Priority Issues for 2015 - DRAFT
Family Economic Security
-- Child Care Assistance for More Families
About 8,000 eligible Minnesota families are on waiting lists to receive child care assistance because the state’s appropriation is capped and insufficient. We support increased funding for the Child Care Assistance Program to support working parents and to provide greater employment options for families. Access to stable, quality child care means more children in economically stressed households can spend their earliest years in stable, nurturing environments where they learn, thrive, and prepare for success in school. Expanding child care assistance is one of the key recommendations of the Final Report of the Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020. (See JRLC’s No Poor Among You, 2010.)
-- Payday Lending Reform
We support legislation that protects consumers from predatory payday lending practices. Current law includes loopholes that allow much of the payday loan industry to bypass regulations on these small, short-term loans. Basic consumer protections and underwriting standards are missing, very often resulting in repeat-cycle “debt trap” lending. It is not unusual to see borrowers paying fees and interest that amount to 400%, or even higher, for many months or whole years. JRLC will negotiate in good faith with lenders and other stakeholders to provide consumer protection in this area. (See JRLC’s Payday Lending in Minnesota, 2013.)
-- Expand Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits
We support tax credits that allow families to care for their children and loved ones while maintaining financial self-sufficiency. Expanding refundable, family-friendly tax credits can lift families out of poverty, reward work, make regressive tax burdens less onerous, and improve families’ ability to secure caregiving services. (See JRLC’s No Poor Among You, 2010.)
Impartial Courts in Minnesota
JRLC supports passage of the Impartial Judiciary Act and a subsequent constitutional amendment ballot question in the 2016 general election in order to reform our system of appointing and electing judges in Minnesota. (See JRLC’s Selecting Impartial Judges, 2008.)
The Impartial Judiciary Act and the constitutional amendment would:
- Mandate a merit selection system to be used by the Governor for initial appointments to all levels of the state courts;
- Institute performance evaluations of all judges by a public evaluation commission;
- Institute retention elections, rather than contested elections, at the end of each judge’s term of service.
The US Supreme Court and federal appellate courts have made rulings in the past decade (see the White and Citizens United decisions) that have opened the door to highly partisan judicial elections funded by large amounts of special interest campaign contributions. JRLC issued its policy paper in 2008 following similar reports and recommendations made by the Quie Commission, the League of Women Voters, and the Minnesota Bar Association, all calling for a judicial election reform based on merit selection, public evaluation, and retention elections.
Human Trafficking Victims’ Services
JRLC supports funding for services that address the needs of trafficking victims including case management, housing, health care, language interpretation, and legal services. Especially needed are safe housing opportunities to ensure the safety and recovery of victims. The Safe Harbors legislation has begun the process of funding a statewide network of victim services; increased appropriations are needed to build the network statewide. (See JRLC’s Human Trafficking in Minnesota: A Violation of Human Dignity, 2012.)
Restore the Vote
JRLC supports the restoration of voting rights for persons with felony convictions upon return to the community. Current law restores voting rights only after all probation and parole periods are completed. (See JRLC’s Felon Voting Rights, 2008.)
JRLC will continue to oppose the state increasing its reliance on gambling revenues. Specifically we oppose the Minnesota Lottery’s efforts to expand into Internet gambling (See JRLC's No Expansion of State-Authorized Gambling, 2005).
JRLC supports the creation of a Legislative Commission to study surrogacy. Commercial surrogacy is the process in which an individual or couple pays a fee to a woman in exchange for her carrying and delivering a baby. At birth, or shortly after, the child is turned over to the individual or couple. Legislation to legally enforce contracts and regulate surrogacy has been proposed in several states, including Minnesota. Commercial surrogacy raises many complex legal, bio-ethical, and moral issues that would best be explored by a commission before legislation is acted upon. New York and New Jersey established similar commissions, as did the Canadian Parliament.
JRLC is drafting a new issue paper on eco-justice, climate change, and sustainable energy policy and will continue to support efforts to develop green jobs and renewable energy production in keeping with general principles stated in past issue papers (See JRLC’s Compilation of JRLC Positions on Ecology)
JRLC will monitor proposed improvements to the child protection system and report to our Sponsors’ faith communities new policies and procedures that are being considered or implemented.