The Catholic Conference of Kentucky represents Kentucky’s four bishops in matters of public policy. The conference also educates Catholics about issues of concern to the church and encourages civic participation.
The CCK’s annual Catholics @ the Capitol event, which aims to educate voters on issues important to Catholics, is expected to be held in February.
Jason Hall, executive director of the CCK, said he expects progress will be made on key issues during the 60-day session in 2020. The bishops’ priorities for the upcoming session include:
Scholarship tax credits
The CCK plans to support legislation
that creates tax credits for businesses and individuals who make a donation to a scholarship-granting organization, such as the Catholic Education Foundation, to provide need-based tuition assistance to non-public school students.
A bill has not yet been filed but one is expected once lawmakers return to Frankfort next month, Hall said.
Hall indicated that the conference has the support of legislative leadership and is hopeful a measure will pass next year.
“The church has long taught, including Pope Francis, the role government has in empowering parents to direct the education of the children. It is not only the parents’ right to direct, but the state has an obligation to allow parents to have the power to do that,” he said.
Kentucky is one of a few states that has no education choice program at all, he said.
“This is a very modest proposal that would use private money to assist people based on financial need,” he said.
Several pro-life bills have passed the General Assembly in recent years. One piece of legislation that failed to pass last year is expected to be up for a vote in 2020, said Hall. If passed, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act would provide legal protections for a child who survives a failed abortion. And, the CCK would support such a measure, he said.
The Trump administration has lowered the number of refugees to be resettled in the coming year to 18,000. In 2016, the United States had capped the number of refugees to be admitted that year at 85,000.
“While we are grateful this was not zero, as had been proposed, it is still much lower than the U.S. can easily absorb,” an email from the Catholic conference noted.
Under newly proposed federal refugee policy, each state would have a say in whether or not refugees are resettled there, Hall noted. Governor-elect Andy Beshear has committed to advocate for resettling refugees in the commonwealth, he said.
The CCK supports welcoming refugees to Kentucky, he added.
Criminal Justice Reform
The CCK would support measures to reform the criminal justice system in Kentucky, including a comprehensive revision of the penal code. The conference is helping to create a working group to look at such measures, Hall said.
The past few years have seen gains in criminal justice reform, particularly in the areas of felony expungement, easing the process of re-entering society and expanding access to drug treatment, Hall said.
“We are seeing incarceration being used as a solution to everything, even non-violent crimes,” he said. “It’s a tremendous strain on resources. We have a humanitarian crisis in our jails. Something will have to change on that and we will make sure what changes respects the dignity of persons and is not inhumane,” he said.