Missouri House Passes Parental Notification of Abortion Bill

By a vote of 121-34, the Missouri House of Representatives has third read and passed HB 1370, sponsored by Rep. Rocky Miller (R-Lake Ozark).  The bill requires any parent consenting to an abortion for a minor to notify his or her estranged custodial spouse in writing of the abortion before giving consent.  The bill would not require notice be given if the estranged spouse was guilty of child abuse, or other crime against a child or the family, had their parental rights terminated, or had an order of protection entered against them.  The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration. 

Business Groups Opposing Religious Freedom Resolution

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce is opposing SJR 39, a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow churches and wedding venders to decline participation in same-sex wedding ceremonies. The Chamber’s opposition, like that of Monsanto and others, focuses on the wedding vendor provisions in the resolution.  The NCAA has also expressed serious concerns with the proposal. The MCC supports SJR 39, focusing especially on how the proposal ensures clergy and church facilities would be protected from government penalties when declining to solemnize or facilitate same-sex weddings. 

The Missouri Senate has passed SJR 39, which is sponsored by Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis). The General Assembly is on Spring Break until after Easter, after which the House is expected to review the proposal, consider possible amendments and decide how to proceed. For more see Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and this editorial, also in the Post-Dispatch. Stay tuned for more.

Missouri Senate Stalls this Week While Pro-life and Other Bills Languish

The Missouri Senate this week has been in slow motion following the filibuster last week of SJR 39. Meanwhile, pro-life legislation prohibiting the donation of fetal tissue and addressing the disposition of fetal remains has yet to be debated fully by the MO Senate. Also remaining to be debated is a bill that would outlaw abortion solely on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s syndrome.  Time will tell if the Senate gets moving again, or if the filibuster will influence what bills are heard going forward.

Democracy Needs Virtue

Saint John Paul II once reminded Americans: “Democracy needs virtue… Democracy stands or falls with the truths and values it embodies and promotes.”

The American founders understood the fragility of democracy, and knew it could be destroyed without virtuous men and women. They had no illusions that the Constitution alone could save the American Republic.

John Adams declared: “Human passions unbridled by morality and religion… would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.”

Virtue is required of citizens and public officials, of voters and political candidates. On leadership, Adams said: “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increases as the importance of the position increases.”

Even prior to policy prescriptions, leaders must set a moral example of how to live virtuously; otherwise, their words and promises cannot be trusted by the people. Indeed, where the bonds of trust break down between leaders and citizens, respect for authority is diminished and the common good is undermined.

House Committee Hears Healthcare Decision Maker Bill

As a part of estate planning, many people sign a durable power of attorney for healthcare in order to identify a family member who can make decisions for them in the event they are unable to make decisions for themselves.  If a person hasn’t identified such a family member, however, healthcare providers must locate and identify the person who can make medical decisions for the incapacitated person.

HB 2502, sponsored by Rep. Joe Don McGaugh (R-Carrollton), sets forth a procedure for selecting the family member who will serve in this capacity and creates a mechanism for seeking court intervention when there is a conflict between family members.  It also sets out specific guidelines for the surrogate to assist them in making these decisions, since in many cases their family member hasn’t made their wishes known.

The MCC was actively involved in drafting the language of HB 2502 and supported this bill at the hearing this week before the House Civil and Criminal Procedure Committee.   The MCC particularly wanted to be sure the bill would not allow the surrogate to arbitrarily withdraw care from the incapacitated patient.  The bill is expected to move forward in the coming weeks.

MCC Opposes Signage Requirement for Churches

This week the MCC voiced opposition to HB 1764, a bill that would require churches to post signs on their premises regarding concealed weapons.

Currently under Missouri law, concealed carry permits do not authorize persons to carry a concealed firearm into a police office, a polling place, a corrections institute, a courthouse, a bar, an airport, a school, a university, a child care facility, a riverboat gambling operation, an amusement park, a stadium, a hospital, or a church.

In some instances, including churches, the permit holder can obtain permission to bring the weapon on to the premises. In most cases, however, these institutions or locations arenot required to post signage regarding conceal and carry weapons. It is up to the permit carrier to know the law and abide by it.

HB 1764, however, would require churches to post such signage, while making no such requirement for the other institutions. The MCC said the proposal unfairly targeted churches for the signage requirement and indicated this may violate the religious freedom protections of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In general, government can require churches to comply with laws of general applicability when there is a compelling government interest. A local ordinance requiring fire exit signs, for example, would be an appropriate requirement for churches as well other places where the public gathers.

However, there is no compelling interest at stake in HB 1764. The MCC noted that Second Amendment gun rights are important, but so also are the religious freedom protections found in the First Amendment. Stay tuned for further developments.

Missouri House Passes Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

The Missouri House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill that would establish a prescription drug monitoring program to prevent doctor shopping by people abusing prescription drugs. HB 1892 is sponsored by Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston).

Missouri is the only state in the nation without a drug monitoring program and health care providers are observing more out-of-state drug abusers coming into Missouri to try to obtain prescriptions, especially pain medications. Missouri’s death rate from drug overdoses ranked the state in the top 20 of all states in 2014, according to a report issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a letter to state representatives, the Missouri Catholic Conference urged passage of the HB 1892, noting that doctors cannot make appropriate decisions about patients if they do not have an accurate picture of the drugs the person is using.

MCC Urges Passage of State Earned Income Tax Credit

This week the MCC testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee in support of SB 1018, a bill that would create a state earned income tax credit (EITC) that working poor families could claim when paying their taxes.

The bill, sponsored by State Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Kirkwood), would piggyback off of the existing federal EITC thereby giving more tax relief to modest income families.

At present, 26 states and the District of Columbia have enacted EITCs to supplement the tax relief provided by the federal EITC. The federal EITC was first established during President Gerald Ford’s administration and has enjoyed bipartisan support as a way to fight poverty and reward work. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan has been working to revise the federal EITC to make it even more effective.

The MCC told the committee that passage of SB 1018 would be an effective way to uphold the dignity of work and workers. The testimony noted how Saint John Paul II saw work as so important that he devoted an entire encyclical to the issue – Laborem Exercens. (On Human Work). See MCC Testimony for more.

Spread the Word about the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit

The federal earned income tax credit (EITC) has been of enormous benefit to working families for many years. However, there are still some who may not be aware of this tax credit and how it could help them. The IRS has special web pages devoted to explaining EITC and providing an outreach toolkit for how to spread the word to low-income families. See IRS EITC Information.

House Committee Hears Bills Addressing Fetal Remains From Abortions

The House Children and Families Committee this week heard HB 2068, HB 2069, HB 2070, HB 2071, and HB 2371, five pro-life bills sponsored by Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton) and Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) addressing the disposition of fetal remains from abortions performed in Missouri.  The hearing was contentious; pro-life advocates testified in favor of the bills, and two physicians being trained to perform abortions in a fellowship program at Washington University in St. Louis testified against the bills.