(by Joe Towalski)
May 21, 2013
The Minnesota Catholic Conference was tracking a number of issues throughout the 2013 legislative session, which ended May 20. Here is a sampling of what passed and what didn’t:
- Minimum wage: The MCC supported increasing the minimum wage as one way to help low-income, working families to achieve better economic security and “create a ladder out of poverty.” The House and Senate, however, did not agree on the amount of an increase before the 2013 session ended.
- Human trafficking: The MCC supported the Safe Harbor/No Wrong Door implementation bill to provide a safety net of services for youth 17 years old and younger who are victims of sex trafficking or at risk of exploitation. The measure was a result of the 2011 Safe Harbor Act, created to ensure that children who are sexually exploited or at risk of exploitation are treated as victims and not criminals. The measure received a $2.8 million allocation from the Legislature — far less than what is needed to fully implement the 2011 law, the MCC said, adding that it is still an important step in the right direction.
- “Ban-the-box”: The MCC supported so-called “ban the box” bills to forbid employers from asking a prospective employee about his or her criminal history until the applicant is selected for a job interview. “We think we should be working to help people reconcile themselves with the community and then reintegrate back into society,” Jason Adkins, MCC executive director said earlier in the session. This includes being able to access employment opportunities, housing and other vital social services that will help keep them from reoffending. The measure was passed by the Legislature.
- Bullying: While the MCC takes a strong stand against bullying and believes Minnesota should enact policies to protect all children, it opposed the so-called Safe and Supportive Schools Act because it threatened to imposed mandates and curriculum requirements on private schools, including Catholic schools, that violate constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. The MCC also had concerns that the measure would usurp the authority of parents to teach their children in areas such as gender and sexuality. While the measure was amended late in the session to address the MCC’s most serious concerns, the bill itself was not passed by legislators.
- Tuition for immigrants: The MCC supported the Minnesota “Dream Act” to provide students who came to this country as children with their families and who now want to become citizens with resident tuition rates at state universities and colleges. The measure passed the Legislature.
- Charitable tax deduction: The MCC was concerned about legislation passed in the House to repeal the state charitable tax deduction and replace it with a partial credit, above a new threshold — thus reducing incentives for Minnesotans to make charitable donations. The proposal, however, was removed from the final tax bill.