BUDGET UPDATE: With no line-item vetoes, Gov. Jerry Brown approved a General Fund budget of about $140 billion that includes items supported by LOPP-CA to increase the CalWORKS/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families assistance grants intended to relieve childhood poverty, increase spending for child care, expand census outreach and make the state Earned Income Tax Credit available for more low-income taxpayers. Proposals to provide Medi-Cal (Medicaid) coverage for low-income young adults and seniors, regardless of immigration status, did not make it into the final budget. LOPP-CA Director Mark Carlson mixed with some of the Poor People’s Campaign participants and tried to connect some of the “outside” protestors with actual budget and legislative decisions being made “inside.”
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: LOPP-CA was site host for a California Interfaith Power & Light Advocacy Day, supporting bills to set stronger goals for renewable electrical energy (SB 100), protect California’s coastline should the federal government seek to expand offshore oil drilling, and establish goals for carbon reduction from ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. LOPP-CA also offered brief testimony in the Senate Elections Committee supporting stronger sponsor and funding disclosure in social media ads for ballot measures.
NOVEMBER BALLOT: California voters will decide on 12 measures, three placed on the ballot by the Legislature and nine that reached via the initiative petition process. Our priority continues to be the housing bond, cahahousing.org (Programs and Initiative). Carlson hosted the June conference of ELCA rostered leaders gathering at a permanent supportive housing site where Lutheran Social Services of Northern California provides services (photo).
On Saturday, July 21, we join with The Episcopal Church in our monthly commitment to #PrayFastAct. This month, our focus is on protecting Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security for the future. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are the core of our nation’s medical and income safety net for the elderly, unemployed, underemployed and disabled. In recent decades, investments in programs that spur the economic potential of individuals has declined, which has led to an increase in the number of people needing the support of these programs. Together, these programs and other safety net measures represent a significant amount of annual federal spending.
Recently, proposals have been made to change the programs by manipulating eligibility or coverage to reduce spending. Difficult, but responsible, changes require Congress and the nation to invest in programs that reduce the long-term need for these programs and minimize the individual impact of the economic cycle so that these programs can cost less because they are needed less.
FARM BILL: The Senate passed a bipartisan 2018 farm bill last month that ELCA Advocacy supported. The bill will now go to a conference between the House and Senate. ELCA Advocacy plans to work to ensure that the Senate bill prevails over the House bill, which would make cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Learn more about the Senate and House versions of the farm bill by reading “The Senate Farm Bill: What a Difference Bipartisanship Makes” on the ELCA Advocacy blog.
MIGRATION AND AMMPARO: In June, the House rejected a hardline immigration bill introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760) would have drastically cut the nation’s legal immigration levels and provided funding for building a border wall, while also offering temporary status for “Dreamers.” ELCA Advocacy opposed the bill. The House has yet to vote on a proposed compromise immigration bill. You can take action on this issue by visiting the ELCA Advocacy Action Center.
President Trump signed an executive order to address family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border. The executive order fails to end the zero-tolerance policy that criminalizes parents and expands family detention. ELCA Advocacy will continue to stand against family detention, advocating instead for community-based alternatives to detentions. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has piloted alternatives for families. Continue reading “ELCA Advocacy, Washington D.C. JULY 21, PRAY. FAST. ACT.”
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”