February 12, 2010

Church: Immigration, scholarship tax credit delay proposals ‘troublesome’

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

Church officials are calling immigration enforcement and the delay of the scholarship tax credit proposals “troublesome” as those bills continue to move forward in the legislative process, and as the Indiana General Assembly reached its halfway point on Feb. 3, commonly called “crossover.”

The unauthorized aliens bill, Senate Bill 213, authored by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, mirrors federal law with regard to enforcement of undocumented immigrants.

“The problem with the bill is it may encourage racial profiling by law enforcement officials to arrest individuals suspected of being undocumented,” said Glenn Tebbe, Indiana Catholic Conference executive director. The bill passed in the Senate by a 46-4 vote.

“This strong vote in the Senate was a bit surprising, and may be indicative of today’s political climate favoring an appearance of a crackdown on the undocumented,” Tebbe said. “However, those in our faith community who work with the Hispanic immigrant community on a daily basis know how legislation emphasizing enforcement hurts all Hispanic families—documented and undocumented—and is troublesome public policy.

“It does nothing to address a solution,” Tebbe added. “That solution must be comprehensive and uniformly delivered which makes it best addressed at the federal level.”

Senate Bill 213 now crosses over to the Indiana House. Tebbe said that House members considered a bill dealing with the undocumented individuals last year, which was much harsher than this bill which Democrats ultimately shelved by not giving it a hearing.

“However, given that this is an election year and considering the current political tide, the bill might move in the House,” Tebbe said.

The other issue of concern to the Church is a proposal which would place a two-year delay in the implementation of a new scholarship tax credit.

House Bill 1367, authored by Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, who also serves as House Education Committee chairman, passed the House by a 51-48 vote along party lines. Democrats supported the bill while Republicans opposed it.

The scholarship tax credit, which passed last June, offers a 50 percent tax credit incentive to corporations or individuals for donations made to qualified Scholarship Granting Organizations, also known as SGOs. These SGOs would then provide grants to qualifying families for school tuition or other school-related costs at the public or private school of the parents’ choice.

Diocesan education officials who are working with SGOs had hoped to award scholarships beginning in the 2010-11 school year.

House Bill 1367 now moves to the Senate.

“While the House vote was disappointing, and more about political posturing than about making sound education policy, the good news is there is not much support in the Senate for the bill,” Tebbe said. “I am hopeful the bill will not move in the Senate.”

Other bills of interest at the halfway point of the legislative session include a proposal to prohibit state funding for Planned Parenthood.

While the proposal, Senate Bill 198, failed to get a hearing, Sen. Greg Walker,

R-Columbus, the bill’s author, said, “The fact that it was introduced did bring the issue to light. Many lawmakers were unaware that Planned Parenthood received any state money.” The Indiana Catholic Conference supported the legislation and expects the bill to resurface as early as next year.

Senate Bill 198, which was introduced in the Indiana Senate on Jan. 5, would prohibit state agencies from entering into any contracts with or making grants to Planned Parenthood.

A bill to strengthen marriage, Senate Joint Resolution 13, passed the Senate by a 38-10 vote.

The bill, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, would begin the process to amend Indiana’s Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Current statute defines it that way, but a legal challenge to that definition could allow for same-sex marriages to be permitted. The Indiana Catholic Conference supports the bill. The resolution moves to the House for further consideration

The Indiana Catholic Conference is tracking more than 80 bills. The bills in each issue category number as follows: 20 in education; 16 in government reform; four in immigration; 12 in Church organization; four pro-life bills; eight social justice bills; and 18 bills in the miscellaneous watch category.

During the next few weeks, bills that passed the first chamber will be considered by the other body.

For example, bills that passed the Senate will “crossover” to the House for consideration. Bills that passed the House will “crossover” and go to the Senate for consideration.

There is no guarantee that if a bill passed one chamber it will pass the other. Committee chairs still decide which bills are heard and can move through the process.

Bills must get a hearing, pass through committee and get a floor vote to move forward. This phase will end during the first week of March when the conference committee—the last phase of the process—begins.

The Indiana Catholic Conference will be a part of all the steps. The session deadline is March 14.

(Bridget Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

Local site Links: