Catholics ready to lobby in Albany - Catholic Courier

Catholics ready to lobby in Albany

Improving legislation for Catholic causes is a year-round focus of the diocesan Public Policy Committee, yet there’s one day that stands apart from the rest: when activists and politicians from around the state gather in Albany to share their views.

"The face-to-face cannot be beat," Marvin Mich commented about the annual Public Policy Day, also known as Catholics at the Capitol.

Mich — who serves as Catholic Family Center’s director of social policy and research and is a member of the diocesan Public Policy Committee — will join an estimated 1,000 delegates in Albany, including at least 100 from this diocese, on March 13. The day, according to Mich, "has the most impact on our delegates and our legislators as well. We’re changed by the experience you get from the legislator, learning from their side what they’re dealing with; you learn where they’re coming from … we’ve had people disagree, obviously, and we still do, but we’re respectful and they’re respectful."

Public Policy Day events will take place at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. Legislative meetings and workshops are scheduled to last throughout the day at the Legislative Office Building and state Capitol. Many participants will attend pre-scheduled meetings with legislators to discuss issues. There also will be a Knights of Columbus rosary and prayer rally at the convention center, as well as a Knights-led rosary procession from there to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for a closing Mass with the bishops of New York state.

This annual gathering is sponsored by the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops in public-policy matters. The top five issues for this year, as defined by those bishops, are to:

* continue opposition to the Reproductive Health Act, which calls for significant expansion of abortion rights; and support the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation, which supports low-income expectant and new parents;

* urge equity for all Catholic school children by fully reimbursing Catholic schools for their mandated expenses and enacting a meaningful education tax credit to ease the combined burden of taxes and tuition;

* advocate for poor and vulnerable families and individuals by supporting programs related to emergency food, affordable housing and employment opportunities;

* emphasize programs that would support the successful return to society of people who have been imprisoned; and

* support English as a second language instruction, legal services and aid to recent immigrants on the path toward citizenship.

In addition to these causes, Mich said Public Policy Day will present an opportunity for Rochester-area delegates to emphasize the diocese’s own three public-policy issues for 2011-12. They are: increasing access to mental health care through funding for more service providers, especially for children; opposing crimes involving the use of humans for commercial sexual exploitation; and adherence to the common good, by which Catholics are asked to examine their values in light of the growing gap in this country between rich and poor.

Mich pointed out that diocesan causes can often be linked to the state bishops’ priorities; for instance, sex trafficking relates to supporting the poor as well as immigrants since victims of human trafficking often are destitute people from other countries.

Mich added that several of this year’s Public Policy Day issues have been focal points in the past because either legislation has not been determined or inadequate provisions have been made. He cited the Reproductive Health Act, which was originally proposed nearly five years ago.


EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about the public-policy issues and how to get involved in advocacy efforts, visit the New York State Catholic Conference’s website at www.nyscatholic.org or the Diocese of Rochester’s website at www.dor.org/charities/dioprograms/publicpolicy.htm.

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