Political advocacy for the poor and outcast is a Christian work. At every Mass, we offer the Universal Prayer, or Prayer of the Faithful. Among other things, we offer petitions “for those who govern with authority over us”. General Instruction of the Roman Missal ¶ 69. But our work does not end there. It is the right and duty of every human person to participate in government. Indeed, the Second Vatican Council teaches us that “social necessities [are] among [our] primary duties”. Gaudium et spes ¶ 30. Therefore, yesterday I joined Catholics from all parts of Washington State as we advocated for the poor and outcast before the State Legislature.
Each year, Catholics in Washington State spend a day visiting our elected representatives. This year, we focused on five issues: an abortion insurance mandate, abolition of the death penalty, housing for the homeless, help for needy families, and restorative justice. This year’s legislative session ends in a couple of weeks. We hope to have an influence on these important issues.
Issues before the House of Representatives
SB 6219 would require all health insurance plans to cover abortions
Under section 3 of SB 6219, heath insurance plans offered after January 1, 2019 would be required to cover abortions. The coverage must be substantially equivalent to the plan’s maternity coverage. On January 31, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 26-22. The Senate rejected several amendments that would have limited the abortion coverage mandate. One would protect the right of an employer to not provide abortion coverage for reasons of religious belief or conscience. The bill is now before the House of Representatives. We asked our representatives to oppose SB 6219, and to support conscience protections.
SB 6052 would abolish the death penalty in Washington State
Under SB 6052, the death penalty would be repealed. Instead, adults convicted of aggravated first degree murder would be sentence to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. If the convicted person was under the age of 18 when the murder was committed, life imprisonment would not be mandatory, and parole would be possible. SB 6052 passed the Senate on February 14 by a vote of 26-22. The bill is now before the House Committee on Judiciary. We asked our representatives to support SB 6052, and to abolish the death penalty.
Issues before the Senate
HB 1570 would maintain funding for homeless housing programs
Currently, county auditors collect a $40 surcharge for each recorded document. The money is used for homeless housing projects. That surcharge is scheduled to be reduced to $10 next year. Section 2 of HB 1570 would make the $40 surcharge permanent. It would also authorize counties to adopt an additional $50 surcharge for homeless housing programs. HB 1570 passed the House of Representatives on February 7 by a vote of 51-47. It is now before the Senate Committee on Human Services & Corrections. We asked our senators to support HB 1570.
HB 1831 would exempt one motor vehicle from counting as an asset in determining need for public assistance
In determining whether a person is eligible for public assistance, the state assesses the person’s financial need. Certain assets, however, are not counted, including a motor vehicle worth up to $5,000. HB 1831 would increase the exempt value to $10,000. HB 1831 passed the House of Representatives last year by a vote of 84-14. It is now before the Senate Committee on Human Services & Corrections. We asked our senators to support HB 1831.
HB 1783 would limit the financial obligations imposed on certain persons convicted of a crime
Persons convicted of a crime are assessed certain Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs). These include victims’ compensation, costs of prosecution, and fines and penalties. For many offenders, upon release the LFOs may create insurmountable obstacles to reentering the community as law-abiding citizens. HB 1783 would mitigate LFOs in three ways: (1) LFOs would not be imposed on an indigent offender. (2) Interest would not accrue on LFOs, except for victims’ compensation. And (3) sanctions for failure to pay LFOs would not be imposed unless the offender is able to pay but refuses to do so. Last year, HB 1783 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 91-7. It is now before the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. We asked our senators to support HB 1783.
Saint Pope John XXIII said that active participation in government is part of our human dignity. Pacem in terris ¶ 73. Today, it may seem difficult to associate human dignity with the political world. But that is all the more reason for Christians, indeed all people of good will, to engage in political advocacy.