January 18, 2012 // Local

Catholic lawmakers highlight priorities beyond ‘right-to-work’

INDIANAPOLIS — While the “right-to-work” issue continues to overshadow business at the Statehouse, Catholic lawmakers are working on a range of issues beyond “right-to-work” for 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 her bill HB 1022.

“While the legislature had the best of intentions to address this issue last session by reducing the amount of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine (PSE) available for purchase and to catalog consumers via a real-time electronic tracking system,” said Kubacki, “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,” Kubacki said. “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,” said Kubacki.

She is also working to help lower income families make ends meet. House Resolution, HR 4, authored by Kubacki, 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,” said Kubacki. “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.”

She said, “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 potatoes 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,” Kubacki said. “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. Ellspermann’s bill, HB 1241, allows countywide 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 assistant to new small businesses or entrepreneurial endeavors in these rural areas.

“What this bill does is it 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,” Ellspermann said.

Ellspermann also is authoring a bill to curb the dispensing of abortion inducing drugs. Ellsperman’s bill, HB 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 the physician must follow.

“If it’s going to be done, we need to ensure it is done in the safest manner. 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.”

Ellspermann said, “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.”

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

Currently, surgical abortion is regulated to ensure the safety of the women and to ensure that women know the consequences and risks of their decision. However, there are no regulations governing abortion providers who dispense these drugs. In some instances, abortion inducing drugs can be dispensed without even an examination.

The Indiana Catholic Conference, (ICC), the Church’s official watchdog for public policy in Indiana, is following approximately 100 bills. Most will not receive a hearing. Below are some of the more salient bills, which the ICC supports and hope will move during this short session.

Indiana Catholic Conference Priority Bills

Human Trafficking. SB 4, ICC supports the bill.

It increases the penalties and expands the definition of human trafficking beyond the current definition to include participating in sexual conduct (in addition to prostitution). It also adds a special category for children under 16. The effort is to create the law prior to the Super Bowl since this type of activity has been known to exist with other Super Bowl venues.

Abortion-inducing drugs. HB 1214 and SB 282, ICC supports.

The bills attempt to regulate drugs such as RU 486. At this time, surgical abortion is regulated to ensure the safety of the women and to ensure that women know the consequences and risks of their decision. However, there are no regulations governing abortion providers who dispense these drugs. Moreover, in some instances this can be done without even an examination.

Health care profession, conscience clause. HB 1014. ICC supports.

It provides that a health care professional may not be required to dispense a drug or medical device if the health care professional believes the drug or medical device would be used to: (1) cause an abortion; (2) destroy an unborn child; or (3) cause the death of a person by means of assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.

Child and dependent tax credit. HB 1143. ICC supports.

The bill, authored by Catholic lawmaker Representative John Day, D-Indianapolis, would provide a state tax credit for families with child and dependent care expense. It would allow 50 percent of the federal tax credit. The program would provide real support to working families struggling to meet its other obligations. The bill limits eligibility to families with adjusted gross income below $45,000.

Food stamp assistance after drug conviction. SB 102. ICC supports.

The bill, authored by Catholic lawmaker Senator John Broden, D-South Bend, would remove the prohibition of persons convicted of drug offense from receiving food stamps. The bill would grant eligibility to those who have not been convicted of another drug offense in the previous five years before applying for food stamps to receive food stamps.

School voucher program eligibility expansion. SB 198 ICC supports.

It would provide eligibility to all who are income eligible; it would make current Catholic school families eligible. And SB 331 would provide eligibility for older siblings in families who receive a voucher. Currently, an older student already in the non-public school is not eligible for assistance even though the younger child is.

Scholarship tax credit eligibility expansion. SB 296. ICC supports.

It would expand eligibility for the program to all students in grade 8 currently enrolled in a non-public school. Present law prohibits current non-public students, not previously receiving a STC scholarship, from being eligible.

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