2013 Legislative session
issues and updates
Sanctity of Life Unity Day and the 2013 Legislature
By Allen Sánchez, Executive Director, New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops
Jesus has made His church the Herald of Good News. The bishops of New Mexico take the Gospel values to the public square by teaching all public and policy makers. We are reminded there are two processes in the public square; one is the political process which is the elevating of candidates to elected office. The bishops don’t participate in the political process. The second is the legislative process, which is the surfacing of crucial policy. These proposed laws are called bills and once passed become laws. The bishops do participate in the legislative process of policy making by giving ethical or moral reason to the passage or failure of “bills”. Churches in our country are permitted to give input to the value of a proposed law. Of course, the bishops cannot impose but rather propose in the form of public comment. In the legislative process there is a time during hiring to give public comment as all citizens and organizations are guaranteed the right to free speech.
As in the past, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops (NMCCB) has a legislative agenda created by the unanimous support of all three bishops: Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, Archbishop of Santa Fe; Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, Bishop of Las Cruces; and Bishop James Wall, Bishop of Gallup. The NMCCB will be studying the pro-life legislation introduced in the 2013 session, and supporting pro-life legislation. There is growing support among legislatures for “parental notification for a minor to have an abortion”. It is the law of New Mexico that a young girl can be taken by a non-relative for an abortion and parents never know. This law needs to be changed. The bishops will continue to support “Invest in Kids Now” legislation which is a constitutional amendment to expand the formula that funds education to include early childhood programs. The legislators are asked to determine if this funding of early childhood programs is worthy of a public debate and place the constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot for voters to decide. A poll by Brian Sanderoff showed an 80% support by New Mexicans.
Many times the work of the bishops to teach the Gospel is counter cultural. The Gospel, many times, is counter cultural. The bishops support a compromise bill to strengthen the driver’s license law that makes issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants legal. The proposed law would strengthen proof of identity, strengthen proof of residency, require more frequent renewals, and tougher penalties for fraud.
Catholics can listen to Catholic Radio for legislative updates on the Archbishop’s Hour. On January 16 the bishops will be celebrating Mass at 12:00 noon for the Sanctity of Life Unity Day. After Mass, there will be a march to the State Capital for a rally. Please join the bishops in this wonderful endeavor.