Brigid Curtis Ayer 
Indiana Catholic Conference
February 10, 2010 // Local

Church officials look at ‘troublesome’ legislature at session mid-point

Brigid Curtis Ayer 
Indiana Catholic Conference

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

INDIANAPOLIS — Church officials call immigration enforcement and delay of the scholarship tax credit proposals “troublesome” as they continue to move forward in the process and as the Indiana General Assembly reached its halfway mark, 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 the Senate, 46-4.

“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,” said Tebbe. “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,” said Tebbe. “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 House. Tebbe said that the House considered a bill dealing with the undocumented last year which was much harsher than this one which the Democrats 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,” said Tebbe.

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 House Education Chairman, Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, passed the House, 51-48, along party lines with the Republicans opposing the bill and Democrats supporting it.

The scholarship tax credit, which passed in June, offers a 50 percent tax credit incentive to corporations or individuals for donations made to qualified Scholarship Granting Organizations SGO’s. 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 the SGOs and had hoped to award scholarships beginning in the 2010-2011 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,” said Tebbe. “I am hopeful the bill will not move in the Senate.”

Other bills of interest at the halfway point include a proposal to prohibit state funding for Planned Parenthood. While the proposal, Senate Bill 198, failed to get a hearing, author Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, 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 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, 38-10. The bill, which passed Jan. 28, and is authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, would 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 supported the bill. The resolution moves to the House for further consideration
The Indiana Catholic Conference is tracking over 80 bills. The bills in each issue category number as follows: education 20; government reform 16; immigration 4; Church organization 12; pro-life 4; social justice 8; and miscellaneous watch category 18.

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 house that it will pass the other. Committee chairs still decide which bill is heard and can move through the process.

Bills must get a hearing, pass committee and floor votes to move forward. This phase will end during the first week of March when the last phase of the process begins — conference committee. The Indiana Catholic Conference will be a part of all the steps. The session deadline is March 14.
Legislative Update at Crossover

In the Senate
SJR 13-Marriage Amendment— amends Indiana’s Constitution to reflect state law that a marriage can be between only one man and one woman.
Status: passed the Senate, 39-10.
Next Action: Headed to the House.

SB 213 — Unauthorized Alien — increases penalties for undocumented persons, and requires government and government contractors to use the E-Verify system to verify worker’s citizenship.
Status: passed the Senate 46-4
Next Action: Headed to the House.

In the House
HB 1367 — Education Matters — Delays the implementation of the scholarship tax credit for two years.
Church position: opposes-educational opportunity through school choice should not be delayed.
Status: Passed the House, 51-48.
Next Action: Headed to the Senate.

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