Joint Finance Schedules Public Hearings on State Budget
The Joint Finance Committee, charged with revising Governor Walker's state budget, has scheduled the following four public hearings:
April 4 (10am0in)
Greendale High School Auditorium
Greendale, WI 53129
April 8 (10am0in)
Lambeau Field Atrium
Legends Club Room - 4th Level
1265 Lombardi Avenue
Green Bay, WI 54304
April 10 (10am0in)
Crystal Grand Music Theatre
430 W. Munroe Avenue (Hwy. 23)
Lake Delton, WI 53940
April 18 (10am0in)
Baldwin-Woodville High School Auditorium
1000 13th Avenue
Baldwin, WI 54002
Readers are encouraged to attend and to make their concerns heard.
WCC Priorities in State Budget
The WCC is asking readers to advocate on four main issues in the state budget:
1. Urge legislators to support the right of parents to send their children to the school that best helps their children by backing the Governor's plan to allow more families to use vouchers at religious and independent schools.
2. Urge that any reform of the Medicaid system ensures that those who are vulnerable or have limited means receive quality, affordable health care.
3. Urge legislators to remove the budget provision that exempts rent-to-own agreements from the Consumer Protection Act - a provision that badly weakens consumer protection for low-income families susceptible to predatory lending practices.
4. Urge legislators to support the "11 x 15" initiative to reduce our prison population by diverting non-violent drug and alcohol offenders into community treatment and supervision programs.
To learn more about these issues and other non-budget issues, and to meet with legislators, we encourage readers to attend Catholics at the Capitol on April 10 (more information below).
New Online Registration for Catholics at the Capitol
Online registration and payment for Catholics at the Capitol is now available at our website: www.wisconsincatholic.org. We will also continue to take mailed registrations. A paper registration form and additional information (including a complete schedule) are available on our website.
The event will be held on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. The keynote speaker will be the Most Reverend Peter F. Christensen. Registration is $37 per person and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Full-time students can register for $12. The registration deadline is April 1, 2013.
USCCB Objects to Proposed Revisions of Federal Contraceptive Mandate
The general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states that the current proposed revisions of the Obama Administration's contraceptive mandate are "an unprecedented ...violation of religious liberty by the federal government" and must be changed.
The statement is in comments filed March 20 regarding the mandate, which requires most health plans in the United States to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and related education and counseling.
The comments, made on the USCCB's behalf by Anthony R. Picarello, USCCB associate general secretary and general counsel, and Michael F. Moses, associate general counsel, note a number of continuing problems with the regulations, which had been the subject of earlier rulemaking and comment by the USCCB. The comments state:
First, like earlier iterations of the regulation, the latest proposal requires coverage of items and procedures that, unlike other mandated "preventive services," do not prevent disease. Instead, they are associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes, including conditions that other "preventive services" are designed to prevent.
Second, no exemption or accommodation is available at all for the vast majority of individual or institutional stakeholders with religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage. Virtually all Americans who enroll in a health plan will ultimately be required to have contraceptive coverage for themselves and their dependents, whether they want it or not.
Third, although the definition of an exempt "religious employer" has been revised to eliminate some of the intrusive and constitutionally improper government inquiries into religious teaching and beliefs that were inherent in an earlier definition, the current proposal continues to define "religious employer" in a way that, by the government's own admission, excludes (and therefore subjects to the mandate) a wide array of employers that are undeniably religious. Generally the nonprofit religious organizations that fall on the "non-exempt" side of this religious gerrymander include those organizations that contribute most visibly to the common good through the provision of health, educational, and social services.
Fourth, the Administration has offered what it calls an "accommodation" for nonprofit religious organizations that fall outside its narrow definition of "religious employer." The "accommodation" is based on a number of questionable factual assumptions. Even if all of those assumptions were sound, the "accommodation" still requires the objecting religious organization to fund or otherwise facilitate the morally objectionable coverage.
Fifth, the mandate continues to represent an unprecedented (and now sustained) violation of religious liberty by the federal government. As applied to individuals and organizations with a religious objection to contraceptive coverage, the mandate violates the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
"We are willing, now as always, to work with the Administration to reach a just and lawful resolution of these issues. In the meantime, along with others, we will continue to look for resolution of these issues in Congress and in the courts," Picarello and Moses write.
The full text of the comments is available at http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/2013-NPRM-Comments-3-20-final.pdf
USCCB Committee Chairs Urge Congress to Protect Poor and Vulnerable
The two bishops who lead the justice and peace efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged Congress to address the moral and human dimensions of the federal budget and protect the poor, in light of the budget resolutions under current consideration.
"We support the goal of reducing future unsustainable deficits, but insist that this worthy goal be pursued in ways that protect poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.
"The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources. The bishops stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity," wrote the bishops in a March 18 letter to Congress.
The bishops support preserving programs that help the poor and vulnerable, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly "food stamps"), poverty-focused international assistance programs, and funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.
The bishops also offered three moral criteria to guide budgetary decisions:
* Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
* Every budget proposal should be measured by how it affects "the least of these" (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
* Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.
"As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters and famines," the bishops wrote.
In his Inauguration Mass, Pope Francis urged the protection of human dignity. "To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love is to open up a horizon of hope," he said.
The full text of the bishops' letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Budget_Resolutions_FY2014-2013-03-18.pdf
New Bills of Interest
AB-79. Cemetery Lots (Kooyenga) Trust funds related to cemetery lots, mausoleum spaces, and cemetery merchandise. To Financial Institutions.