LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: May 31 concluded consideration of legislation, and activity has intensified on the 2018-19 state budget, due on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk June 15. The bill process cycles again until final adjournment of the two-year session at the end of August. Faith advocates, who had worked together to support increasing the CalWORKS/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families support to 50 percent of the federal poverty level, part of an effort to tackle child poverty, were amazed to see diverse senators speaking in support with an unexpected final vote of 39-0! Perhaps a more challenging task is continuing work to reach the two-thirds threshold to enact a very small fee on water bills to support safe and affordable water in disadvantaged communities.
STATE UPDATE: California has been blessed with a revenue surplus of about $9 billion, much of that a result of volatile personal income taxes on capital gains. Besides the CalWORKS proposal, Gov. Brown, a fiscal moderate, will be challenged by legislative proposals, supported by LOPP-CA, for income-eligible Medicaid coverage of 19- to 25-year-olds and people 65 and older, regardless of immigration status (#Health4All), expansion of census outreach efforts, and continued rebuilding of deep cuts to child care during the recession (#SpringforKids #BillionforBabies).
SYNOD ASSEMBLIES: LOPP-CA Director Mark Carlson participated in the Pacifica Synod Assembly in Palm Desert, and the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly in Sacramento. Mark was blessed to take Bishop Medardo Gomez and his wife, Abelina, of El Salvador to the Capitol for lunch during the final hectic deadline day, meeting staff, a state senator and the Spanish-speaking advocate for the California Environmental Justice Alliance. They participated in the LOPP-CA synod breakfast with guest speaker Eric Guerra, a Sacramento City Council member brought to the U.S. without documents at preschool-age.
Mark Carlson, Director Lutheran Office of Public Policy
On Thursday, June 21, we join with The Episcopal Church in our monthly commitment to #PrayFastAct. This month our focus is on disaster preparedness. The United States and its territories are facing extreme weather patterns more frequently. In the past year, fires, floods and hurricanes have displaced millions of people, destroyed homes and other structures and led to deaths. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands continue to face many challenges in the wake of Hurricane Maria, including infrastructure damage, a plummeting economy, loss of jobs, closure of schools, cuts in peoples’ pensions and other factors that have contributed to a mental health crisis.
ELCA congregations and organizations are among many groups that work tirelessly to help Americans when disaster strikes, but their efforts are often hampered by bureaucracy, which delays getting valuable assistance to those who most need it. The federal government must work to streamline the process for getting aid to those who need it and invest in disaster preparedness to minimize the effects of emergencies and major disasters.
HUMAN RIGHTS: The House of Representatives has passed the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill includes an amendment that imposes new financial and visa sanctions on Myanmar military officials. The amendment also limits U.S. military-to-military assistance to the Myanmar military until it makes progress on human rights and perpetrators of the current crisis are held accountable.
MIGRATION AND AMMPARO: A Health and Human Services (HHS) official testified that the department does not know the whereabouts of approximately 1,400 children who had been in their custody. The children were released to sponsors and the HHS could not contact them in follow-up calls. HHS has the child-welfare expertise to screen children for trafficking. It is important to provide the department the resources needed to follow up with sponsors. Interested advocates can learn more by reading “Explaining policies separating children and families” on the ELCA Advocacy blog.
CREATION CARE: ELCA Advocacy participated in the international meeting to prepare for the December U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP24). This meeting, held in Bonn, Germany, May 1-May 10 was designed to produce a strong foundation for the development of a robust rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement at COP24. An additional meeting to build on this work will be held in September in Bangkok. Critical issues discussed included climate finance and raising the commitments of parties to the Paris Agreement in reducing greenhouse gases to minimize the global temperature increase to less than two degrees Celsius. The first Talanoa Dialogue was successfully held at this meeting. The dialogue is a means of facilitating the negotiations and involves sharing ideas, skills and experiences through storytelling in which participants build trust and advance knowledge through empathy and understanding. Interested advocates can learn more about the Bonn meeting and the Talanoa Dialogue process on the ELCA Advocacy blog.
