The following update on the 2019 Minnesota state legislative session is provided by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the Church’s official public policy voice in the state.
The week ending March 15 was marked by the first committee deadline of the 2019 session. This deadline means that bills had to be passed out of at least one committee in either the House or Senate (depending on which body first introduced the bill). Of hundreds of bills heard in a flurry during this first-deadline week, there were three particularly harmful bills that the Minnesota Catholic Conference and advocates across the state stepped up to oppose.
First up, on March 11, was the legalization of recreational marijuana use – Senate File 619. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense” (CCC 2291). The Minnesota Senate voted down SF 619 – authored by Sen. Melisa Franzen – which would have made it legal to grow, manufacture and sell marijuana for recreational purposes in Minnesota. Individuals and organizations on both sides of the issue testified in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the two-hour hearing before legislators cast their 6-3 vote, which fell along party lines.
The second bill, heard March 13, House File 1140 – authored by Rep. John Lesch, seeks to create a legal framework for commercial surrogacy and will contribute to the commodification of women and children. As Pope Francis has said, “Public policy needs to protect vulnerable persons from any situations that may put them at risk of being exploited or treated like a commercial commodity.”
Commercial surrogacy does just that, as it treats women as objects for rent and children as commodities that can be bought by those with means. Not only is surrogacy gravely immoral (CCC 2376) in its nature because it removes procreation from sex between a married man and woman, but as Catholics we can work to ensure this secondary abuse of buying and selling women and babies is not compounded by creating a legal surrogacy marketplace.
Unfortunately, the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee voted to keep this bill alive in the legislative process. The bill was originally intended to go to the House floor but has instead been directed to another committee (House Health and Human Services Finance) Therefore, it is important for people to continue to speak out against it so that it fails to progress. Bills can be stopped at any point in the process.
You can take action by calling or emailing your legislators, telling them to oppose HF 1140 and instead support The Surrogacy Abuse Prevention Act (HF 1000). Visit our Action Center to easily send a message or make a call.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Minnesota advocates and medical professionals made their voices clear to House leaders: Assisted suicide is wrong for Minnesota, and our elected leaders should be working to bring Minnesotans together over better health care and not undermining the relationships they have with their doctors by promoting assisted suicide. By advocating against legalizing assisted suicide, advocates help to ensure the misnamed “End-of-life Options Act.”
(HF 2152/ SF 2286) was not heard by the first committee deadline. According to rules established by the House, Senate and governor, this assisted suicide legislation – because it did not make the deadline – should not move forward this year.
School choice to get hearing on Tuesday, March 19
A bill that would help children receive an education that best fits their needs goes before the Senate Tax Committee on Tuesday, March 19. This important bill, Senate File 1872 (Chamberlain), known as The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, seeks to help low- and middle-income parents access schools they believe are best for their children. The bill would provide a state tax credit to individuals and corporations who donate to scholarship-granting organizations that provide scholarships to low- and middle-income children to attend a non-public school of their choosing.
Constituents of members on the Senate Tax Committee are encouraged to call or email their senators and urge them to support The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (SF 1872). Visit our Action Center to see if your senator is on the committee and to send him/her a message or to call.