The Virginia Catholic Conference — the public policy agency of
the Commonwealth’s Catholic bishops and their two dioceses — will pursue the
following initiatives during the 2017
Virginia General Assembly session, which convenes for 46 days beginning Jan. 11. The conference’s agenda was formulated in
consultation with its education and respect life, health and social concerns
policy committees, and was approved Nov. 29 by its management committee. (Note: Other
items may be added to the conference’s agenda as legislation is filed and
Diverting public funds away from the abortion
industry and toward genuine healthcare.
Banning state funding of all abortions not
required by federal law. (Under the Medicaid Program, the federal government
funds abortions when the life of the eligible woman is at risk and in cases of
rape and incest. States are permitted, but not required, to spend their own
funds (with no federal match) for abortions that fall outside these three
categories. Conference advocacy seeks to prohibit government funding of
abortion to the greatest extent possible.)
Preserving pro-life gains made in prior years.
Supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child
Protection Act. (This bill, if enacted, would add to Virginia law
constitutionally permitted protections for unborn children from the stage at
which substantial medical evidence indicates they are capable of feeling pain.)
Supporting resolutions recognizing that human
life begins at conception.
Opposing proposals to expand the death penalty.
Making those with severe mental illness
ineligible for the death penalty.
Closing Virginia’s “gun-show loophole” by
requiring unlicensed gun sellers at gun shows to conduct background checks on
potential purchasers. (Background checks would determine if the potential buyer
has a criminal record or a mental health history making him or her ineligible
to own a firearm. The requirement that background checks be conducted currently
applies to licensed gun dealers.)
Family Life/Freedom of Conscience/Institutional Concerns
Protecting the ability of religious institutions
to make personnel, housing, benefits and other decisions that reflect their
beliefs (e.g., regarding the sanctity of life and marriage).
Preserving freedom of conscience for health-care
providers and families that choose to engage in sexual orientation change
— Opposing legislation to include within the state’s definition of birth
control anything deemed by the FDA to be a “contraceptive method.” [The FDA’s list of currently approved
“contraceptives” includes abortifacients and sterilization procedures.]
Opposing second-parent adoption by non-marital
Supporting creation of the Kinship Guardianship
Assistance Program to facilitate child placements with relatives and ensure
permanency for children for whom adoption or return home are not appropriate.
Preserving the vital assistance to communities
provided by the historic rehabilitation tax credit and the Neighborhood
Refugees & Immigrants
Opposing attempts to block refugee resettlement
Supporting access to driver’s licenses for
immigrants unable to be issued one, under certain circumstances.
Health/ Social & Economic Concerns/ Consumer Protections
Supporting efforts to expand access to health
insurance coverage to people up to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level. (This
means that an individual makes $15,800 or less a year.)
Supporting state funding for the Health Wagon, a
nonprofit providing mobile primary-care services to the medically underserved
in southwest Virginia.
Opposing budget reductions to programs that
provide shelter, health care and other basic necessities to low-income Virginia
— Raising Virginia’s minimum wage beyond the federal requirements.
— Making the Earned Income Tax Credit refundable – allowing low-income
taxpayers to receive a share of their state earned income tax credit (EITC) in
the form of a refund when their income is so low that the credit exceeds their
state tax liability.
Supporting measures to connect victims of human
trafficking to appropriate services and treatment.
Closing the open-end line of credit loophole,
and regulate lines of credit as other lenders are regulated. (Many open-end
line of credit lenders charge interest rates between 260% and 400% APR.)
Requiring Virginia’s payday and car-title
lending industries to operate under the same annual-percentage-rate cap on
interest (36 percent) as other small-loan lenders operating in Virginia.
Supporting proposals to increase state
contributions to the Housing Trust Fund, and identifying other sources of
consistent support for the program.
Providing state-subsidized rental assistance to
working families whose wages do not enable them to afford adequate housing.
Prohibiting discrimination based on veteran
status or use of financial assistance in the provision of housing.
Reducing the waiting list for community-based
services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Supporting the allowance of overtime pay for
consumer-directed caregivers who help people with disabilities live
Implementing a cost-of-living adjustment for
payments to low-income families under the TANF program.
Opposing the diversion of TANF funding toward
Supporting a Back to School Supplies and
Clothing Allowance for TANF-eligible, school-aged children.
Lifting Virginia’s lifetime ban on food stamps
for those convicted of drug-distribution felonies.
Breaking generational cycles of poverty by
allowing the transfer of unspent TANF monies into 529 Virginia College Savings
Plans for children of parents who are drug free, become employed and are no
longer collecting TANF benefits.
Protecting Medicaid reimbursement rates.
Enhancing the Education Improvement Scholarships
Tax Credits program.
Advocating that preschools accredited by the
Virginia Council for Private Education be recognized as quality early childhood
Supporting the creation of a statewide virtual
Prohibiting the expansion of allowed weapons on
Supporting the addition of a vaccine to prevent
meningitis to Virginia’s existing vaccination policy for school students.
Criminal & Juvenile Justice and Community Re-Entry
Restoring voting rights to individuals convicted
of non-violent felonies who have completed their sentences.
Prohibiting commissions from being paid to
Virginia for inmate phone services, and requiring telephone systems in state
correctional facilities to charge the lowest possible rates and not impose
additional costs or fees.
Increasing the minimum threshold for the crime
of “grand larceny” from $200 to $500 or $1,000.
Making juveniles convicted of non-homicide
felonies eligible for sentence modification after 20 years.
Supporting legislation to mitigate coastal
Opposing legislation to stall the adoption of a
state plan of compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan standards.
Make a difference
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-Learn more about the Feb. 9 Virginia Vespers: Evening
Prayer for the Commonwealth in Richmond with the bishops (Please save the