Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices (sppos) in the ELCA Advocacy Network this month. Full list and map of sppos available.
Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), United Nations, New York, N.Y. – ELCA.org/lowc
Christine Mangale, Director
- Child Labor Statement: LOWC co-led the creation of the statement “A Call to Stop Stealing Children’s Lives” as part of the United Nation’s NGO Committee on Migration. Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has signed. The letter is a call to action to all UN Member States in an effort to raise the alarm and rally collaboration to put an immediate end to all forms of child labor. More information about the letter can be found here as well as sign-on link below.
- UN Commission on Status of Women: From March 6-17, 2023, LOWC has hosted 30 Lutheran Delegates who are attending the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) in New York. The delegation includes representation from 12 countries (Columbia, Ethiopia, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, Liberia, Mexico, Mozambique, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda, UK, USA, Zimbabwe). They represent Lutheran clergy, lay leadership, staff and issue experts from Lutheran faith-based organizations and our partners. This year’s CSW67 priority theme is “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
- The group made an official statement to the Commission on the Status of Women in its 67th session. LOWC, together with LWF, planned hosting and co-hosting of eight high level events during the CSW67 including side-events, workshops and learning events, Lutheran worship and ecumenical and interfaith prayer gatherings. Additional event information is available from an ELCA Advocacy Blog post on CSW67.
- On March 10, 2023 LWF hosted the event, “Harnessing ICTs to End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.”
- On March 9, 2023, LOWC co-hosted “A Phone of My Own: Sexual and Economic Empowerment in Times of Crisis”. Co-sponsors included Finland, Liberia, UNFPA, ACT Alliance, Act Church of Sweden, Bread for the World, Christian Aid, Dan Church Aid, Finn Church Aid, Lutheran World Federation, World Renew, Norwegian Church Aid, World Council of Churches, and World YWCA. Webcast can be accessed here when it is published.
Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA) – lutheranpublicpolicyca.org
Regina Banks, Director
Budget negotiations are in full swing in California right now as organizations are dealing with the near $23 billion state shortfall projected for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The Lutheran Office of Public Policy in California(LOPP-CA) is working on a variety of issues with our coalitions covering child poverty, hunger, affordable housing, environmental justice, and more.
Some key bills we’re supporting and tracking right now include AB 1128 (Santiago), which would remove age restrictions on a qualifying child for the Young Child Tax Credit, and AB 1498 (Gipson), which would create a minimum dollar amount available for the Earned Income Tax Credit. One environmental bill we’re following is the re-introduction of the Climate Corporate Leadership and Data Accountability Act, SB 253.
Upcoming events: Join LOPP-CA in celebrating the end of the ICE contract at Yuba County Jail on Sunday, March 19th at 1 pm outside the Yuba Co. jailhouse! LOPP-CA is co-sponsoring the event and helping with some transportation costs for families of former detainees to attend the event from the San Jose and Bay Areas. Register at: www.bit.ly/YubaClosure
Registration is also now open for our annual Lutheran Lobby Day! You’re invited to join us on Wednesday, May 17th from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm in Sacramento for a day of speakers, workshops, and legislative meetings on important state justice issues. Register here: https://lutheranpublicpolicyca.org/lutheran-lobby-day-2023
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado (LAM-CO) – lam-co.org
Peter Severson, Director
SUCCESSFUL DAY AT THE CAPITOL: Lutheran advocates joined together for our annual Day at the Capitol event on February 16. Participants engaged with Rep. Andrew Boesenecker (Fort Collins), a former ELCA pastor, and an advocacy leader from the Colorado Center on Law & Policy before moving to the Capitol to lobby for House Bill 1126 (see more below). Thanks to all who came!
LEGISLATIVE SESSION CONTINUES: The Colorado General Assembly has reached its halfway point of the session. Some of the important bills on the Lutheran Advocacy agenda are below:
HB 23-1126 – Consumer Reports Not Include Medical Debt Information (Reps. Naquetta Ricks & Ron Weinberg)
Prevents medical debt from appearing on credit reports, and prevents collection agencies from falsely asserting that medical debt will impact one’s credit score.
HB 23-1008 – Food Accessibility (Rep. Mike Weissman)
Transfers $1 million per year for the next 7 years to the Colorado Division of Prevention Services, directing the division to partner with a statewide nonprofit organization to provide healthy eating program incentives among Colorado’s low-income populations. One purpose of the program incentives is to increase access to fresh Colorado-grown produce among these populations.
HB 23-1186 – Remote Participation in Residential Evictions (Reps. Mandy Lindsay & Iman Jodeh)
For residential evictions filed in county court, the bill requires the court to allow either party or any witness to choose to appear in person or remotely at any proceedings.
You can see all the bills we’re working on at https://www.rmselca.org/CO_Bills_2023.
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New Mexico (LAM-NM) – lutheranadvocacynm.org
Kurt Rager, Director
1st Session of the 56th Legislature races toward the finish.
The New Mexico Legislature’s current 60-day session will come to an end at noon on March 18. Almost 1,300 pieces of legislation have been introduced. Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico (LAM-NM) has been tracking 90-plus bills, actively speaking in support or opposition to those identified as priority legislation through our 2023 Advocacy Agenda.
