Legislative update: school choice proposal gets hearing, commercial surrogacy bill faces deadline

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.

Benito Matias, principal of Ascension School in Minneapolis, speaks March 19 in favor of “opportunity scholarship” legislation. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Catholic Conference)

Last week was an important time at the State Capitol for legislation to give families more opportunities and choices for their children’s education. On March 19, the Senate Tax Committee had a hearing for a bill — SF 1872 (Chamberlain)/HF 1894 (Kresha) — that would greatly expand school choice in the state and allow students to have opportunities to attend schools that best suit their individual needs and to give parents the opportunity to have more say in the type of education that their child receives.

The legislation would authorize creation of “opportunity scholarships” – scholarships provided to low- and middle-income children to attend a school of choice. They are funded through private contributions made to non-profit scholarship granting organizations with 501(c)3 status and must be approved by the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Similar programs exist in more than 18 states, including Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Bills face deadline 

This week will be very busy at the Capitol. Friday, March 29, is the second committee deadline for the Minnesota Legislature. Committees must act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house. This means that legislators will be attempting to get hearings for their bills to ensure that they can continue to move forward in the process.

One of those bills, which the Minnesota Catholic Conference is closely tracking, would create a legal framework for a commercial surrogacy industry to grow in Minnesota. The bill (HF 1140/SF 1533) would create a marketplace in Minnesota where women’s wombs can be rented and babies can be bought and sold as products. We are monitoring whether this bill will receive another hearing by Friday’s deadline. You can reach out to your legislators now and ask them to oppose HF 1140/SF 1533 and to instead support The Surrogacy Abuse Prevention Act (HF 1000/SF 1152) to prevent for-profit surrogacy agents from preying on socioeconomically poor women.

Action alert

The Legislature is starting to put together its large omnibus policy and spending bills, and there is an important policy change in non-public pupil aid that the Minnesota Catholic Conference is advocating for this session. This legislation, SF 580 (Eichorn)/HF 1231 (Persell), would allow much-needed mental health counseling services to be provided to children in K-6 non-public schools at the request of their parents.  Currently, guidance and counseling services are only accessible by students starting in grade 7.  This legislation would make it possible to allow these services to be accessed at an earlier age and to intervene when problems first arise, and before they potentially escalate.

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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