Introduction:

The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops recently completed their work during the 2024 legislative session. The LCCB followed a process of discernment, reflection, and prayer through the lens of catholic social teaching.

 

The Life and Dignity of the Human Person:

Life is sacred from conception to natural death and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision of the society.

  • The session had as one of our priorities to improve maternal health outcomes. We were able to pass the Louisiana Baby and Pregnancy Care Act and legislation to improve Medicaid coverage for post-partum depression.
  • We continued to work on addressing human trafficking in the State by supporting Act 132 which will require CDL drivers to have an educational unit on signs of trafficking on Interstate Highways and truck stops.
  •  We were able to protect our strong prolife laws which includes no exceptions for rape and incest. In addition, we supported legislation that passed that offered counseling to victims of rape and incest through Medicaid.
  • Although IVF is legal, we tried to protect the life of the embryo, since in Louisiana you can send the embryo out of State. We opposed increasing legal protections for IVF providers (and IVF outright) and supported the amendment to keep the embryos in the State. At that point, the bill author pulled the bill so they can still send embryos out of State with an undermined future.

 

  • LCCB had specific legislation to assist parents when faced with a life-limiting diagnosis of their unborn child. It is legal to have abortions under twenty-six conditions. We worked with the Converging Roads Medical Ethics Conference and the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and assisted by La. Right to Life, crafted legislation SB 325/Act 332 that provides information to parents about services and how to apply for benefits.

 

  • We testified on SB 430 that would end the use of Nitrogen Hypoxia as a means of execution, but this failed. Several nitrogen manufacturers have stated that their product could not be used for this purpose.

 

  • We opposed surgical castration, but it passed Act 651. This is an affront to our teaching in medical ethics, and this includes women, and not effective to prevent sexual violence.

 

  • We testified on concealed carry legislation that was overturned. We were at the table with NOPD on a final effort to carve out the French Quarter, to prohibit concealed carry, but did not happen.

 

  • We supported SB 509 to create a strategy to address gun violence in communities but got turned into a Study Resolution to address as a public health concern. We advocated to keep funding for domestic violence shelters and seven million was allocated.

The Call to Family, Community and Participation

Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened. Also, parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children.

 

  • We worked with La. Right to Life and the Adoptions Awareness Act which would have created an office within DCFS to address adoption, but this got watered down. There was funding however for Therapeutic Foster Care beds with DCFS.

 

  • We tried to propose a study resolution to improve adoptions on all levels, but this was not accomplished. Stephanie Sterling, with Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge, provided an excellent study resolution document that we will continue to work with DCFS to improve. Adoptions are decreasing.

 

  • Parental Choice in Education through SB 313/Act 1 was a major focus of this session. A framework passed that gives Catholic Schools freedom in autonomy of admissions and what test to use. However, there is no new funding, and this will be a continual effort to align with Catholic social teaching.

 

  • In terms of non-public school funding, the funding for Required Services and School Lunch Salary Supplement remained at prior year levels.

 

  • We supported a small pilot on mental health with returning citizens in Tangipahoa Parish by Rep. Muscarello. In addition, as USCCB has the Mental Health Campaign, LCCB supported legislation that would increase Medicaid rates for counseling, study all the mental health services in the area, provide easier access to treatment and better understand the high African American Suicide rates.

 

  • There were voting registration bills that passed that are concerning in the way they portray a narrative of a compromised election process; voter registration drives and access by the elderly.

 

  • We were not successful in defeating anti-immigration sanctuary city legislation (Act 314) and unlawful entry state legislation (Act 670). The unlawful entry is an overreach by the State. None of the local law enforcement agencies supported nor opposed it. We worked with the Texas Catholic Conference and the Florida Catholic Conference who opposed these bills copied from their States. After LCCB testified in opposition, it was stated that these bills were unconstitutional, unimplementable and glad we testified and that more compassion is needed. However, this passed.

 

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

 

  • We worked in a collaborative fashion to regain funding for the Summer Food Program. LCCB wrote a letter to the Governor and worked collaboratively and so far, it is within the budget.

 

  • Our major priority was to address poverty. We revised Act 581 to streamline council members and put into statute that the State must address poverty, produce plans, and seek funding. We worked together with the Department of Children and Family Services who will facilitate the Empowering Families to Live Well Council.

 

Solidarity in Restorative Justice

We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be.

 

  • There was a series of roll backs of the 2017 Criminal Justice Reforms in the recent 2024 Special Crime Session. This continued in the General Session including putting more juveniles in jail and building more prisons.

 

  • We did support and passed the Youth Back on Track Act 435 legislation and legislation for expungement improvements.

The Dignity of Work and the Right of Workers

If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.

 We were not able to raise the minimum wage. We lost, but testified and floor noted, the bill that removes basic child labor law protections. We did get an amendment to still have meal breaks for those under sixteen years old.

  • We were successful in defeating an unprecedented attack on public unions. Through a coordinated strategy where LCCB testified, floor noted and provided formation to Catholic legislators on the tradition of the Church and Labor, these anti-union bills were defeated.

Care for God’s Creation

  • We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. It is a requirement of our faith.
  •  We were unsuccessful in stopping legislation that lessens the impact of grass roots environmental groups to send field data on toxic releases to DEQ. They can ignore them.
  • The fortified roof program was refunded and addressed some of the issues with discounts and access issues by the less resourced families that were in the first round of funding.
  • We did support a sustainable energy bill that would dedicate offshore revenues from wind and solar to Coastal Protection.

 

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