Category Archives: Georgia Legislation

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 97

Did You Know? Atlanta has a welcoming initiative that brings together city government and community leaders to create a more welcoming and inclusive Atlanta to attract and retain diverse talent, while ensuring that all Atlantans are meaningfully included and supported by our city programs, regardless of language or country of birth. If someone you know – or a parish you know – wants information to help support immigrants, this website is a good place to start http://www.welcomingatlanta.com/.

Some Asylum Seekers Are Being Released From Detention. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will begin releasing from detention centers some women with credible cases of asylum. The USCCB and other organizations have been advocating for release from detention all women with children who do not show a risk to society http://www.ibtimes.com/immigration-reform-ice-scales-back-family-detention-those-showing-credible-fear-2007601.

Oral Argument on Lawfulness of Executive Action. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on a case brought by several states (including Georgia) challenging the lawfulness of the Administration’s executive action in deferring administrative action which would support certain immigrants, known as DAPA and extended DACA. Unfortunately, many observers believe that the Court will not support the Administration’s position. Regardless of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, however, the issue will very likely go to the Supreme Court for a final decision next year http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/247862-immigration-argument-at-the-fifth-circuit. In the meantime, eligible applicants are still able to seek administrative relief or renewal under the existing DACA program.

What Can We Do? How can we help? One essential for obtaining legalization will certainly be the ability to speak English. For any organization interested in finding ways to help immigrants now, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) is offering a webinar to help develop volunteer ESL programs. The ability to speak English is vital to a productive life in the United States   https://cliniclegal.org/calendar/training-teachers-tricks-tools-and-strategies-volunteer-based-language-learning-programs.

 

 

 

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 93

Family Detention Centers Are a “Stain” on the Country. Catholic bishops and their representatives continue to advocate against family detention centers. Bishops Jaime Soto and Eusebio Elizondo addressed the spring general assembly of the Catholic bishops of the United States and encouraged them to continue speaking out against the detention centers.   http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/bishops-use-immigrant-detention-centers-stain-us-administration Elizondo said he hopes Pope Francis will spotlight immigration reform during his September visit to the U.S., particularly during his Sept. 24 address to Congress.

Francis Effect on Global Immigration. As interest in the Pope’s September visit heats up over the summer, even the secular press recognizes how Pope Francis has affected the tenor of conversation on issues, particularly immigration http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/11/could-pope-francis-change-hearts-and-minds-on-immigration-on-a-global-scale/ The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) now provides a compendium of quotations from the Holy Father on the subject of immigration. Very useful for preparing classes https://cliniclegal.org/sites/default/files/pope_quotes.pdf?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20ClinicResourcesFeed%20%28CLINIC%20Resources%20Feed%29.

Louisiana May Prohibit Marriage for the Undocumented. The Louisiana legislature has passed a law that would require documentation of lawful presence before issuing a marriage license. This type of legislation has not been introduced in Georgia but bears watching http://www.ibtimes.com/immigration-reform-2015-marriage-fraud-bill-targeting-undocumented-immigrants-1962516.

Happy Father’s Day to All Fathers! And be sure to pray for all fathers who are separated from their families for any reason, including those who cannot be united with their families because of immigration laws.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 92

Congress and the Public. While members of Congress continue skirmishing over immigration with no real progress in sight, public opinion holds steady with over 70% believing that the undocumented should be allowed to remain in the United States in a legal status http://www.people-press.org/2015/06/04/broad-public-support-for-legal-status-for-undocumented-immigrants/.

Unaccompanied Children- A Year Later. A year ago, the front pages were full of articles about children crossing the border from Central America. While the number of unaccompanied children has been reduced, approximately 40,000 of the 68,000 unaccompanied children from last year are still awaiting hearing in immigration court a year later http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2015/06/02/border-surge-year-later-tens-thousands-immigrant-children-remain-in-limbo/ . United States Immigration courts have a backlog of over 445,000 cases.

