January 20, 2012

Catholic lawmakers highlight priorities for legislative session

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

While the “right-to-work” issue continues to overshadow business at the Indiana Statehouse, Catholic lawmakers are working on a range of issues beyond right to work during the 2012 legislative session. (Related: Indiana Catholic Conference priority bills during the 2012 legislative session)

Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, said one of her priorities this year is to make rural communities safer by putting methamphetamine labs out of business. Kubacki hopes to do this by making the raw ingredients to produce methamphetamine impossible to get without a prescription, which is the main tenant of House Bill 1022.

“While the legislature had the best of intentions to address this issue last session by reducing the amount of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine available for purchase, and to catalog consumers via a real-time electronic tracking system,” said Kubacki, who is author of the bill, “it is not enough to effectively prevent the spread of clandestine meth labs and meth usage in our state. We need to attack this issue at the source. We must do more to restore and strengthen our communities from the damaging effects of this drug.

“A prescription for this drug would significantly reduce wrongdoing as has been the case for the state of Oregon—the first state to adopt such a measure,” she said.

Kubacki is also working to help lower-income families make ends meet. Authored by Kubacki, House Resolution 4 urges Congress to pass legislation to include personal hygiene items under the coverage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) umbrella.

“Low-income Hoosiers on this program do not have the means to purchase necessary personal hygiene items to take care of their family, whether it is purchasing basic necessities such as diapers or soap,” Kubacki said. “Mothers should have a choice. If they are getting $250 in food stamps, mothers should be able to buy those basic hygiene items that their family needs. Our church collects these items and once per week allows needy families to come get personal hygiene items. We run out so fast because these items are in such demand. If they can buy potato chips, why can’t they buy diapers? They need personal hygiene items in order to apply for and obtain full-time or part-time employment and to assist in the maintenance of their general health. Without employment, these individuals will be unable to return to mainstream society.”

SNAP is a federally funded nutrition program previously known as the federal food stamp program. The program does not currently cover personal hygiene items.

Rep. Sue Ellspermann, R-Ferdinand, said she will continue to work to revitalize Indiana’s rural areas by authoring a bill giving incentives for new businesses and entrepreneurs. House Bill 1241 allows county-wide districts to provide and retain new jobs with special financing tools.

Ellspermann says the bill is a way to allow county-wide districts “to pay it forward” by supporting and providing financial assistance to new small businesses or entrepreneurial endeavors in these rural areas.

“This bill really encourages and provides financially for those counties to support small business development and entrepreneurship as a way to revitalize those hometowns that have lost young people and local businesses,” she said.

Ellspermann also is authoring a bill to curb the dispensing of abortion-inducing drugs. House Bill 1214 requires that only a physician who meets certain conditions may administer to a pregnant woman an abortion-inducing drug, and sets forth the procedure that the physician must follow.

“If it’s going to be done, we need to ensure it is done in the safest manner,” Ellspermann said. “There are court cases that are being heard involving the abortion-inducing drug itself to stop it. At this point, we can’t stop it,” said Ellspermann, who describes herself as “very pro-life.”

“Until this can be stopped, it is the least we can do to make it as safe as possible, and require the proper after care,” she said.

The legislation also requires a physician who learns of an adverse event following the use of an abortion-inducing drug to report it to the federal Food and Drug Administration and the state medical licensing board. It also specifies that the reports of adverse events maintained by the medical licensing board are public records.

Surgical abortion is currently regulated to ensure the safety of the women, and to ensure that they know the consequences and risks of this decision. However, there are no regulations governing abortion providers who dispense these drugs. In some instances, abortion-inducing drugs can be dispensed without even a medical examination.

The Indiana Catholic Conference, the Church’s official advocate for public policy in Indiana, is following approximately 100 bills. Most will not receive a hearing. Read the accompanying sidebar to learn about some of the bills which the ICC supports and hopes will move during this short session.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion. For more information about the Indiana Catholic Conference, log on to www.indianacc.org.)

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