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Q&A: The most important legislative issues Colorado Catholics should keep an eye on this year

While political involvement on a national level gets more attention, it’s important to be aware of how the Catholic community can get involved on a state level with this year’s upcoming legislative issues.

For the Catholic community in Colorado especially, one major concern is the End-of-Life Options Act (Prop 106), which legalizes assisted suicide in the state, and what the next steps are. While it’s not a legislative issue, its implementation is a major concern, as are the long-term effects of what it means for our state and culture overall.

Jennifer Kraska, the executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference and president of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors (NASCCD), shared her thoughts on the implementation of End-of-Life Options Act and this year’s most important legislative issues for the state.

Denver Catholic: One major concern post-election is the legalization of assisted suicide. What do you think its implementation will look like regarding Catholic healthcare providers and the state overall?

Jennifer Kraska: The law officially went into effect in December. In terms of implementation regarding Catholic healthcare providers, we’ve already witnessed a policy statement from the Sisters of Charity, Leavenworth (SCL), stating that their facilities have opted out of participating in assisted suicide, and if patients request a prescription for assisted suicide, they’ll be offered the opportunity to transfer to another facility of their choosing. I fully expect that there will be a similar opt-out policies implemented at Catholic healthcare facilities around the state.

DC: What other major issues will legislature face this year? Is there anything Catholics should especially be aware of?

JK: Two issues of importance to the Catholic community that will arise this session are bills concerning a tax credit for educational scholarship granting organizations (i.e., Seeds of Hope) and legislation that seeks to repeal the death penalty in Colorado.

DC: How would you characterize the atmosphere at the State Capitol going into the 2017 session?

JK: I would say there is an atmosphere of anticipation, mainly in anticipation about what will happen at the federal level and how those federal decisions/policies will trickle down to the state level. There is also an atmosphere of understanding that we are operating with a divided government at the state level, and if things are going to get done, there will need to be real efforts, on the part of both parties, to reach across the aisle.

DC: Is there anything you think Catholics should remember or focus on post-election?

JK: There are many people, including Catholics, on both sides of the political aisle that are either happy or disappointed about the outcome of our national elections. I would say there is a third group of people that are uncertain about what the outcome of the presidential election will mean for them and their families. First and foremost, we must remember to keep all our elected officials in our prayers. Second, we must remain vigilant, which means we help our elected officials do the right thing, and when they don’t, we must respectfully express our resistance.

DC: How can people get involved?

JK: I would encourage people to sign up to receive the Colorado Catholic Conference’s Action Alerts via email: http://www.cocatholicconference.org/voter-voice/?vvsrc=%2fregister. I would also urge people to visit the State Capitol, attend an elected official’s town hall meeting and most importantly, make sure you are registered to vote.

For more information on the Colorado Catholic Conference, visit http://cocatholiconference.org/.

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