What has Pope Francis said about immigration? The Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) now provides a compendium of quotations from the Holy Father on the subject of immigration very useful for preparing classes https://cliniclegal.org/sites/default/files/pope_quotes.pdf?utm_source=twitterfeed& utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20ClinicResourcesFeed%20%2 8CLINIC%20Resources%20Feed%29.

 

LEGISLATIVE SUMMARY – END OF SESSION

The following is a brief update on the most significant legislation which the Conference followed during the 2015 session which concluded sine die on April 2. Governor Deal may sign or veto bills over the next forty (40) days but I do not anticipate a veto on legislation we have followed.

Bills that did not pass during this session may still be passed in the 2016 session.

Executive Summary of Key Developments:

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) did not pass and remained tabled in the House Judiciary Committee.

There were no bills directly addressing abortion.

No bills passed increasing student scholarship organization (SSO) caps and no other bills passed to help parents in paying private school or home school expenses.

SB 8 passed to provide safe harbor for minors victimized by commercial sex trafficking and to establish a fund for rehabilitation of those victims of trafficking. A constitutional amendment will be voted on by the electorate in 2016 to stabilize funding for serving victims of trafficking.

Children with autism spectrum disorder will be helped by a mandate of insurance coverage for testing and treatment.

Senate took no action on a bill to allow in-state tuition for undocumented students at State colleges.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA): Status: Senate version passed Senate. Bishops of Georgia issued statement of support http://www.archatl.com/archbishops/declarations/2015-religious-freedom-restoration-act.html.

While a version of RFRA passed the Senate, it was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee. Despite much public and behind the scenes maneuvering, no bill emerged from the House.

Anti-abortion / Pro-life bills: Status – Monitoring and awaiting introduction of bills; obtained pro-life amendments to end of life bills.

There has been one bill introduced to clean up several problems in abortion reporting but it failed to get support in the House Insurance Committee and did not move toward passage this year.

SB 109 PASSED and will create greater specificity in the Physician Order Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) authorization. A POLST is a document with the authority of a doctor’s order which specifies treatment as a patient with a terminal condition. We are following the bill and have obtained amendments to make sure that end of life provisions are as consistent as possible with Catholic teaching. The bill includes a prohibition against use of POLST as authorization for assisted suicide http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/154019.pdf.

HB 429 PASSED both houses for the beneficial purpose of prohibiting insurance companies from restricting coverage for treatment based upon the insured’s diagnosis with a terminal condition.  Due to concerns about the possibility of using funds from Georgia insurance policies for assisted suicide in states where it is permitted, we obtained a specific exclusion against use for assisted suicide. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/153798.pdf

Parental Choice in Education: Support for increased “cap”; support for HB 243 related to education savings accounts; active monitoring of Education Commission.

The key to progress in education funding will be the education reform commission created by Governor Deal which will meet, hold hearings and render a report by August.

Several education items have been delayed until next year in waiting for the report, including any increase in the SSO “cap.”

The House Ways and Means Committee passed HB 243 to create education savings accounts to support a child’s educational expense needs in private schools or home school environments but there was insufficient support to bring the bill to the House floor for vote. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/150664.pdf

Victims of Human Trafficking: Status: PASSED by Senate and House. Support of revised bill.

SB 8 PASSED and provides that minors under age 18 who are victims of trafficking will not be criminally charged but will be able to obtain care. The bill will also establish the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and Commission. SB 8 also includes an extension of the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse from age 23 to age 25. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/154017.pdf

SR 7 PASSED and will place on the 2016 general election ballot a proposed constitutional amendment which will allow funding of the Safe Harbor Fund with a court fee imposed on persons convicted of one of several sex based crimes and a one percent (1%) assessment on the gross receipts from adult entertainment facilities (i.e. “strip clubs”). Supporters of this legislation will need an active public campaign to have the electorate adopt this constitutional amendment since there is a general reluctance to increase any tax and because the adult entertainment industry will likely wage a quiet but well-funded effort to opposition to the tax on that industry. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/153975.pdf

Immigration: Opposition to SB 6 related to vehicle licenses and impoundment; support for SB 44 to allow in-state tuition for without regard to documentation.

