It is vital that Minnesota Catholics share their concerns with elected officials as the omnibus bills are being finalized as we near the end of the legislative session. Although there are some provisions in these bills that Minnesota Catholic Conference supports, there are many others that do things such as expand taxpayer funding of abortion and undermine conscience rights. The best way to stay informed and message legislators is to become a member of the Catholic Advocacy Network (www. mncatholic.org/actioncenter).
Numerous Catholics have called or emailed us in recent weeks asking about the legislative process at the end of the session, so here is a quick explainer.
Each body of the Legislature (Senate and House of Representatives) is split into about 20 different committees. Each committee has its own focus—Health and Human Services, Taxes, Agriculture, etc. Throughout the session, the committees hear bills that pertain to their subject area. Sometimes they pass bills onto another committee, and eventually to the floor, where all the representatives or senators vote on the bill. Other times, committees “hold bills over for possible inclusion in their omnibus bill.”
Instead of passing hundreds of individual bills, the committee chairs and staff compile the bills that they hope to pass into an “omnibus bill.” In early April, the respective committees began hearing these omnibus bills. Each omnibus bill must pass out of its committee, and off its respective floor.
Because the House and Senate must ultimately pass omnibus bills with the same language, once the House and Senate have passed their individual version, a small group of legislators, or a “conference committee” (made up of representatives and senators on both sides of the aisle) come together to work out the differences. Once they determine what will be in the final omnibus bill, it must go back to the floor of both chambers for final passage before it can be signed by the governor.
Because many of these omnibus bills still need to be either passed by one body or worked on in a conference committee, there is still time for your voice to be heard!
Some key bills:
Tax omnibus bill
MCC has spent a significant amount of time in the tax committee this year working to pass a robust, ongoing, child tax credit. We are hopeful of its passage since a version of it is included in all three versions of the budget—the Senate, House, and the Governor’s proposals. Although each version is targeted to help low-income families, which is a minimum requirement for MCC, we are also advocating its extension into the middle class to assist families.
Fortunately, another pro-life tax provision that we brought to legislators—an expansion of the types of baby items that would be exempt from sales tax—is included in both the House and Senate tax bills, where we will work to keep it in the final versions.
Health omnibus bill
The House health committee is coming to its conference committee with a bill that is littered with provisions to repeal the health and safety protections surrounding abortion, as well as to expand taxpayer funding of abortion. The Senate version comes free from those, but instead, it includes a health insurance coverage mandate for controversial infertility treatments like in vitro fertilization. All large-group health plans would be required to cover these expensive services for couples, even in cases when they are not medically necessary.
Public safety omnibus bill
We also support three provisions in the public safety omnibus bill: the Clean Slate Act, which provides mechanisms for the automatic expungement of certain convictions; expanding criminal background checks for certain types of gun purchases including pistols; and an increase in the non-profit security grant program. We are concerned with other proposed bills to narrow conscience rights and religious liberties currently protected in the Minnesota Human Rights Act in the areas of housing and youth programming.
You can view our testimony on these and more bills and contact your legislators by visiting www.MNCatholic.org/issues.