March 12, 2018  
 Inside this issue
  2018 Legislative Session Recap  
  As expected, the 2018 session of the Washington State Legislature generated a lot of activity.  Over 1400 bills were introduced and after dozens of hearings, scores of meetings, countless emails, and precisely 60 days, the Legislature adjourned on March 8.  There were many issues important to the Catholic Church that were addressed over the last 2 months including key life, religious liberty, social justice and education issues...with mixed results.  Religious liberty came under assault in several bills that passed while the death penalty failed to get a final vote in the State House.  At the same time, the capital budget was approved with important funding for Catholic housing projects and key restorative/criminal justice bills were passed, as were several measures to assist those living in poverty.

While not all the legislative outcomes were as desired, the engagement in the legislative process on the part of Catholics in Washington State was encouraging. Led by our bishops, our presence was strong in Olympia this legislative session.  Here is a look...by the numbers:
 
2018 Legislative Session - WSCC Involvement
6 Visits to the Capitol this session by the WA Catholic bishops
10 Times that the WSCC publicly testified on legislation, including 6 times by the bishops (number does not include several instances of Catholic Community Services testifying on bills specific to their programs)
13 Meetings in the Capitol between bishops and the Governor, Lt. Governor or legislators
67 Bills tracked by the WSCC (at the peak of the session)
112 Meetings with legislators and staff on Catholic Advocacy Day
267 Participants in Catholic Advocacy Day
2301 Messages sent to the Governor and legislators from the Catholic Advocacy Network that were triggered by WSCC action alerts (1000 more than last year's long session of the Legislature)

It will be important to further grow this level of engagement in the months ahead.  The Legislature will be back in 2019 for a longer session and Catholics need to be back in Olympia as well and in even greater numbers.  With 1.3 million Catholics in the state and over 55,000 that moved into the state last year alone, there is a big opportunity for us to have even greater impact in the future.  Numbers matter with the Legislature so please encourage other Catholics you know to join the WSCC Advocacy Network (it's easy at www.thewscc.org).

During the interim period before the next legislative session, we will be working to identify areas where we can more proactively influence the development of policy and laws here in the state. We will also closely track - and share opportunities for advocacy on - numerous important federal issues (note the call to action below to contact Congress on the Conscience Protection Act).  Watch for updates in the WSCC bulletins that will shift to a monthly cadence and will be issued on First Fridays.
 
A more specific recap of the legislation we worked on this session is provided below.  Many thanks to each of you for your advocacy efforts the last two months.  Please be assured of the prayers of the WSCC staff in the months ahead.
 
God Bless!
 
Joe Sprague, Executive Director, Washington State Catholic Conference
 

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  Life & Religious Liberty  
 

Abortion Insurance Mandate (SB 6219) - Mandates abortion coverage in insurance plans.  Despite vigorous opposition by the WSCC, the bill is set to become law.

Repeal the Death Penalty (SB 6052) - This bill was strongly supported by the WSCC.  Although it failed to get a final vote in the State House, this is the most progress such legislation has made in our state and it will be a top priority in 2019.
 
Contraceptive Mandate (HB 1523) - Requires all health plans in the state to provide contraceptives, including abortifacients, at no cost.  The bill passed despite opposition from the WSCC.
 
Uniform Parentage Act (SB 6037) - A section of this multi-faceted bill legalizes paid or contract surrogacy.  The WSCC opposed the legislation, but it became law.
 

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  Education  
 
 
School Safety - The WSCC supported several bills (HB 1982, SB 6410, SB 6620) to require emergency notifications for private and public schools concerning emergency situations.  While none of these bills passed, language supporting private school emergency notifications was included in the supplemental budget.
 
Abuse Prevention (HB 1539) - Establishes a task force to develop a prevention of sexual abuse curriculum for public school students in grades K-12.  The WSCC supported the bill and it passed.
 

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  Poverty, Family & Restorative Justice  
 
 
TANF Resource Limits (HB 1831) - Authorizes the state to allow new exemption levels for motor vehicles for applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  The WSCC supported the bill and it passed.
 
Legal Financial Obligations (LFO) (HB 1783) - Eliminates the interest on most court-imposed debts following conviction of crimes.  The WSCC supported the bill and it is set to be signed into law.

 
Homeless Housing and Assistance (HB 1570) - Makes the Homeless Housing and Assistance surcharge (on the document recording fee) permanent to ensure source of funds for homeless and housing programs.  The WSCC supported it and the bill was enacted.
 
Food Packaging (HB 2658) - Restricts the inclusion of perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) in food packaging beginning in 2021.  The WSCC supported this environmental issue and it became law.
 
Source of Income Discrimination (SB 2578) - Prohibits a landlord from discriminating against applicants or tenants based on their source of income.  The bill was supported by the WSCC and was enacted.
 
Capital Budget (SB 6090) - The 2017-2019 $4.38 billion capital budget includes $106 million for affordable housing.  The WSCC supported the legislation and it was enacted early in the session.
 

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  Action Alert on Federal Conscience Protection  
  Congress will decide soon (most likely this week) whether to include the Conscience Protection Act (CPA) in must-pass government funding legislation.  The CPA is much-needed, common-sense legislation that will clarify federal law and ensure that those who provide health care and health coverage can do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.

In a March 6 statement, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB's Committee for Religious Liberty, urged Catholics to contact Congress, asking for enactment of the Conscience Protection Act as part of the 2018 funding bill and to pray for this outcome.  Their statement can be read here

Please click here to urge your U.S. senators and representative to include the Conscience Protection Act in Congress' final funding legislation of the fiscal year.
 
 
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