Weekly Update from the Missouri Catholic Conference                                       July 2, 2021  
Inside this issue
  Governor Parson Signs Budget Bills  

Governor Mike Parson on Wednesday signed the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) state operating budget bills. The Missouri FY22 state budget is approximately $35.6 billion, including $10.5 billion in state general revenue.

The signings came after the General Assembly truly agreed and finally passed legislation renewing a Medicaid healthcare provider tax (known as the FRA tax) that helps to fund Missouri's Medicaid system.  The tax has traditionally been renewed annually without difficulty, but was held up this year due to disagreements on two pro-life amendments that two senators sought to add to the bill. 

Sen. Paul Wieland (R - Imperial) offered an amendment that would prohibit Medicaid dollars paying for contraceptive drugs or devices. Sen. Bob Onder (R - Lake St. Louis) attempted to add a provision that would prohibit abortion providers or affiliates from receiving reimbursements for non-abortion services in the Medicaid program. Disagreements on both provisions ultimately resulted in the FRA reauthorization failing to pass by the end of the regular session.

As a result, Governor Parson called legislators back for a special session to pass the provider tax. Parson asked the General Assembly to pass the FRA by July 1st, before he signed the appropriation bills, as failure to do so would have left a nearly $1.6 billion hole in the budget. 

The Senate passed the FRA tax bill, SB 1, after midnight last Saturday, following nearly 14 hours of debate and negotiations. SB 1 extends the FRA tax for three years and adds language prohibiting Medicaid dollars paying for "any abortifacient drug or device that is used for the purpose of inducing an abortion."  This language adds to current Missouri law which prohibits the use of state dollars for abortion, unless to save the life of the mother.  

Before the Senate passed SB 1, a bipartisan group of senators voted against an amendment to the bill which would have prohibited Planned Parenthood receiving  Medicaid dollars for non-abortion services. Those voting against the amendment were fearful that such a provision would put the state's Medicaid program out of compliance and potentially put at risk federal money for the disabled, children, and the elderly. Federal law requires a state Medicaid plan to allow eligible individuals to access medical services from any qualified Medicaid provider. 

Following passage of SB 1 by the Missouri House, Senate leadership expressed their intention to pursue removing Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid program in the future. In a joint statement, Senate Pro Tem Dave Schatz (R - Sullivan) and Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden (R - Columbia) indicated that Governor Parson would take "necessary executive action" to defund Planned Parenthood. In addition, Senators Schatz and Rowden announced the formation of an Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection that will examine whether to remove Planned Parenthood from Missouri's Medicaid program. The committee will be tasked with three main goals:

  1. The continued protection of unborn life in Missouri.
  2. Conducting in-depth studies and making appropriate recommendations concerning the MoHealthNet program.
  3. Ensuring Missouri tax dollars are spent in accordance with the values of Missourians.


  U.S. Bishops' Chairmen Call on U.S. House of Representatives to Retain Pro-life Protections in Federal Budget  

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has begun to mark up federal budget bills, including those that fund Medicaid and other government insurance programs.  Unfortunately, these bills currently exclude longstanding bipartisan policies that prevent taxpayer dollars from being spent on elective abortions.  These pro-life policies, including the Hyde Amendment, have prevented taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Bishop David J. Malloy, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued a statement calling on the Appropriations Committee to restore these provisions to prevent taxpayer funding of abortions.  The bishops called on committee members and all members of Congress to "protect taxpayers from having to pay for the evil of abortion, and to instead use our tax dollars for the common good and welfare of all."

The USCCB is asking those who have not done so to sign a petition expressing support for the Hyde Amendment at http://www.notaxpayerabortion.com/ and to forward it to their friends and family. The bishops hope to have millions of Catholics sign the petition by July 16.



  Missouri AG Seeks U.S. Supreme Court Review of the "Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act"  

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review an 8th Circuit Court decision striking down much of the landmark Missouri pro-life law passed in 2019. The 2019 law, known as HB 126 (Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act), would have prohibited abortion at eight weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. HB 126 also prohibited abortions performed solely upon a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. The 8th Circuit Appeals court, which hears appeals of federal cases from Missouri, recently ruled that much of HB 126 violates current Supreme Court precedent by imposing a ban on abortions before fetal viability (generally believed to be around 20-22 weeks when a fetus can survive outside the womb). 

