General Assembly a disappointment to Catholic Conference of Kentucky

Father Patrick Delahanty spoke to a group of people gathered for an information session at the Capital Crown Plaza Hotel in Frankfort, Ky., February 6. The information session was part of Catholics at the Capitol 2012 — a two-day legislative advocacy conference where participants have the chance to speak with their state representatives and senators.

By GLENN RUTHERFORD
Record Editor

The recently ended session of the Kentucky General Assembly left the Catholic Conference of Kentucky feeling far less than satisfied.

In a May 7 interview, the conference’s executive director, Father Patrick Delahanty, used a single word to describe his reaction to the session — he said it was “disappointing.”

Father Delahanty said the most unfortunate and disappointing aspect of the recent session was its failure to pass an “informed consent bill” that would require women seeking an abortion to be counseled in person by a doctor, a nurse, a physician’s assistant or a social worker.

In early 2011, before that year’s General Assembly session began, Father Delahanty said, “we had a meeting with the majority leadership of the state House of Representatives and Archbishop (Joseph E.) Kurtz and Bishop (Ronald) Gainer where we talked about informed consent, the payday loan bill, executing the mentally ill and some other issues,” he explained.

“At the time we received a commitment from all five of those leaders to pass an informed consent bill.”

A similar meeting was held in December, and was attended by Bishop William Medley of Owensboro. Archbishop Kurtz couldn’t attend because the meeting occurred on the day that the late Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly passed away.

“Again, it was a good meeting and again we had a commitment, or at least we thought we had,” said Father Delahanty. Those attending were House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Speaker Pro-Tem Larry Clark, Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, Democratic Caucus Chair Robert Damron, and Whip Tommy Thompson.

But the informed consent bill wasn’t passed; in fact, no such bill was introduced in the state House of Representatives.

It amounted to a “broken promise” by House leadership, he said.

“We did end up attaching an amendment to a bill sponsored by Rep. (Robert) Damron,” he said, but that bill — HB 274 — languished for three days in the house Rules Committee as the session ended.
Rep. Damron, a Democrat from Nicholasville, Ky., said he shares the feeling of disappointment about the death of the “informed consent” legislation.

“I was in favor of doing the bill,” he said. “I’m very disappointed that we couldn’t get a consensus among our folks to pass that provision.”

He said getting such a pro-life measure passed “takes more than one person, of course.”

“We just didn’t have a consensus and I think that had a lot to do with the nature of the session itself,” Damron added. “We got started off bad with all the talk about redistricting. Then the main issue became the budget and then it became the road plan.

“Caucus members were focused on those issues,” he said, “and I am very disappointed that we didn’t get this legislation passed. I wrote the last pro-life bill passed in the house — the fetal homicide bill. So I’m very disappointed with this.”

Father Delahanty also expressed disappointment in the General Assembly’s failure to enact proposed education tax credit legislation for businesses — a bill that would allow tax credits for businesses who contribute to education. And the Catholic Conference — the public policy arm of the state’s four bishops — was also disappointed in the legislature’s failure to place a cap on payday loans.

There was, however, some positive news out of the session — progress on legislation that would end the death penalty.

“We took some giant steps forward there,” Father Delahanty said, though the legislature did not pass new laws that would abolish capital punishment. The state senate, for the first time in its history, held an hour-long hearing in its Judiciary Committee on a death penalty abolition bill.

“There is a huge change going on,” he said, “especially following the ABA (American Bar Association) report.”

That report, which followed a two-year study of Kentucky’s death penalty system, found that it was fatally flawed and should be shut down until its problems can be addressed.

“I think we may be three or four years away from passing a repeal (of the death penalty) in this state,” Father Delahanty said. “If California goes against it, by ballot referendum this coming November, that will be a tremendous step in the right direction, a huge statement.

“We’ve made great strides on this issue in recent years,” he added.

Father Delahanty will explain those strides, and this year’s disappointments, at a Faithful Citizenship Luncheon at noon May 15 in Flaget Hall at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky. The title of his presentation will be “2012 Kentucky General Assembly: Not with a Bang, but with a Whimper.”

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