Life, education on bishops’ legislative agenda

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

CCK logo-fThe Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, is following a variety of measures during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly and aims to educate Catholics about these issues during the upcoming Catholics @ the Capitol event set for Feb. 3 and 4.

The annual event, held in Frankfort, Ky., will feature workshops related to proposed legislation and a keynote address by John Elcesser, executive director of the Indiana Non-Public Education Association. Elcesser will discuss Indiana’s passage of school voucher legislation.

Father Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, said the CCK has hired a new staffer, Michael Monaghan, to track education issues in Kentucky. He’s working with legislators who are drafting a bill related to school choice, Father Delahanty said.

“We’re looking for a way to help all the school students in Kentucky — both public and non-public,” he said.

The Catholics @ the Capitol program also will address proposed legislation related to capital punishment, abortion, workers and ex-felons.

The cost of the program is $45. To register, visit ccky.org or call Karen Chambers at the CCK at 502-875-4345.

Following is a list of the House and Senate bills that the CCK is either supporting or studying.

  • House Bill 70, which would automatically restore voting rights to most convicted felons who have completed their sentences, passed the House on Jan. 16 with a vote of 82 to 12. It was introduced in the Senate where similar measures have failed in the past.
    The CCK supports this measure because the Catholic Church views voting as a moral imperative.
    “So important is the act of voting that the Catechism teaches you have a moral obligation to do so and doing otherwise would be sinning,” Father Delahanty said. “When someone comes out of prison and pays their debt to society, they should have the right to vote so they can be good citizens.
    “They are reentering society; we’re expecting them to obey the law and pay taxes,” Father Delahanty added. “They should have some say in who gets to represent them and write those tax laws.”
    Currently, voting rights can be restored on a case by case basis by the governor.
  • Senate Bill 77, a proposal that would abolish the death penalty in Kentucky, was filed last week. The bill would abolish capital punishment in favor of a sentence of life without parole.
    Kentucky’s bishops support this bill, as they have in the past. The church teaches that the death penalty is only permissible when it is the only way to protect society.
  • Senate Bill 3, which would clarify a law related to informed consent prior to an abortion, has the CCK’s support. Similar legislation has been approved by the state Senate in year’s past but failed in the House.
    The measure would require a woman seeking an abortion to meet in person with a healthcare professional prior to the procedure. Currently, Kentucky law allows health care professionals to inform patients about the abortion procedure through a pre-recorded phone message.
    The Senate was scheduled to vote on this bill Jan. 22, after The Record’s deadline.
    Father Delahanty noted that another proposal related to informed consent has been introduced in the House — House Bill 184. The CCK is studying this measure, he said.
  • Senate Bill 8, also related to abortion, would require an ultrasound prior to an abortion. The Kentucky bishops support this measure.
  • Senate Bill 57, known as the Kentucky Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, is being studied by the CCK. The measure would set limits on abortions, such as requiring the age of the fetus to be determined prior to an abortion and prohibiting abortions after 20-weeks gestation.
  • House Bill 64, a bill related to expunging felony convictions, also has the CCK’s support. The measure would allow those convicted of certain felonies (excluding sex offenses or offenses committed against children) to have their records expunged five years after fulfilling their sentences and making restitution.
    Father Delahanty said the CCK supports the measure because a felony conviction can make it impossible for a person to find a job for the rest of their lives.
    Expungement would enable offenders to become productive citizens, pay taxes and meet other obligations, he said.
  • House Bill 1, related to the minimum wage, also has the support of Kentucky’s bishops. The bill would raise the minimum wage gradually over three years — to $8.10 per hour this July, $9.15 next year and $10.10 in 2016.
    In expressing support for the bill, the CCK’s blog (ccky.org) characterized the measure as “a necessary step in guaranteeing the worker ‘the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood.’ ”

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