
  • Prioritize and pursue comprehensive immigration reform in lieu of enforcement-only measures to address the issues of unauthorized immigration in the United States; and
  • De-emphasize the use of workplace raids - in which immigrants are detained and families are separated - as a measure to enforce immigration laws in the U.S. workplace.
Currently, the E-Verify program is voluntary for employers with the exception of the federal government and legislative branch. In addition, many federal contractors also participate in E-Verify as a condition of contracts. However, proposed changes in law would make E-Verify mandatory for employers.

To listen to the hearing or get full copies of the panel testimony, please visit the following link http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Stana02102011.pdf.

For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Sr. Director of Advocacy and Civic Engagement at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org.


USDA Oversight Hearing

On February 10, the House Agriculture Committee met to discuss its U.S. Department of Agriculture oversight plan which includes the Food and Nutrition Service. The meeting is required under House rules to fulfill the committee's oversight responsibilities of the USDA for the 112th Congress.

The plan provides suggestions for review of programs for inefficiencies and duplication could potentially have both funding and policy implications. The plan includes the following areas in which the respective committees and subcommittees plan to conduct oversight or investigation:
  • Review programs for waste, fraud and abuse;
  • Review food and nutrition programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), fruit and vegetable initiatives, the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Food Distribution on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) and other commodity distribution programs;
  • Assess the level of participation by states in SNAP and examine state options for expanding SNAP participation;
  • Review buying patterns of SNAP recipients and methods for encouraging balanced lifestyles;
  • Review efforts by state SNAP administrators to modernize and streamline their programs;
  • Review the Community Food Project Program to ensure cooperative grants are working;
  • Review of the SNAP retailer approval process; and
  • Review of the implementation of changes made to the SNAP Nutrition Education Program.
  • Review programs within the 2008 Farm Bill that may be inefficient, duplicative, outdated or more appropriately administered by State or local governments for possible cuts or elimination;
 
To obtain a full copy of the oversight plan, please visit the following link: http://agriculture.house.gov/pdf/business-meeting/DRAFT-Oversight-Plan-112th-Congress.pdf.

 


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Recycling ... It's A Good Thing!

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Change your light ...

If every household in the United States replaces just one regular light bulb with one of those new compact fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road. Don't like the color? Use them in closets, laundry rooms, and other places where it won't bother you as much.

Please bring your paper, magazines, and newspapers to our green and yellow recycling bins on the west side of the facility, near the main entrance. You will help the environment and we get a financial benefit for the paper recycling!

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