Late Friday afternoon, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Pro-Life Secretariat issued a press release regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the contraceptive and sterilization mandate. As you may recall, the HHS mandate was to go into effect on August 1, 2013. According to Friday’s press release, the date has now been moved to January 1, 2014 for some non-profit entities.
According to Cardinal Dolan, President of the USCCB, they have not completed their analysis of the ruling, but do appreciate the additional time that has been granted. Please see the enclosed press release for complete details.
Please note that any comments you may receive from news outlets or outside organizations may not reflect the position of the U.S. bishops or the Archdiocese of Atlanta. We will send further updates as they become available.
Also, many thanks for the great work for the Fortnight for Freedom, which concludes on July 4. In light of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage, and other religious liberty concerns, we are asked to continue to encourage the religious movement for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty. For more details, please go to: http://www.archatl.com/clife/fortnight/
The week of February 4 has seen continued slow progress bills that are of interest to the Georgia Catholic Conference.
HHS Mandate. Following the release of the notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the HHS mandate, USCCB staff continues a thorough examination of the new rules but has expressed concern that the rules continue to fall short. A fuller statement of the concerns is found on the USCCB website at http://usccb.org/news/2013/13-037.cfm.
Education. The Conference’s principal concern in education bills is the increase in the annual aggregate amount of contributions from the current $50 million and the restriction of corporate contributions in a way that allows maximum participation by individuals. HB 140 (Rep. Ehrhart R – Powder Springs), includes those changes along with others. Although GRACE Scholars operates within both the letter and spirit of the law, publicized concerns about the operations of some student scholarship organizations is impeding our efforts to expand this very beneficial program.
There are several bills that are contrary to our interests in parental choice in education. HB 231(Neal) would create a new scholarship program for public school programs but reduce the cap for private school programs such as GRACE Scholars by fifty percent. HB 239 (Brockaway) would allow corporations to take credits against alcohol and beverage tax and insurance premium tax and thereby further reduce the contributions available to individuals. HB 239 includes beneficial provisions that would require DOR to notify potential donors in the event that additional tax credits become available after annual cap has been reached and would carry forward unused tax credits to following year.
Legislative Ethics. HB 142 and 143 (both by Rep. Ralston – R- Blue Ridge) are aimed at public concerns related to influences on legislators. The bills have been favorably reported by a subcommittee with changes that more reasonably define “lobbyists” in an attempt to balance registration requirements with the constitutional rights of individuals to petition their government.
The week of January 28 has seen the introduction of a number of bills that are of interest to the Georgia Catholic Conference as well as a successful Catholic Day at the Capitol. Continue reading