By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 9, 2014
ATLANTA—It’s expected to be a shortened legislative session at the Georgia Statehouse, according to the Catholic bishops’ lobbyist, as lawmakers will turn their attention to the fall election.
Frank Mulcahy is the executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Savannah Diocese and the Atlanta Archdiocese. He spoke recently about the upcoming legislative session.
The 2014 legislative session will begin Monday, Jan. 13. Elections are in November. Mulcahy expects the lawmakers to make quick work once the gavel falls to reopen the legislative session and then depart to hit the campaign trail.
Here are three items he will be following and supporting:
Revising Georgia law to prohibit abortion services in the Georgia health insurance exchange. Mulcahy said federal law empowers states’ lawmakers to make changes to the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange. A draft policy written by the Americans United for Life is a good blueprint to restrict abortion coverage in the state exchanges, he said. The federal Affordable Care Act allows states to prohibit insurers offering abortion coverage from state insurance exchanges and the Georgia Catholic Conference is seeking legislation that will make that prohibition effective in Georgia, he said.
Student scholarship organizations’ tax credits should be upped “closer to demand.” Some $58 million in credits has been set aside for this program in Georgia, but it is so popular the tax credits are claimed early in the year. Last year all the credits were claimed by May. Previous changes to the law addressed troublesome practices among some organizations. The more parents see how the program works, the harder it is for lawmakers to take the program away, he said. The support for SSOs and other school choice issues is based on the right of families to educate their children in accordance with their consciences, Mulcahy said.
Rewriting gun control laws should continue to be done very carefully, especially as it relates to guns in churches, he said. Leaders from Catholic and Protestant churches and other houses of worship have objected to any law that empowers gun owners to bring firearms into a religious building over the objections of religious leaders, Mulcahy said. Leaders believe changing the law could put vulnerable people at risk, he said. The bishops’ moral stance regarding gun control is based on right to life, human dignity, peace and justice, he said.
Catholic Day at the Capitol is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11, starting at 9 a.m. More information and a registration form will be posted on the Atlanta Archdiocese’s website in the next few weeks. Participants are asked to register, but there is no fee.