January 14, 2005

Indiana Catholic Conference gets ready for 2005 legislative session

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

As the wheels of the Indiana General Assembly begin to turn, Indiana Catholic Conference Executive Director Glenn Tebbe is taking the Church’s pro-life message to the Statehouse.

The General Assembly began meeting for regular legislative action on Jan. 4. The four-month legislative session will be primarily aimed at passing a two-year state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but will provide opportunities for a variety of other state legislation to be considered.

“The new leadership in the governor’s office and in the Indiana House of Representatives may give the Indiana Catholic Conference some unique opportunities to have pro-life and education legislation passed which in previous years was blocked,” said Tebbe. “I am hopeful in these areas; however, the downside may be in the areas of social justice and issues affecting low-income families due to the state’s budget deficit.”

The Indiana Catholic Conference board of directors, which is made up of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein and the other four bishops of Indiana as well as one lay member from each diocese, provides direction to ICC staff on which issues should be given priority in the legislative session. The following are bills the ICC will be closely following:

Life issues (abortion and cloning)

• Abortion facilities licensure—Senate Bill 235, authored by Sen. Jeff Drozda
(R-Westfield), would require the State Department of Health to establish procedures for the inspection and licensure of a medical facility that performs more than four first trimester abortions in a calendar month; or at least one second trimester abortion. It also attaches fines for operating or advertising the operation of an
unlicensed medical facility that provides abortions.

• Abortion requirements—Senate Bill 76, authored by Sen. R. Michael Young
(R-Indianapolis) and Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis), would require abortion clinics to offer a video and audio ultrasound as part of informed consent law.

• Ban on human cloning—Senate Bill 268, authored by Sen. Patricia Miller
(R-Indianapolis), would ban human cloning. The measure declares human cloning to be against public policy and would prohibit the state, a state educational institution, or a political subdivision of the state from using resources to knowingly participate in human cloning activities.

• Conscience clause for pharmacists—Senate Bill 48, authored by Sen. Marvin Riegsecker (R-Goshen) and Sen. Jeff Drozda (R-Westfield), would give pharmacists the freedom to deny filling abortion-related prescriptions.

Family and children/marriage

• Earned Income Tax Credit bill—House Bill 1083, a bipartisan effort authored by two Catholics, Rep. Michael B. Murphy (R-Indianapolis) and Rep. John Day
(D-Indianapolis), is a measure to provide a working family tax credit thus allowing a wage earner who heads a household to retain more of their earnings by lowering their tax liabilities. These credits allow families of modest means to keep more of what they earn and help lift low-income families out of poverty. The bill passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee by a 22-0, bipartisan vote. Tebbe testified before the committee in support of the bill.

• School choice program—According to Tebbe, there has been interest expressed in the House to develop bills for school choice options. Everything from tax credits to vouchers has been discussed as possible options. The goal is to give all families in the state a real educational choice. No bill has been filed to date.

• Same-sex marriage amendment—There are resolutions in both the House and the Senate calling for a constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment would affirm state law that a marriage union be between a man and woman only, thus disallowing current law to be construed to allow other types of marital union—namely same-sex unions.

Death penalty

• Restrictions on imposing a death sentence—Senate Bill 316, authored by Sen. Anita Bowser (D-Michigan City), would restrict a judge from issuing a death sentence when a jury is unable to render a unanimous decision for one. Currently, in order for a death sentence to be given, a jury must render a unanimous recommendation. However, if the jury is not able to render such a recommendation, the judge may impose a death sentence. SB 316 would restrict a judge from doing so. Other possible bills which may be considered include a bill to prohibit capital punishment for the mentally ill and a bill to prohibit death sentences for accomplices in murder cases.

Parish life

• Food handling exemption—There are several bills being considered this session which would exempt certain nonprofit organizations from having to use certified food handlers for activities when food is sold. One of these bills, House Bill 1056, authored by Cleo Duncan (R-Greensburg), was scheduled for a committee hearing on Jan 11.

To learn more about the Church’s position on a particular issue or public policy matter, check out the Indiana Catholic Conference’s Web site for policy statements and position papers at www.indianacc.org. The ICC Web page has links to the United States Catholic Conference, other state Catholic conferences and the Indiana General Assembly, among other important links.

To become part of the Indiana Catholic Conference’s action network, (The I-CAN Network) email the ICC at icc@indianacc.org for more information.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion and will be covering the 2005 General Assembly.)

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