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February 21, 2020
Hundreds Turn Out for CAD!
Nearly 300 Catholics from across Washington State participated in yesterday’s Catholic Advocacy Day (CAD). After listening to several issue briefings, an overview of the state budget process, and emotional testimony by two formerly homeless women, the citizen advocates spread out over the Capitol campus to meet with their legislators and aides. Some of the most effective advocacy was presented by Catholics sharing their own experiences of serving people in poverty through the Society of St. Vincent De Paul and other parish ministries. CAD was organized by the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (IPJC) in partnership with the Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (CCS).
Advocates can provide a comment to your legislators on any bill by calling the WA State Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000.
Life and Liberty
February 24th Hearing on Bill to Repeal Death Penalty
Even though the Washington State Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 2018, it remains part of state law. The Court noted that this is the fourth time Washington’s death penalty laws have been declared unconstitutional since 1972. A bill introduced in the state legislature, SB 5339, removes the statute from Washington’s law books. The House Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing on this bill on February 24 at 1:30 pm, O’Brien Building, House Hearing Room D. Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg, Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle, will testify on behalf of the WSCC in support of repealing the death penalty in our state. The Public Safety Committee has scheduled a vote on the repeal bill on February 27. The WSCC supports SB 5339.
UW Study of Barriers to Assisted Suicide
The full House passed HB 2419 by a 67-31 margin on February 14. The Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee will hear the bill on February 24 and has scheduled a vote for February 26. The bill proposes a study of the barriers to people accessing lethal medication to commit assisted suicide. The bill directs the University of Washington to “conduct a study of the ability of Washington residents to access the Washington ‘death with dignity act.'” The study could lay the groundwork for the expansion of assisted suicide in the state. The WSCC opposes HB 2419.
New USCCB Fact Sheets Available
The Pro-Life Secretariat at the USCCB has two newly updated fact sheets that you may find useful for your educational and policy work. The first fact sheet lays out some facts about Planned Parenthood’s provision and promotion of abortion. Notably, PP now does 40% of all U.S. abortions. Total abortions have decreased, while PP’s abortions have increased (and other services continued to decrease). The second fact sheet provides solid evidence against the claim that greater access to contraception decreases abortions.
House Passes Awareness Training on Human Trafficking Bill
On February 12, the full House passed HB 2320 by a nearly unanimous vote (95-1). Now the bill is before the Senate Law and Justice Committee. The legislation requires all hotel and motel employees to undergo human trafficking awareness training each year. The government would enforce the training requirement by not renewing or issuing a license to a hotel or motel without first receiving written certification that the human trafficking training requirements have been met. The full Senate might take up SB 6356, a very similar bill, by early next week. The WSCC supports both HB 2320 and SB 6356.
Justice, Peace & Environment
Senate Committee Schedules Vote on Clean Fuel Standard
The Clean Fuel Standard guarantees a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector while allowing market forces to determine which fuels best achieve results. HB 1110 directs the Department of Ecology to adopt a rule establishing a Clean Fuels Program to limit greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. Washington is the only state on the West Coast without a Clean Fuel Standard. The Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee has scheduled a vote on HB 1110 for February 25 at 10:00 am. The WSCC supports HB 1110.
House Passes Bill to Improved Access to TANF
The Senate Law & Justice Committee held a hearing on HB 2320 on February 20 and plans to vote on the measure on February 27. The legislation requires all hotel and motel employees to undergo human trafficking awareness training each year. The government would enforce the training requirement by not renewing or issuing a license to a hotel or motel without first receiving written certification that the human trafficking training requirements have been met. SB 6356, a very similar bill, did not come up for a floor vote in the Senate before the February 19 cutoff. The WSCC supports both HB 2320 and SB 6356.
President Trump’s FY21 Budget
Earlier this month, the president’s budget proposed an all-time high, $4.8 trillion budget for FY21. Even with the hefty proposed price tag, the budget proposes nearly $2 trillion in program cuts, including social safety net programs and student loan initiatives. The budget proposal also calls for large spending increases in defense and nuclear weapons.
One of the largest cuts would be for health care for poor and disabled people known as Medicaid. The Medicaid program is a mandatory spending line item and reducing it involves making changes to eligibility. The budget outlines new work requirements and asset tests to access the program. States would be compelled to increase eligibility oversight. The totality of these changes would reduce enrollment causing many to lose access to healthcare.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is another mandatory program that would incur cuts under President Trump’s budget proposal. The budget proposal includes a set of work requirements for able-bodied people between the ages of 18 to 65, rather than making a distinction on whether those people have children. Overall, the budget reduces SNAP funding over time by roughly $180 billion between 2021 and 2030. The administration indicated that the changes are necessary given that too many Americans remain on public assistance.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is seeing proposed cuts of $8.6 billion. This would be a 15% decrease compared to FY20 enacted levels. Many critical housing programs saw zeroed out funding including the National Housing Trust Fund, HOME Investment Partnership program, and the Community Development Block Grants. Some programs were identified for funding increases including the 202 housing program for the elderly and the 811 housing program for people with disabilities.
The president’s budget is the beginning of the appropriations cycle, but it is not a document that is voted on by Congress. The House and Senate will likely offer their own budgets in the coming months that will provide their funding priorities. Each chamber will vote on, and possibly agree upon, one unified budget that the president can sign into law. The House and Senate have indicated they will offer budgets that are much closer to FY20 funding levels.
Bishops’ Committee Urges Deep Cuts to U.S. Nuclear Arsenal
The USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace issued a statement last week and urged the U.S. and other countries “to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity. As such, we also call upon our own government to be part of and indeed renew its primary responsibility in that effort. The nations, which have nuclear weapons, must take the lead in mutual reduction of their weapons.” For the entire statement, click here.
Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE)
More than 200 opponents flooded the House Education Committee hearing room as SB 5395 was heard on February 20. As of this morning, the committee has not scheduled a vote on the measure. The bill would set a statewide standard for Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) for all students in K-12 public schools. This would prevent locally elected school boards from self-determining their own policy in this sensitive area rather than enabling them to protect the values of their community. SB 5395 also fails to address adequately complex moral issues tied to human sexuality. WSCC is opposed to SB 5395.
Advocates can comment on any bill by calling the WA State Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000.