Keeping eye on Legislature
Catholic Conference gives parish representatives review of pending bills in the state
By Polly Zimmerman
Bills to protect the rights of parents and to help rehabilitate prisoners were among issues facing the Wisconsin Legislature that parish representatives from throughout the Green Bay Diocese were briefed on at St. Gabriel Church, Neenah.
Speakers included Dcn. Paul Grimm of the diocesan Social Concerns office; John
Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference; Bay Settlement Srs.
Maria Drzewiecki and Laura Zelten; and Kathleen Klos, an immigration counselor in the
Huebscher said the U.S. Catholic bishops' booklet on political responsibility, Faithful
Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium, will be available to parishes in
The Conference is following these bills:
-- Senate Bill 308, calling for parity in the treatment of physical and mental illness in
group health plans that offer mental health benefits and serve more than 50 employees. Mental illness and substance abuse are key predictors that one may end up in prison.
-- SB237, seeking adequate rehabilitation for prisoners in the state corrections system, which the Wisconsin bishops support as a way to serve the common good and to restore offenders and victims to the community and one another.
-- Assembly Bill 469, which would allow employers to end or refuse employment to offenders who have been released to the community. The Conference has warned that the bill will make access to employment more difficult for those who need the jobs most and argues that existing law allows employers to end employment or not to hire people whose offenses relate to the particular job in question.
-- AB312, which would "clean up" portions of the law related to parent consent for minors contemplating abortion. The Conference supports the right of parents to know when a minor is to undergo all forms of medical treatment. It also supports eliminating language that allows non-parental relatives to consent to a minor's abortion or for a member of the clergy to file an affidavit on behalf of a minor seeking an abortion.
-- AB632, which would modify current law to require parental notification before a minor receives family planning services or pregnancy counseling. The Conference supports the bill which would require parents and children to consult with each other and would deny minors independent access to contraception.
-- Assembly Joint Resolution 99, which urges Congress to support federal legislation to cancel or reduce debts of the world's poorest nations, a concept supported by Pope John Paul and the Jubilee 2000 movement.
-- AB324, which would protect the rights of healthcare workers who, for reasons of conscience, will not assist in medical procedures. The bill has passed the Assembly and will probably be taken to the Senate floor in March.
The Conference also expressed its support for BadgerCare, a low-cost health insurance program for the working poor. Since July, more than 60,000 participants have registered. Applicants must have children under the age of 19 living at home and to be without health insurance coverage.
In a report on farming in Wisconsin, WCC discussed how "factory farms" threaten the sustainable agriculture and family farms. Factory livestock operations in Wisconsin increased 18% last year, and if all facilities awaiting permits are approved, there could be a 40% increase this year. Wisconsin is losing more than three farms each day.
WCC said other issues likely to be brought to the Legislature include privately owned prisons and services for disabled children.