Other than a public hearing, the Senate took no action on SB 44 which would have permitted undocumented student to enjoy in-state tuition at State colleges. There were several attempts to amend legislation to further restrict drivers’ licenses based on continuing opposition to President Obama’s administrative actions but, fortunately, all those efforts failed. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/145602.pdf

Insurance Coverage for Autism.  Status: PASSED Senate and House. Active monitoring and support. (HB 429)

The Autism insurance bill, formerly referred to as Senate Bill 1, was combined with HB 429 and PASSED. The bill requires insurance companies to provide coverage for autism spectrum disease with some limitations. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/153798.pdf

Death Penalty: SB 71 PASSED   

The bill is beneficial in opening Parole Board records related to its decisions so that both victims’ families and applicants for parole will have more information about the life and death decisions of the Board. The bill does not necessarily limit implement any restriction on the death penalty and is, at best, a first step in exposing fallacies around the death penalty issue.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 73

Congressional Activity. The 114th Congress convened on January 5 and the House of Representatives has already adopted legislation aimed at reversing the President’s decisions regarding administrative relief from deportation under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program or the Deferred Action Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. Action in the Senate is uncertain but the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to monitor and advocate against such legislation.

Mexican Birth Certificates. The Mexican government has reportedly begun issuing birth certificates to persons born in Mexico through its consulates in the United States. This practice should be a big help for Mexican citizens living in the United States when they need birth certificates for any reason, especially in anticipation of DACA, DAPA or future legalization. In the next few days, we will attempt to verify when birth certificates could be available at the consulate in Atlanta.

Georgia General Assembly. The Georgia General Assembly convened on January 12, met for four days and went into recess until January 26 to allow time for budget hearings.

Finding a Lawyer. When seeking relief under the executive action procedures, it is important to use an experienced immigration lawyer. Finding the right lawyer is not always easy but there are affiliates of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) in Georgia and we can be confident in recommending them. See links at https://cliniclegal.org/clinic_affiliates/GA.

What steps can I take now? CLINIC has provided us with an updated list of helpful items that will, in all likelihood, be needed to process applications under the Deferred Action Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. The list is attached here.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 40

Georgia In-state Tuition. Thirty nine undocumented students continue to press a lawsuit in Fulton County demanding that individuals with immigration status under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program be allowed to pay instate tuition at public universities. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 6. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national-govt-politics/judge-schedules-hearing-for-in-state-tuition-lawsu/nfT4K/

Federal Legislation. Congress has begun its Easter recess but continues to do nothing on immigration reform yet deportations continue at a record rate. Please encourage others to continue advocacy through the Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants website by contacting your representative. http://justiceforimmigrants.org/index.shtml

Scams against the Poor. Sad as it is to say, there are those who continue to prey on the poor, including the vulnerable undocumented. Please help protect the members of your parish who may be approached by some who purport to have a simple (but illegal) solution. As an example, we still hear of advertisements by representatives of the Yamassee Indian Tribe offering “adoption” into the tribe as a way to circumvent immigration law. Please keep available the flyers attached to the March 31 report and share them with undocumented brothers and sisters.

National Migration Conference. Please continue to prayerfully consider attending the National Migration Conference in Washington, DC on July 7-10.  http://nationalmigrationconference.org/ The workshops will include information for many different aspects of immigration ministry, not just attorney related topics. You can also join fellow Georgians as part of an advocacy day on Capitol Hill. If you have never participated in a coordinated advocacy day, this is an excellent way to participate in the company of experienced advocates.

I can provide additional information on request.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 39

Bishops on the Border. As indicated last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Atlanta Auxiliary Bishop Luis Zarama, travelled to Nogales, Arizona, March 30-April 1, 2014, to tour the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrate Mass on behalf of the close to 6,000 migrants who have died in the U.S. desert since 1998. See the USCCB website for more information as “Echoing Pope Francis, Cardinal O’malley And Brother Bishops Decry Indifference To Suffering Of Migrants Under U.S. Immigration System, Call For Action On Immigration Reform” http://usccb.org/news/2014/14-059.cfm You can also view the bishops’ celebration of Mass and sharing of the Eucharist through steel barriers for people on both sides of the border at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67pLeiEfOYI

