Bishops’ priorities include education, life

Jason Hall speaks at a program on immigration in this 2013 file photo. (Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Jason Hall speaks at a program on immigration in this 2013 file photo. (Photo by Marnie McAllister)

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville are called to become informed about issues important to the church as the 2016 session of the Kentucky General Assembly commences.

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky (CCK), the public policy arm of the state’s four bishops, will host a Catholics @ the Capitol event Feb. 9 at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Frankfort, Ky., to inform voters about key legislative issues that the conference is following.

At the event, Jason Hall, executive director of the CCK, will discuss proposed legislation and issues relevant to Catholic social teaching.

And he’ll explain why the conference either offers its support or opposes the legislation. Those interested in attending the session may visit ccky.org to register.

School choice legislation is among the conference’s priorities this year, said Andrew Vandiver, associate director of the CCK. The CCK supports Senate Bill 44, filed last week by Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester, Ky.

The bill would provide tax credits for Kentucky taxpayers who donate to either a non-public school scholarship organization or a fund for public schools, Vandiver said in an interview last week.

An example of a non-public school scholarship organization would be the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF), which provides need-based scholarships to families who wish to send their children to Catholic schools. Under the proposed legislation, Vandiver said, individuals and businesses that donate to the CEF would receive a tax deduction.

“Groups like the CEF are just doing great work. This would help them do more of it,” Vandiver said. “This bill would also provide tax credits for donations to public schools as well.”

Vandiver said the conference sees hope for the legislation this year.

“I think this is the best opportunity we’ve ever had to pass it. We have the bipartisan support,” he said.

One of the groups supporting this legislation is EdChoice Kentucky, a coalition of faith-based organizations, legislators, educators and businesses. The CCK is one of the coalition’s members and represents Kentucky’s four dioceses. Follow EdChoice on Twitter @EdChoiceKY and on Facebook at EdChoice Kentucky to receive more information.

Following is a list of other House or Senate bills the CCK is supporting:

  • Senate Bill 4 would clarify a law related to informed consent prior to an abortion. This legislation would require a woman seeking an abortion to speak face-to-face with a healthcare professional.The current informed-consent law has been interpreted to allow health professionals to inform a woman about the procedure through a pre-recorded phone call.“The informed consent statute in Kentucky has been a very important piece of legislation that respects the gravity of the decision of whether or not to have an abortion,” said Hall of the CCK. “In many ways, it’s a model statute. But the way it is being enforced guts the entire thing and has become incredibly ineffective.”Senate Bill 4, Hall said, would bring the statute back into force as it was originally intended.In the past, similar measures have passed the Senate but have failed to pass in the House.

    “The new political dynamics in the House open up a lot of possibilities as far as moving these bills,” Hall said.

  • Senate Bill 41, which would abolish the death penalty, has the full support of the CCK.This legislation would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without parole and commute all current death sentences to life without parole.Hall said the conference has seen a lot of movement on this issue and is hopeful a bipartisan effort will help this legislation progress.He said the conference would like to see a cost study as the next step to ascertain exactly how much it costs to try a capital case.“The problem we run into with policy-makers is that we don’t know (how much it costs),” Hall said. “If the General Assembly orders a cost study then we can know exactly what the cost is, fiscally speaking.”
  • House Bill 203 would also abolish the death penalty and replace it with a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
  • Expungement reform is another issue the CCK is closely following, said Hall. Currently, people who have a Class D felony conviction often have a difficult time finding a steady job following release from prison. Having their records expunged can be a lengthy process, Hall said.
    Expungement legislation has been filed in both chambers — House Bill 40 and Senate Bill 77.
    Ideal reform would allow people convicted of non-violent felonies to serve their time but not be labeled a felon for life, he said.
    “These criminal justice issues are something we’ve worked on for a long time and the bishops have talked about for a long time. A lot is coming to fruition now because of the political opportunities,” he said.

The 60-day General Assembly session is expected to conclude April 12.

Follow the CCK on Facebook at Catholic Conference of Kentucky and on Twitter using the handle @CCKY for up-to-date information.

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