Missouri Catholic Conference

Autumn Update

Nov. 10, 2011

Fall road

Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections Seeking Ways to Reduce Cost

In August, Gov. Nixon announced the formation of a bipartisan, interbranch initiative to seek reforms to reduce prison costs while still protecting public safety. Co-chaired by Sen. Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon) and Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) the group has met several times to discuss various proposals. The group is divided into subcommittees that look at different aspects of addressing crime and prison costs. These subcommittees have also sought input from various stakeholders in corrections, such as county officials.

 

One idea of interest to the group is to find ways to limit the number of offenders in prison convicted of C & D felonies. These crimes include nonviolent property and low-level drug offenses. C & D felonies represent between 5,000 to 7,000 offenders in Missouri prisons. Missouri currently has more than 30,000 incarcerated inmates, 97 percent of whom will one day return home to the community.

 

The Pew Center on the States has provided technical assistance to the working group, helping them identify corrections trends and best practices from other states. The working group is hoping to form a consensus around specific recommendations that could then be developed into legislation for the upcoming session.

 

To listen to a meeting of the working group, click here

Proposed Sales Tax Faces Legal Challenge  

Opponents of the 2006 embryonic stem cell initiative - Constitutional Amendment 2 - know how a poorly written ballot title can mislead voters. Missourians for Fair Taxation think a new proposal to replace the state income tax with an expanded state sales tax is misleading, too.

 

The coalition filed suit in Cole County Circuit Court claiming that the ballot title written by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan is vague and misleading. The coalition is also challenging the fiscal note prepared by the state auditor. The auditor's office projected a fiscal impact on the state ranging from $300 million on the plus side to $1.5 billion in the hole.

 

According to Chuck Hatfield, the attorney for the statewide coalition, the fiscal note fails to provide any useful information to voters. "The $1.8 million range of possible impact on revenues is so vague that if it was a Missouri road map, you wouldn't know whether you were heading to Sikeston or St. Joseph or Springfield."

 

USCCB Files Freedom of Information Act Request After Anti-Trafficking Bid Rejected 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to find out why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declined to renew a grant to help victims of human trafficking.  

 

According to Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the USCCB's director of media relations, six organizations applied for anti-trafficking grants from the Office for Refugee Resettlement (ORR). After an evaluation by an independent review board, four scored too low to make the cutoff, leaving two that scored well. Heartland Human Care scored highest and the USCCB's Office of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) was close behind, even after losing points for not giving referrals for contraceptives and abortions. ORR awarded $4.5 million, which was distributed among three groups: Heartland Human Care (which earned the grant) and two other groups, which hadn't made the cutoff according to scores by the independent review board.

 

HHS denies any wrongdoing, but the USCCB wants to see how the decisions were made. There is still no answer from HHS. 

  

Read the entire release from Sister Mary Ann Walsh here

Bishop Blaire Notes Importance of Environmental Stewardship in Address to Interfaith Leaders
In a Nov. 7 speech at the Festival of Faith conference, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said that "when [people] care for all living beings by protecting the air, which is God's gift to us," they praise, honor and serve God.

Bishop Blaire urged people to use resources wisely, reduce consumption and work to eliminate air pollution so that future generations will have clean air to breathe. He also noted the harmful effects of mercury and other air pollutants to children's health.
Mississippi Voters Reject "Personhood Amendment"

Mississippi voters this week defeated a Constitutional Amendment that would legally define a person as a human being from the moment of conception. Mississippi joins Colorado as the second state to reject such a ballot proposal.  

 

Click here to read more. 

European Court Ruling Considered Victory for Ethical Stem Cell Research

The European Union's highest court issued a ruling that products derived from human embryonic stem cells are not patentable. The ruling is considered a complete victory for opponents of human embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) and cloning research. The court ruled that a human ovum is an embryo at the time of fertilization, not at the time of implantation as argued by some. The Court further ruled that scientific research involving the use of human embryonic stem cells qualifies as research for "industrial or commercial purposes" and thus cells or biological material derived from such "research" is not patentable. The court also ruled that medical products derived from human ESCR are not patentable under EU law.

 

U.S. Bishops Urge Senate Judiciary Committee
to Uphold Defense of Marriage Act

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to defeat the "Respect for Marriage Act," a Senate bill that would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed in 1996 and signed into law by then President Clinton. DOMA defines marriage for purposes of federal law as the union of one man and one woman. The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the matter on today.

 

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, urged members of the committee to defeat the bill, stating that the Defense of Marriage Act is grounded in reason and experience and that redefining marriage would interfere with basic human rights and particularly with religious liberty.

 

Bishop Cordileone stated that "the connection between sexual differences and procreation is obvious" and that the public status of marriage owes its origin to the ability of men and women to naturally bring children into the world.   He cited research that affirms that children thrive in situations where they are raised by a mom and a dad married to each other. He further raised concerns about threats to religious liberty were DOMA to be repealed, noting that in jurisdictions where marriage has been redefined, people and institutions opposing the redefinition have been subject to ridicule and derision.  

 

Legislative Primer 

In preparation for the 2012 session of the Missouri General Assembly, the Missouri Catholic Conference will provide brief information on the legislative Gavelprocess. We offer these primers so network members can be more effective in their advocacy. This week's primer is a glossary of legislative terms. To download the PDF, click here
In This Issue
Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections Seeking Ways to Reduce Cost
Proposed Sales Tax Faces Legal Challenge
USCCB Files Freedom of Information Act Request After Anti-Trafficking Bid Rejected
Bishop Blaire Notes Importance of Environmental Stewardship in Address to Interfaith Leaders
Mississippi Voters Reject "Personhood Amendment"
European Court Ruling Considered Victory for Ethical Stem Cell Research
U.S. Bishops Urge Senate Judiciary Committee to Uphold Defense of Marriage Act
Legislative Primer

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