The national press followed the story carefully. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/bishops-seek-immigration-reform-during-border-trip/2014/04/01/1cd12acc-b959-11e3-80de-2ff8801f27af_story.html

Even Time Magazine recognizes that the Catholic bishops remain committed to humane immigration reform and they are willing to go to the border in support of migrant peoples. http://time.com/46742/cardinals-prove-borders-cannot-block-the-love-of-jesus-christ/

Federal Legislation. Congress continues to do nothing on immigration reform yet deportations continue at a record rate. Please encourage others to continue advocacy through the Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants website by contacting your representative. http://justiceforimmigrants.org/index.shtml

Scams against the Poor. Sad as it is to say, there are those who continue to prey on the poor, including the vulnerable undocumented. Please help protect the members of your parish who may be approached by some who purport to have a simple (but illegal) solution. As an example, we still hear of advertisements by representatives of the Yamassee Indian Tribe offering “adoption” into the tribe as a way to circumvent immigration law. Please keep available the flyers attached to last week’s report and share them with undocumented brothers and sisters.

Action in South Carolina. As happened in Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia, South Carolina’s efforts to enact harsh anti-immigrant law were challenged in court and the State was forced to limit how the state can enforce the law’s controversial “show me your papers” provisions which permit local police to request immigration status documents from individuals stopped or detained for other lawful reasons.

Florida Tuition Equity. While litigation continues in Georgia over the issue of eligibility for instate tuition, in Florida, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would permit undocumented residents to pay in-state tuition at state universities. All eyes now turn to the state Senate which will consider the proposal next. Reports indicate that Governor Scott would sign the tuition equity bill, if passed by the legislature. If Florida does enact this legislation, it would become the 20th state with a law or policy extending in-state tuition to undocumented residents.

National Migration Conference. Please continue to prayerfully consider attending the National Migration Conference in Washington, DC on July 7-10.  http://nationalmigrationconference.org/ The workshops will include information for many different aspects of immigration ministry, not just attorney related topics. You can also join fellow Georgians as part of an advocacy day on Capitol Hill. If you have never participated in a coordinated advocacy day, this is an excellent way to participate in the company of experienced advocates.

I can provide additional information on request.

 

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Update 37

Federal Legislation. Congress continues to do nothing on immigration reform yet deportations continue at a record rate. http://www.ibtimes.com/immigration-reform-obama-proposes-bed-mandate-reduction-keeps-program-deputizes-local-state-law Please encourage others to continue advocacy through the Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants website by contacting your representative. http://justiceforimmigrants.org/index.shtml

USCCB Actions. As reported in L’Osservatore Romano http://www.news.va/en/news/us-and-mexican-bishops-meet-at-the-border, the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration will travel to Nogales, Arizona, on March 30 to join Latin American Bishops on a walk along the U.S.-Mexico border in memory of the thousands who have died attempting to cross the desert, since 1998 the number is close to 6,000. We are expecting additional materials from USCCB so that we can join the Committee in spirit and prayer and information will be provided when it is available. The bishops supporting immigrants are following the active lead of Pope Francis who has shared his heart for migrant peoples.

Catholic Television. Catholic TV is offering an 8 minute video on the dignity of immigrants, telling a story about immigration. It compares the plight of today’s immigrants contrasted with the plight of the immigrants of the past. – See more at: http://www.catholictv.com/immigration#sthash.KDbpcqja.dpuf

Georgia Legislation. The Georgia General Assembly has adjourned sine die on March 20 and, for the first time in several years, it has not passed adverse legislation specifically directed at immigrants. National Migration Conference. Please continue to prayerfully consider attending the National Migration Conference in Washington, DC on July 7-10. http://nationalmigrationconference.org/

The workshops will include information for many different aspects of immigration ministry, not just attorney related topics. You can also join fellow Georgians as part of an advocacy day on Capitol Hill. If you have never participated in a coordinated advocacy day, this is an excellent way to participate in the company of experienced advocates.

I can provide additional information on request.

