By Gianna Bonello
Central Minnesota Catholic
With the start of the 2023 Minnesota legislative session Jan. 3, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is putting families at the top of its advocacy strategy for the year.
|Ryan Hamilton, government relations associate, and Maggee Hangge, policy and public relations associate, work together at MCC’s new office, just across from the Minnesota State Capitol. (Photo by Gianna Bonello / The Central Minnesota Catholic)|
“Oftentimes in the public arena, we’re stuck dealing with the downstream challenges of family fragmentation, poverty, addiction. … We thought it would be prudent to think about going upstream in the policy ecosystem and think about, how do we promote and strengthen the well-being of families?” said Jason Adkins, executive director of MCC.
In addition, with the push from some legislators to remove limitations on abortion, Adkins also stressed that “if we’re going to have a permissive abortion policy in Minnesota, we also want to make Minnesota the best place to have a child, raise a child, and help that child flourish.”
In light of this goal, MCC will promote a “Families First” agenda — a series of bills and policies that seeks to put families first by promoting the economic and holistic prosperity of families.
“We want to lower barriers to family formation and having a child,” Adkins said.
To date, there are 13 different policy proposals as part of the Families First Project. Among them are a “lifetime state income tax exemption for women who have four or more children,” a “Minnesota Minivan Act,” which would create a grant program to offer $5,000 to families with three or more children to buy a larger vehicle, and a “paid caregiver leave policy.”
The centerpiece, Adkins said, is the child tax credit, which is a fully refundable per-child tax credit that would offer $1,200 to $1,800 a year.
“We think it’s a matter of what we call tax justice and tax fairness to families,” he said.
Adkins said the Families First Project “transcends” both partisan and ecclesial divides.
“It can both strengthen families … and encourage family formation and childbearing, but it also can help economically support those most disadvantaged,” he said. “It’s tailored toward low- and middle-income families,” he said.
Adkins believes the Project can give Catholics a cause to rally around. He stressed the importance of the family as the building block of society and a mirror of the Trinity.
“We’ll be focusing on about five or six [proposals] from the standpoint of our staff this session, but we’ll also be encouraging Catholics and giving them the tools on our website to advocate for these bills themselves,” Adkins said.
He noted the Catholic call to faithful citizenship, saying the tools MCC provides are not just advocacy resources, but catechetical tools as well.
“We want to help Catholics understand how Catholic social teaching applies in a variety of contexts,” he said.
Achieving the goals of the Family First initiative will take time. MCC hopes to get the majority of bills for the Families First Project passed by the end of the 2026 legislative session.
Adkins encouraged Catholics to join and rally for the cause. As faithful citizens, it’s not just about showing up to vote every couple of years, but about being an “advocate for policies that impact human dignity and the common good,” he said.
“Pick a policy, educate yourself about it and the potential impact; we give you the tools on the website, and then go talk to your legislator,” he said.
This could be done through parish groups, such as a respect life committee or social concerns group. He said the project is “a powerful opportunity to come together and advocate for good legislation.”
Other issues that the Minnesota Catholic Conference will be monitoring in 2023: