Education will be focus in Frankfort

GeneralAssemblyDome2017-fBy Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Following the passage of two pro-life measures — HB 2 (related to ultrasounds) and SB 5 (an abortion ban after 20-weeks gestation) — the Catholic Conference of Kentucky will shift its focus to other issues when the 2017 Kentucky General Assembly resumes next month.

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky represents the concerns of Kentucky’s four bishops on matters of public policy.

First on the CCK’s list of concerns is scholarship tax credit legislation. Senate Bill 102 (SB 102) and House Bill 162 (HB 162) would help increase financial aid available to families for tuition assistance, according to the CCK.

Andrew Vandiver, associate director of the CCK, said the bills would help “level the playing field for all Kentucky families.”

The proposals provide tax credits for Kentucky taxpayers who donate to a non-public school scholarship organization, such as the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF), Vandiver said.

“The scholarship tax credit program, which exists in about 17 states, would increase donations to scholarship-granting organizations such as the CEF to reach more children,” he said.

CCK logo-fVandiver said he and other CCK staff are encouraged by the prospects of both bills. SB 102 is co-sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chair Senator Mike Wilson and Senators Ralph Alvarado and Max Wise. HB 162 is sponsored by House Education Committee Chair Representative John Carney.

“Having the Senate and House Education Committee chairs be the lead sponsors on the bills is really significant. It shows the importance of the issue and puts it in a position we’ve never been in before,” he said.

Vandiver urged Catholics to contact their senators and representatives and ask them to support SB 102 and HB 162. To reach state legislators, call the Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181 (866-840-6574 for Spanish). If you do not know your legislators, the operator can assist callers.

Jason Hall, CCK executive director, also said the group plans to closely follow any legislation regarding criminal justice reform.

The Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council (CJPAC), a bipartisan panel created by Governor Matt Bevin, will present recommendations for reforms before the General Assembly reconvenes in February.

Among the 23 people appointed by the governor to the panel is Bishop William Medley, a former priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville and bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky.

“Hopefully (the findings) will be another step toward criminal justice reform,” said Hall, noting he doesn’t know how comprehensive the reforms will be.

Hall said the CCK will also closely follow any proposed tax reform, but added that he expects tax-related measures to be held for a special session that will likely take place later this year.

The CCK advocates for tax reform legislation that is “progressive in rate structure” and that does not “hit the poor disproportionately,” Hall said.

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