AG Schmitt is asking the court to consider whether the viability standard should be overruled. The U.S. Supreme Court typically receives more requests for review of cases than it grants. It has already granted review of a Mississippi law that bans abortions at 15 weeks, when a fetus can feel pain. A decision on that case is expected next summer. If the court upholds the Mississippi law, the decision would revive some provisions of HB 126 that the 8th Circuit invalidated.



  Missouri Sets First Execution of 2021  

The Missouri Supreme Court has set an execution date of October 5, 2021, for Ernest Lee Johnson. Johnson was convicted of killing three people at a Casey's convenience store in Columbia in 1994.  Johnson is the first execution scheduled since Walter Barton in May 2020. The MCC will be advocating against Mr. Johnson's execution in keeping with Catholic Church teaching.



  Governor Parson Signs Omnibus Tax Bill Into Law  

This week, Governor Parson signed into law SBs 153 & 97, an omnibus tax bill sponsored One of the provisions in the bill is the "Wayfair Tax" which allows Missouri and local jurisdictions to collect sales taxes on online purchases that will help protect Missouri's brick and mortar businesses.

The bill also includes a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Modeled after the federal EITC, it allows low and middle income Missouri families beginning in 2023 to claim a 10% state tax credit to offset their Missouri income tax liability. The tax credit may not exceed the amount of the taxpayer's liability, and will not be refundable. The MCC has long supported a state EITC as a way to provide for and encourage hardworking families to achieve a better future and a pathway to the middle class.



  Celebrating Independence Day in Missouri's Capital City  

This Sunday, our nation celebrates its Independence Day. Many of us will delight in classic traditions such as grilling with family and friends, dipping our toes in the pool, and watching a spectacular fireworks display after dusk. Want to join in on the fun? Plan to visit your state capital this weekend for the Salute to America show; more information can be found on the Salute to America website.

The MCC office will be closed in observance of the holiday on Monday, July 5. We wish you all a happy, safe Independence Day weekend!



  COVID-19 Resources  

As the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to make headway in Missouri, the MCC wanted to let our network know that the Missouri Department of Health is offering free at-home testing kits, as well as free testing at local community testing sites. The location of these sites and directions on how to obtain home tests can be found here.

Also, the United States Department of Health has this helpful toolkit available for community organizations, parishes, etc. that are interested in hosting vaccine events. Please share these resources with your families and friends. Let's work together to stop the spread of COVID-19!



  Miami Catholics Unite in Prayer After Tragedy  

Following the tragic condo collapse in Miami last week, Catholics from around the state are uniting in prayer for victims and survivors of the event. In this Catholic News Agency article, the pastor at St. Joseph's in Miami, Fr. Jose Sosa, told reporters on Monday that his parish is responding to the tragedy with prayer and relief efforts. He noted on Friday that nine parish families were among those unaccounted for in the building collapse. "The community is bound by a Spirit of prayer," he stated in the article. 

The Vatican also sent a statement of solidarity on behalf of Pope Francis to the Miami archdiocese, on Saturday. Pope Francis "offers heartfelt prayer that Almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died, comfort to those who mourn their loss, and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy," the Vatican stated.

Our prayers are with the victims of this tragedy and their families at this difficult time.



  Mount Rushmore National Memorial  

In anticipation of the July 4th National holiday, this week we feature Mount Rushmore National Memorial. National Memorials differ from National Parks in that they feature specific objects of cultural or historical significance, rather than being solely places of natural, scenic, and recreational value. Mount Rushmore, being a significant cultural monument carved out of the granite of the Black Hills of South Dakota, is also located in a place of scenic and natural value, seated as it is in the beautiful wilds of the western part of the state.

The carving of the four Presidential busts (Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln) was a 14 year-long project completed in 1941. 400 workers removed over 450,000 tons of rock to create the 60-foot-high sculpted images. A photo gallery of Mt. Rushmore can be accessed here.

Though it is a national monument, its creation was controversial and remains so today. Lakota Sioux had been promised in a treaty to be given the land as a place to live undisturbed until gold was discovered in the area, and they were forced off the land. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota Sioux, and they consider the monument a desecration of their ancestral lands.