Education, life on bishops’ legislative agenda

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

As the 2015 session of the Kentucky General Assembly convenes, Catholics who are interested in learning more about issues important to the Catholic Church are invited to attend a Catholics @ The Capitol event.

The last two Catholics @ The Capitol events scheduled in the Archdiocese of Louisville will be held Jan. 10 at St. Catharine College’s Pettus Auditorium in Springfield, Ky., from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Jan. 14 at St. Raphael Church, 2900 Bardstown Road, at 4 p.m.

At the St. Raphael event, Catholics will have an opportunity to hear from Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky (CCK), the public policy arm of the state’s four bishops. Sister of Mercy Mary Schmuck of Catholic Charities and Ed Harpring, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville, will speak in Springfield.

Hall and his staff want to educate Catholics about three key issues that are likely to be discussed during the 2015 session, Hall said in a phone interview last week. The session began Jan. 6 and is scheduled to end March 24.

The three key issues for the CCK are: informed consent related to abortions, capital punishment and school choice.
Hall said the CCK will continue to promote legislation that would clarify the existing law requiring informed consent prior to an abortion.

The conference would support a bill that requires a woman seeking an abortion to meet in person with a health care professional prior to the procedure, Hall said. The current law allows health care professionals to inform a woman about the procedure with a pre-recorded phone message.

Last year, the conference stated that the proposed informed consent bill, which was approved by the Senate but failed in the House, represented “a commonsense approach to ensure that women facing a difficult decision have all the information needed to consider their choices while fully protecting their privacy.”

The conference went on to state that “a person’s right to health care extends beyond access to medical procedures and includes access to the relevant and useful information needed when making a major decision regarding one’s health care.”

The CCK also will once again support proposed measures to abolish capital punishment. Hall admits he doesn’t foresee an end to Kentucky’s death penalty in 2015, but he thinks “we will see it in the next few years.”

“We are meeting new members (of the General Assembly) and meeting again with members who haven’t talked about this in a while. It’s an ongoing process but we will take advantage of everyone being around in session to talk with them,” Hall said.
Hall said another big priority for the conference is school choice.

“Now that the archdiocese has a new scholarship program, it really illustrates the kind of thing we’d like to see across the state for Catholic and non-Catholic schools,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Louisville and the Catholic Education Foundation introduced a new Catholic Elementary School Plan in November that aims to make Catholic schools more accessible to families in need. One of the ways the archdiocese and the CEF plan to support this plan is through proposed business tax credits.

The CCK would support legislation that provides tax credits to businesses for their donations to organizations such as the CEF that provide tuition assistance, Hall said.

“The tax credit would encourage individuals and businesses to contribute to organizations which provide tuition assistance to families who desire to send their children to non-public schools.

“Most importantly, similar programs in other states have improved educational outcomes and saved taxpayers’ money,” said a recent blog post from the CCK.

To learn more about these issues and to keep up to date with CCK news, visit ccky.org or follow the CCK on Facebook and on Twitter @CCofKY.

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