Minnesota legislative update: Second chances, MFIP and religious liberty

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.

What happened last week?

The Second Chance Coalition, of which the Minnesota Catholic Conference is a member, held its Day on the Hill. The coalition is based in the principle that persons who have been punished for crimes should have meaningful opportunities to work and grow as people after serving their debts to society. During the 2019 legislative session, the coalition is working to pass legislation that would help reduce the impact of fines and fees from traffic and low-level criminal violations, particularly in cases of financial hardship.

The group is also focused on reducing the length of felony probation periods, which in Minnesota are some of the longest in the country.

The third legislative effort of the Second Chance Coalition is voting restoration so that those who have served their time in prison can once again participate in our democracy by voting for their elected officials.

Last Thursday, the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, a group composed of four-member organizations, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference, had its own day on the hill with the theme “stand firmly for justice.” Advocates visited the Capitol to talk with legislators about various issues, including the Minnesota Family Investment Program. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spoke to the group in the morning about her own childhood experiences, sharing that her family received help from the Minnesota Family Investment Program. She encouraged the attendees to stand up for the voiceless at the Capitol.

HF700/SF905 was introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate — legislation that would increase MFIP’s cash grant and which is supported by the Minnesota Catholic Conference. The Minnesota Family Investment Program, or MFIP,  provides basic economic assistance for children and their parents working toward full-time, paid employment.  This monthly grant has not been increased for over 30 years. In other words, families are trying to get out of poverty in 2019 on 1986 dollars. The bill has bi-partisan support.

This week also saw the election of the newest member of the Minnesota Senate. Rep. Jason Rarick was elected in a special election Feb. 5 to represent District 11.  This now gives the Republicans a 35-32 majority in the Senate.

What can be expected this week?

The Minnesota Catholic Conference is supporting HF29/SF528, the Earned Sick and Safe Time Act, which would allow workers to accrue paid time to care for themselves or a loved one. This bill will have a hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 13. All committee hearings are open to the public. People are encouraged to attend.

MCC will also be offering testimony on several pieces of legislation.

We will be supporting:

  • HF606/SF661 — a bill to support religious liberty that would require school boards to provide annual notice to parents of the school district’s policy relating to a pupil’s absence from school for religious observance. It would also require an employer to grant at least two days of unpaid leave per calendar year for a reason of faith or conscience. Testimony for this bill takes place Wednesday, Feb. 13.
  • HF40/SF856 — the “Restore the Vote” legislation, which would restore the civil right of an individual to vote when the individual completes any incarceration imposed by the courts. This bill’s hearing will be Tuesday, Feb. 12.
  • HF400 — legislation that is a comprehensive approach intended to prevent and address the opioid epidemic here in Minnesota. This hearing will take place Tuesday, Feb. 12.

MCC is opposing:

  • HF12/SF83 — a bill that would that would place a ban on counseling for minors with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. This hearing is set for Wednesday, Feb. 13.

To find more details on times and locations of these hearings, visit: www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/schedules.

How can people take action this week? 

Many people are voicing their anger over the new abortion law in New York and proposed bills in Virginia and elsewhere that would further expand abortion rights and eliminate protections for infants that survive an abortion. Now is the time to change that anger into action! Make your voice heard during Catholics at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Go to www.CatholicsAtTheCapitol.org for full details and to register by Feb. 14.

At Catholics at the Capitol, you will be joining all of Minnesota’s bishops along with Catholics statewide for a day of prayer, inspiration, education and advocacy. The day begins with Mass concelebrated by all of Minnesota’s bishops. The morning features a slate of speakers, including actor Jim Caviezel and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, music from Danielle Rose and emcee Gloria Purvis of EWTN and Black Catholics United for Life. You will also learn how to be an effective advocate and specifics on pro-life bills that your legislators will be deciding on this session. In the afternoon you and others from your legislative district will meet with your legislators to advocate for issues impacting life and dignity.

Free transportation is available statewide. Registration closes Feb. 14. Visit www.CatholicsAtTheCapitol.org to sign up today.

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

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