2014 Georgia Legislative Session Update 4

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned sine die as scheduled on Thursday, March 20.

The General Assembly took action on the following bills in its last days. Governor Deal has forty days after the end of the session to sign or veto bills that have passed.

Abortion Funding in Insurance Exchanges.  Both the Senate and House of Representatives adopted SB 98 to prohibit funding of abortions under health insurance policies issued through  the health insurance exchanges established in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act. The bill also enacts into statutory law the action of the Department of Community Health in eliminating abortion funding from the State employees’ health plan. The Conference strongly SUPPORTED SB 98.

Gun Control. Although the Senate Judiciary Committee initially made favorable changes to HB 875 related to the availability of guns and other weapons, the Senate ultimately accepted the House version of the bill with only limited changes.

The final bill continues to prohibit weapons in houses of worship “unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship  permits the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders.” The bill, however, diminishes the penalty for carrying weapons to a $100.00 fine with no arrest permitted for a license holder. A person carrying a weapon without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Beyond houses of worship, the bill is wide ranging and, among numerous provisions, will allow carrying weapons in bars; in any government building not restricted or screened by a security officer; and, in school safety zones if authorized by a duly authorized officer. The bill also provides a judicial licensing  process for those adjudicated mentally incompetent or not guilty of certain crimes by reason of insanity; prohibits local governments from regulating gun dealers or guns shows; protects those who claim to have inadvertently entered restricted parts of commercial airports; prohibits law enforcement from requiring production of a carry license when someone is carrying a weapon; and, provides that defense of self and others is an absolute defense of any violation of weapon regulation.

The Georgia Catholic Conference, along with other religious and civic leaders, OPPOSED HB 875.

Insurance Coverage for Autism. The General Assembly failed to pass any legislation that would have required state-regulated health plans to cover the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism through age six. In the next plan year, however, the State employee benefit plan will provide some coverage for autism to State employees. The Conference SUPPORTED the coverage for autism.

Drug Testing for Food Stamp Recipients. The General Assembly passed HB 772 which will require body fluid drug testing for food stamp recipients any time that a “reasonable suspicion exists that such applicant or recipient is using an illegal drug.” The Conference OPPOSED HB 772. Similar legislation passed several years ago has been enjoined and, despite some modifications, many lawyers believe that this bill is unconstitutional.  Our opposition is based on the dignity of the human person and the need for protection of children, many of whom could lose food stamp subsidies if the law goes into effect.

Child Testimony. The General Assembly adopted HB 804 which will allow children under 17 years of age, who are victims of violent crimes, to testify against their perpetrators by video rather than in person. The Conference SUPPORTED  HB 804.

Immigration. For the first time in several years, the General Assembly has not passed adverse legislation specifically directed at immigrants.

 

2014 Georgia Legislative Session Update 3

The Georgia General Assembly has six legislative days remaining before adjourning sine die on March 20, 2014.

This report is divided into two parts – Part 1 lists the four bills in which the Conference continues to advocate for or against and Part 2 lists those bills which failed to crossover from one house or the other in time for further consideration this session. Other than disappointment that the cap for student scholarships will not be increased, the Conference is gratified with the demise of those bills. (It should be noted, however, that there are procedural mechanisms by which bills that did not cross over may be revived as parts of other bills so vigilance does not end. Nonetheless, unless indicated otherwise, the bills we are following that have not crossed over are not likely candidates for revival.)

Opportunities for Personal Participation:

Catholic Day at the Capitol. Over twenty five Catholics joined the Conference and members of the Archdiocesan Communications and Advocacy staff for our 2014 Catholic Day at the Capitol on March 6. The participants were thoughtful and engaged and contributed to the process of government by discussing issues in light of the Gospel and interacting with their elected senators and representatives. We appreciate their attendance and their spirit of generosity.

Tuesdays at the Capitol. Frank Mulcahy, executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference invites anyone interested in discussing pending Georgia legislation to join him at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception every Tuesday during the legislative session for an informal dialogue.