LAM-NM Advocacy Agenda legislation highlights:
Affordable Housing & Homelessness – Supporting legislation that would update landlord-tenant relations, for appropriations to the NM Housing Trust Fund, enabling it to greatly increase the building of low and affordable housing, and for funding of programs that can prevent and assist people experiencing homelessness.
Family-Sustaining Income – Supporting legislation that updates monthly TANF payment amounts, work exemptions and barriers to access, and for new SNAP transitional support and senior cost-of-living support.
Healthcare – Supporting legislation that would create Public Health and Climate Resiliency funds, that would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, that would increase Medicaid provider rate increases, legislation that supports rural healthcare options and staffing, and studying the feasibility of expanding Medicaid to all New Mexicans.
Hunger – Supporting legislation that would provide for healthy universal breakfast and lunch meals at schools, and for full funding of the Food Initiative.
Tax Policy – Supporting omnibus tax legislation that would revise personal income tax rates, reduce capital gains tax break, increase the state’s Child Tax Credit, cut the state’s GRT rate, and more.
Criminal Justice – Supporting legislation that would eliminate the sentencing option of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles, would revise court fines and fees, and would prohibit private prisons from detaining asylum seekers.
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org
Tracey DePasquale, Director
With more than $200 million a month in federal emergency food assistance about to expire in Pennsylvania, advocates invited lawmakers to learn about the growing rate of food insecurity and urged them to increase state supports in the face of a looming hunger cliff. Lutheran ministries were well represented at the Legislative Lunch and Learn, hosted by the Hunger Caucus and the Pa. Hunger Action Coalition.
Lutheran Advocacy Ministries in Pennsylvania(LAMPa) was on the road in February, marking a significant return to in-person events, starting with the delivery of quilt squares and site visit invitations to members of Congress from ELCA ministries in their districts with people experiencing homelessness. The invitations were a follow-up to the Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project held on the Capitol lawn in December. While in Washington, LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale participated in the Blessed Tomorrow summit for a faith-community campaign to hit 2030 climate targets.
Closer to home, DePasquale offered in-person presentations in Southwestern, Northeastern and Lower Susquehanna synods and attended the Pasa (Sustainable Agriculture) Conference.
In another welcome return, LAMPa and ecumenical partners marked the start of Lent by offering ashes-to-go in the state Capitol for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
LAMPa is looking forward to our first in-person Lutheran Day in the Capitol since 2019. The Rev. Dr. Roger Willer will keynote as we focus on a theme of Discipleship in a Democracy and progress on the new social statement.
LAMPa is searching for a full-time communications and advocacy engagement manager. Learn more.
Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org
Elise DeGooyer, Director
We passed the halfway point in the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session, scheduled to last until April 23. Faith Action Network(FAN)-supported safety net protections were the first bills to pass their houses of origin, including those addressing funding for food banks, free school meals for more children, and hunger-free campuses. Other bills on our agenda that we care greatly about are moving forward, providing fixes to the Working Families Tax Credit, increasing gun safety, and removing unconstitutional statues such as the death penalty from state law. Some bills we care about that would advance economic justice are not moving forward, like a Guaranteed Basic Income and Washington Future Fund. As we move toward April, legislators will also need to come to agreement on a two-year state budget. The hybrid session has allowed for committee testimony both in-person and virtually, enabling advocates to sign in Pro or Con on bills and provide written testimony—all positive outcomes of two years of online sessions.
FAN-supported gun responsibility bills were debated for many hours on the House floor before passage: One bill will require a comprehensive background check, safety training, and a 10-day waiting period to purchase a firearm in Washington. Another bill would ban the sale of assault weapons and prohibit the sale, manufacture, transport, and import (but not possession) of assault weapons.
FAN Governing Board members were also involved in local leadership towards passage of an ordinance to ban caste-based discrimination in the City of Seattle, the first city in the nation to do so.
Lutheran Office for Public Policy – Wisconsin (LOPPW) loppw.org
The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director
Wednesday Noon Live: We interviewed Julia Weibe, ELCA member and Bilingual FoodShare Outreach Specialist at Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. Extra benefits for FoodShare ended on the day of our interview. Hear about what this means, how public policies matter, and about Julia’s personal story and faith journey.
Advocacy, Training, and Preparations: We advocated on driver’s licenses for undocumented Wisconsinites. Wisconsin Representative James Sensenbrenner introduced the Real ID Act in 2005. But it was a state law passed in 2007 that prevented undocumented people from obtaining licenses. There is more movement now than in many years to restore licenses for our undocumented neighbors; farmers are among the most vocal advocates.
We spoke to legislators about returning 17 year old youth to the juvenile justice system. Wisconsin is one of three states still defaulting 17-year-olds to the adult court system, and the other two, Georgia and Texas, have proposed legislation to change that in their legislative hoppers.
In addition, we advocated on two anti-sex trafficking bills, and in the state budget, funding to support Focus on Energy and addressing the problem of PFAs in water.
LOPPW led two workshops, one on why we advocate as people of faith and another on how to advocate at a Northwest Synod of Wisconsin Event.
We continued planning for our Day of Advocacy: Hunger, Climate & Water with our partner, Faith in Place, and our Youth Advocacy Retreat with leaders from synods around Wisconsin and the UP.