Catholic Conference calls for action as legislature convenes

Record Staff Reports

With the 2020 Kentucky General Assembly now underway, the focus of many, including the Catholic Church, turns to lawmakers, who will consider measures that affect all Kentuckians.
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky, which represents the state’s four bishops in matters of public policy, is encouraging Catholics to learn about the issues at stake and take action.

The conference’s first priority is also, apparently, the Senate’s priority: Senate Bill 1.

The measure aims to prevent the creation of so-called sanctuary cities in Kentucky, cities whose policies refuse cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. No Kentucky city has adopted these policies.

While the bill takes aim at sanctuary policies, it has broad implications, said Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic conference.

In his latest update about the session, Hall told Catholic stakeholders that the measure is troubling.

Particularly, he noted, SB 1 requires “all ‘public agencies’ (any organization receiving more than 25% of its budget from state or local government) to ‘use their best efforts’ to support immigration enforcement, with consideration of available resources.” Hall noted in a brief analysis of the bill, “It is unclear what that means or what it would require of local health departments, domestic violence shelters, or any number of other agencies.”

Hall also raised concerns that the law “could create uncertainty among the immigrant population, leading many to avoid seeking help they need from law enforcement or other agencies, even if they have been victims of a crime.”

He encourages Catholics to call lawmakers to express their concerns about the measure “as soon as possible.” The bill was expected to move as early as this week.

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky has also identified several other priorities that need action so far in the session. They are:

House Bill 67 has the support of the Catholic conference. The measure aims to amend Kentucky’s constitution to explicitly state there is no right to abortion in Kentucky.
It would ask voters to answer the following question at the ballot box:

“Are you in favor of amending the Constitution of Kentucky by creating a new Section of the Constitution to be numbered Section 26A to state as follows: To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion?”

Hall said the CCK supports the bill, noting “As movement has developed toward the possible limiting or overturning of Roe v. Wade in the federal courts, increasingly state courts have been asked to find a right to abortion in state constitutions.”

House Bill 237 also has the CCK’s support. The bill eliminates the death penalty for those who are diagnosed with a severe mental illness. Hall said the CCK “has long supported this bill and we have reason to believe this could be the year we pass it.”

Finally, scholarship tax credits have the support of the CCK once again. The conference has advocated for the creation of a scholarship tax credit program for several years. The program, as envisioned by the CCK, would offer tax credits to those who donate money to certain organizations that award need-based financial aid for students choosing non-public schools.
The Catholic Education Foundation, which awards financial aid to students attending Archdiocese of Louisville schools, is one such organization.

Supporters believe the program would boost donations to these organizations, which would decrease the financial barrier to low-income students who want to attend a non-public school.

As of The Record’s deadline, a bill related to scholarship tax credits had not yet been filed.

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