Vigilant advocacy before the special session
The regular session of the Legislative Assembly reached its constitutional term on May 17 and is officially suspended. However, this “recreation” is not a moment of rest and relaxation. In fact, the clock is ticking again.
Lawmakers, now divided into different “working groups”, have until June 4 to finalize the texts of their omnibus finance bills. This deadline was set by the heads of state as part of a broad budget agreement reached on the last day of the session.
If the task forces fail to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of a given budget bill, presidents will present their differences to the triumvirate of Governor Tim Walz, Majority Leader Senator Paul Gazelka, and the Speaker of the House Representative, Melissa Hortman, who will negotiate the various policy proposals. In anticipation of this, the Catholic Conference of Minnesota is submitting a letter to the three leaders outlining the key provisions that should be in the final bills, including:
- Driver’s license and non-compliant ID cards for immigrants
- Education savings accounts for students
- Payday loan reform
- Save time of illness and safety
- Reform of the driving license suspension
- Funding for the emergency services and shelters program
- Extension of the medical assistance program to include at least six months of coverage for postpartum women
Advocacy in the last weeks
In the two weeks leading up to the adjournment, 16 conference committees (made up of representatives and senators) reviewed and debated details of each organ’s omnibus budget bills to reach consensus on state spending. Without agreement, a five-member conference committee from both bodies settles disputes and drafts a final report that must be adopted by the Senate and House and signed by the governor.
Often by the time a bill reaches a conference committee, the MCC has weighed in, but this step presents another opportunity to keep the Catholic voice present. For example, in the final weeks of regular session, the Minnesota Catholic Conference wrote letters, met with lawmakers, and followed up on specific bills in seven committees.
For example, the Multi-Account Center submitted a letter to the conference committee on health and social services highlighting funding support for the emergency services and shelters program and an extension of the medical assistance program to include at least six months of coverage for women in post- partum. In addition, members of the MCC Catholic Advocacy Network have sent over 2,000 e-mails lawmakers calling for support for a provision to help end usury and reform payday loans in Minnesota by setting a 36% interest rate cap on short-term consumer loans. These provisions would have a positive impact on the lives of poor and vulnerable residents of Minnesota.
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Many issues impacting life, dignity and the common good remain viable and are the subject of negotiations ahead of the 2021 Special Session. Your voice can help ensure that the right proposals reach the office of the governor and are signed into law.
Visit MNCatholic.org/actioncenter to contact legislators and sign up to receive email / text alerts from MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network.