The past week has seen the impact of past and current efforts of the team at the Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC). Just yesterday, Sr. Sharon Park, the longtime WSCC Executive Director who retired in 2017, was honored by the Washington State House of Representatives (see story below). They recognized her for her decades of service in support of life and justice issues in Olympia. Sr. Sharon was a wonderful mentor to me when I began with the WSCC in the fall of 2017, and I have been privileged to see firsthand the strong relationships she built in support of Catholic advocacy efforts in the Capital.
Last Friday, a member of our current team, Tim Hunt, was present when the Governor signed into law legislation requiring emergency notifications for Catholic and other private schools, along with public schools (see photo below). Tim worked hard on this bill so it was great for him to be there at the end of this multi-year process.
Over the last two legislative sessions, it has been a blessing to witness the WSCC build on the good work of Sr. Sharon. Those positive efforts will no doubt continue as I step away from the WSCC to accept a new opportunity in the state of Alaska. I am grateful to the Washington State bishops for allowing me to serve the WSCC and am looking forward to seeing Tim, Tracey, Jim and the many extended members of our WSCC team continue to advocate on life and justice issues on behalf of the Catholic Church. Many blessings to all of you for this important work! Joe Sprague, Executive Director
WSCC to Search for New Executive Director
Joe Sprague, Executive Director of the WSCC since 2017, is returning to the state of Alaska for a unique career opportunity in aviation there. Joe spent 30 years in aviation before working for the Church. The WSCC is accepting applications from individuals with a passion for policy issues spanning the life and justice spectrum. For more information click here.
Life and Liberty
Death Penalty Bill Dead in 2019
Despite widespread support, the bill to repeal the death penalty, SB 5339, did not receive a vote of the full State House before the legislative cut-off date. The WSCC greatly appreciates all the efforts of the Catholic Advocacy Network to help move this bill forward during the current session. We will be picking up where we left off during the 2020 legislative session.
Important Budget Issues Await Final Legislative Action
According to the State’s constitution, the last day allowed for the 2019 regular session is this Sunday, April 28th. Much of the remaining work is related to finalizing the Capital, Operating, and Transportation budgets.
The WSCC is focused on ensuring that the Housing Trust Fund, which enables organizations like Catholic Charities agencies to build affordable housing, receives ample funding in the Capital Budget. For the Operating Budget, we are advocating for vital initiatives to combat homelessness, such as Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program, as well as an innovative pilot to bring Medicaid personal care directly to homeless seniors and people with disabilities.
In next week’s Advocacy Bulletin, we will provide a recap of the session and outline whether these programs received the desired funding.
Bill to Protect All Students Signed into Law
Thank you to the Catholic Advocacy Network for contacting your lawmakers and urging them to support SB 5514. The bill received unanimous support from both houses and was signed into law by the Governor on Good Friday! This bill was drafted to address the lack of emergency notifications to public and private schools from first responders during events that would otherwise call for lockdowns or evacuations. Special thanks to Senator Mike Padden (R – Spokane Valley), the prime sponsor of the bill.