Participation by Priests. In order to accommodate the schedules of priests, I continue to extend an offer to any priest who would like to come to the Capitol as his schedule permits to receive a briefing on pending issues, meet with legislators and enjoy lunch at the legislative office building. Please contact me at fmulcahy@georgiacc.org or (770) 490-4244 to make arrangements.

Part 1—Bills that remain active.

Abortion Funding in Insurance Exchanges.  The Senate adopted SB 98 to prohibit funding abortions under health insurance policies issued under the health insurance exchanges established in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act. The bill will be heard in the House Insurance Committee on March 10 and the Conference strongly SUPPORTS SB 98.

Gun Control. The Georgia Catholic Conference, along with other religious and civic leaders, continues to OPPOSE HB 875 as passed by the House of Representatives and which will be considered soon by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill expands the places and circumstances where guns may not be restricted.

Insurance Coverage for Autism. SB397 would require state-regulated health plans to cover the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism through age six. Coverage of applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment would be covered up to $35,000 a year. The Conference SUPPORTS the bill.

Child Testimony. The House of Representatives has adopted and sent to the Senate HB 804 which proposes to allow children under 18 years of age who are victims of violent crimes to testify against their perpetrators by video rather than in person. The Conference SUPPORTS HB 804.

Part 2 – Bills that did not crossover.

Immigration. The Senate did not bring up for debate Senate Bill 404 which would have prevented young people who have obtained authorization under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program from getting a driver license in Georgia. The author of the bill did try to amend another bill with the language of SB 404 but the amendment only garnered 8 votes from the 56 senators, hence, it is evident that the idea of the bill has little support. DACA recipients are lawfully present in the United States and are entitled to obtain a driver license in Georgia. We OPPOSED the legislation.

The Conference also OPPOSED SR 1031 which would amend the Georgia constitution to establish English as the official language of the State of Georgia and prohibit use of other languages in many governmental services, including driver license testing. SR 1031 also did not come up for debate and is likely finished for the session.

The Georgia business community has joined those of us who support our immigrant brothers and sisters in opposing these two measures. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/georgia-business-groups-move-to-block-proposals-in/nd3fc/

Statute of Limitations Expansion. HB 771 did not come up for final debate in the House of Representatives and is likely finished for the session. HB 771 originally proposed to proposes to make the statute of limitations for various forms of child abuse unlimited in the future. The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee recommended passage of a bill that would  place the statute of limitations at ten (10) years after age 18 for an individual defendant but five (5) years after age 18 for a vicarious defendant.

Religious Liberty. House Bill 895, like its Senate counterpart Senate Resolution 808, proposes void the effectiveness of foreign laws, including religious laws. Neither measure obtained sufficient support from their respective committees and neither will get further consideration. Along with the Anti-Defamation League and members of the State Bar of Georgia, I spoke against the resolution in the Senate Judiciary Committee and in several the House subcommittee meetings in that they specifically target the application of religious laws as well as other international laws and agreements. The Conference OPPOSES SR 808 and HB 985. At this point in the session, it is doubtful that either measure will progress in light the opposition.

As the characterization of Senate Bill 377 and HB 1023changed through public discourse, we concur that the bills require more detailed study than can be accomplished during this legislative session.

HB 861 would provide an extensive protocol allowing students to express religious views in public school forums, class assignments, graduation ceremonies and other public gatherings. The bill is being heard in the House Judiciary Committee but may not progress this session.

Parental Choice in Education. There is not likely to be any action on legislation to increase the cap on tax credits or to expand programs to support student scholarship programs, such as G.R.A.C.E Scholars. The Conference SUPPORTS the increase of funding that would assist our Catholic schools and other qualified independent schools to give parents options for their children.

Guns in School Zones. HB 826 would have changed the definition of “school safety zone” to eliminate private schools from the safety zones where weapons are prohibited.  The author accepted our suggestion that this part of the bill be changed to keep the current definition which is favorable to our Catholic schools.

New Americans Act. There is now little likelihood for any action on SB 312 which would require the Department of Human Resources to identify and assist legal immigrants in obtaining citizenship through the naturalization process. The Conference SUPPORTS SB 312.