ELCA Advocacy and The Lutheran World Federation are organizing concurrent Talanoa Dialogue sessions to be held as an affiliate event during the Global Climate Action Summit in September in California. Session 1 covers just transition (transitioning to energy sources derived from renewable energy in a manner that creates resilient communities while leaving no one behind). Session 2 addresses the livelihood of people dealing with disasters caused by the increased intensity and frequency of severe weather patterns and storms. Invited participants include representatives from vulnerable regions in the world that are most endangered by climate change.
FARM BILL: The House of Representatives rejected a version of the 2018 Farm Bill last month on a 198-213 vote. While the proposed bill positively addressed ELCA priorities in international food aid and U.S. agriculture, many faith leaders voiced over concerns over cuts and added work barriers to the SNAP food assistance program. The House has planned another scheduled vote on June 22nd, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced plans to make the Farm Bill a top Senate priority in the later summer. Advocates can take action now on faith priorities in the Farm Bill at the ELCA Action Center.
Lutheran Office for World Community
CHALLENGES FACING MIGRANTS: Marking the start of the May negotiations toward a U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the ELCA and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) offered an event on May 14, “Grassroots Perspectives on Migrants’ Lived Realities in Different Contexts.” The presenters discussed the challenges migrants face during their journey, as well as when they return to their home countries.
Silvia Raquec Cum is program director of Asociación Pop No’j (“weaving knowledge and wisdom” in the Mayan K’iche’ language), a non-profit Guatemalan organization. She reported on the causes of migration from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the politics of detention and deportation. Asociación Pop No’j works on the return and reintegration of child and adolescent migrants back to their communities of origin.
Katrine Ringhus (far right), advocacy director with LWF–World Service in Colombia, reported on work on the nation’s border with Venezuela and on the Pacific coast. LWF offers risk management and human rights assistance to people contending with illegal access routes, inadequate shelter, malnutrition, endemic disease, trafficking, extortion and violence.
Rados Djurović (second from left) is executive director of the Asylum Protection Center in Belgrade, Serbia, a non-profit serving asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. He outlined the legal, psychological and integration and inclusion support offered to migrants while advocating for improving the system and fighting prejudice and xenophobia.
The panel was made possible by a grant from ELCA Global Mission. Also participating were the Rev. Cindy Halmarson (far left), ELCA Global Mission area director for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa; and Alaide Vilchis Ibarra (second from the right), ELCA Advocacy program director for migration policy, who also provided interpretation. The compact under negotiation is expected to be adopted at a U.N. conference in December.
Join us for a hot buffet breakfast served at 7:00 a.m. with speaker at 7:30 a.m. in Oehler Hall, St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1701 L St., Sacramento. Our speaker is Mr. Eric Guerra, of Sacramento City Council. Council-member Guerra has a compelling personal story as an immigrant child, growing up in a Yolo County farmworker family, who has overcome obstacles and now represents a fascinating district of southeast Sacramento that is challenged by poverty. The cost is $15.00. For more information or to RSVP and pay online go to:
On Monday, May 21, we join with the Episcopal Church in our monthly commitment to #PrayFastAct. This month, we center to focus on assistance to veterans and their family members. New investments and policies in recent years have helped to expand veteran access to education, labor opportunities, healthcare and housing. Yet too many veterans, active service members and their families still struggle with complex challenges, ranging from barriers to benefits and increased mental health risks, to the impacts of the opioid crisis and more. Each returning service member has unique needs—and this month’s action supports effective public policies to meet those needs.
Many ELCA rostered leaders have long served as chaplains in medical centers and on bases across the world. In addition to advocating with and for veterans, congregations can play very important roles in direct engagement. Hosting local events, such as 12-step recovery groups, are often an essential and much-needed service in communities. Training videos and resources for clergy and churches interested in engagement can be found on the Veterans Affairs webpage, and ELCA-specific resources for ministers and chaplains can be found at ELCAchaps.com.
FARM BILL TEXT RELEASED: The House Agriculture Committee marked up the first version of the 2018 farm bill in mid-April, sending it to the floor of the House of Representatives. The proposed bill, which would make significant changes to nutrition and anti-hunger programs such as SNAP, was cleared on a strict 26-20 party-line vote.
The farm bill covers a wide-encompassing set of policies, including rural development, international aid, conservation programs and more. Policies that curb hunger and malnutrition, support vibrant agricultural economies in rural communities, and promote the sustainable use of natural resources are critical values to the faith community. Interested advocates can learn more by reading the ELCA Farm Bill 101 fact sheet on the Advocacy Resource Page. Continue reading “ELCA Advocacy Update for May”
As members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we share a deep love for all of God’s creation and a profound responsibility for it. Made in the image of God, we are called to continue what God is already doing for the earth (Psalm 104), enabling it to flourish. God assigns humans to care for the earth as God does, in loving servanthood. (Philippians 2:7, Genesis 2:15).
Daily we witness the evidence of a rapidly changing climate. At the same time, we also witness in too many instances how the earth’s natural beauty, a sign of God’s wonderful creativity, is defiled by pollutants and waste, resulting in ecological crisis. As a member church of The Lutheran World Federation, we affirm “that the global ecological crisis, including climate change is, human-induced. This is a spiritual matter. As people of faith, we are called to live in right relationship with creation and to not exhaust it.” Continue reading “ELCA Presiding Bishop Issues Earth Day Statement”
This statement of solidarity with our children from the ELCA Council of Bishops calls us to consider taking part in the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC or in its satellite city events, as our children and youth are leading us forward as peacemakers. Click on March for Our Lives to find a march near you! Contact Mark Carlson about other events on March 14th and April 20th.
STATEMENT IN SOLIDARITY WITH OUR CHILDREN AND YOUTH
Our children and youth are like a young Jeremiah prophesying to the people: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)
Recently, the students, faculty and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida experienced tragedy. Seventeen people – students and teachers – were killed by a 19-year old shooter. In response, students have invited their teachers, families and allies around the nation to join
with them for a March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC; calling our country into a deeper conversation about school safety and second amendment rights and responsibilities.
We recognize this incident is the latest in a long list of tragic shootings in our country and young people have been calling for protest and change for many years. Some of those young voices have been ignored or silenced because of racial and economic injustice. We cannot let that reality keep us from acting
now. Continue reading ““MARCH FOR OUR LIVES” and the ELCA Council of Bishops Statement in Solidarity with our Children and Youth”
This month we focus on international programs that support women and girls overseas. Although the U.S. government has historically been a leader in funding programs that address the needs of women and girls globally, there are indications that such initiatives are in danger of being significantly reduced or eliminated. Cutting funds and eliminating programs would negatively impact communities that depend on the support of our government to improve the lives of women and girls.
On March 21, Join ELCA Advocacy/the EPPN and presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church and the ELCA as we #PrayFastAct. Continue reading “PRAY FAST ACT”
This week, there will be a vote in the U.S. Senate to protect Dreamers. Unfortunately, there will also be attempts to take away trafficking protections for unaccompanied children, make it harder for people to seek asylum and actively separate families. Follow us and ELCA Ammparo to find out what you can do to take action!
Lift your voice by:
- Follow our ELCA Advocacy Facebook page and Twitter for last minute updates and calls to action
- Call your legislator through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and say the following:
“My name is ___. I am your constituent from (city/town) and a person of faith. As the Senator considers how to vote on immigration amendments, I urge him/her to support legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers without harming other vulnerable people. Please vote no on any policies that take away trafficking protections for unaccompanied children, restrict family or diversity visas, make it harder for people to seek asylum and carelessly increases border enforcement”
A highlight for January was the ELCA World Hunger Leaders Gathering in Washington, D.C., with about a dozen people from the three synods that cover California, including two students from California Lutheran University. A “Day on the Hill” included delegation meetings with staff for Senators Feinstein and Harris, and a number of meetings and drop-in visits with California’s large House delegation. Farm Bill re-authorization was the focus, and a primary emphasis was on the food aid provisions, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.