Catholic advocates determined Legislature will hear them
SACRAMENTO — Isabel Lara may have been a newcomer to Catholic Advocacy Day, but she had all the right moves.
That one picture may have been worth the proverbial 1,000 words in that moment.
Lara was one of eight people from the Diocese of Oakland, who joined 80 others from dioceses across the state of California, on April 25 for Catholic Advocacy Day.
In the halls of the state Capitol, they may have been jostled by larger groups with printed T-shirts for the occasion and professional lobbyists from nonprofits and for-profits vying for attention during a hectic week for the time and attention from lawmakers. Many of the lawmakers were busy in hearings in committee rooms — their presence beamed on television and computer screens throughout the building. But the band of advocates, armed with materials prepared by the California Catholic Conference, the Sacramento-based lobbying group for the Catholic bishops, were determined to be heard.
The work of meeting with the advocates-for-the-day fell to legislative staff, in some cases a graduate student who serves as an Assembly or Senate fellow. The meetings were brief — 15 to 30 minutes, at best — and cordial.
More than once during the slog through the Capitol, the Catholic participants must have recalled the words of Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, who preached patience, during a morning prayer service in the hall beneath Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, a couple of blocks from the Capitol.
"Patience, for us, should not be a weakness, but a strength," he said.
Joined by Bishop Richard Garcia of Monterey, Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, and Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, Bishop Soto blessed the attendees before they headed to the Capitol.
Catholic Advocacy Day focused on issues involving children. The Catholic groups were lobbying for passage of six bills involving lifting children out of poverty; education, particularly for children of deported parents and juvenile offenders; housing for homeless youth; and tax breaks for new teachers. They were opposing a bill regarding providing medical abortions on college campuses.
Before heading out to their pre-arranged meetings with legislators, or to attend legislative committee meetings, the advocates gathered around tables in the cathedral hall to review their notes and plan strategy.
In an early-afternoon meeting with Assembly Fellow Annalee Akin, the aide to Assemblywoman Baker, the small contingent found themselves with an eager listener.
Constituent Gwen Watson expressed her thanks for Baker's participation in bipartisan town halls with state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda.
Watson, a parishioner at Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill, settled into a methodical, and heartfelt, discussion of the bills before the Legislature.
She called one bill "a no-brainer."
Akin told the group about some legislation the assemblywoman is sponsoring, including bills helping to protect victims of human trafficking, and to allow victims to testify by video.
The Diocese of Oakland and Catholic Charities of the East Bay, at the request of Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, plan to open a residence for young women who had been victims of sex trafficking.
Watson also reported that in a late-afternoon meeting with an aide to Glazer, the aide was able to tell her group how the senator might vote on each bill, based on his priorities.
Glazer returned from a committee meeting and greeted the group. Watson said she was able to tell him how much she appreciated the bipartisan town hall meetings in the district.
Watson said the day provided "an opportunity to bring my faith and my citizenship duties together to help the common good. Pope Francis asks us to do that.
"And I loved the team work that went into our visit: Each person had an expertise that added to the depth of our appeal."
At the office of state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, St. Columba parishioner Meg Bowerman told Senate Fellow Mariah Watson about the Catholic group's position on the bills.
When asked what bills Skinner is sponsoring that would be of interest to the Catholic group, Watson mentioned two housing bills, and two bills that address hunger issues. SB 782 provides for California-grown food for California school children; SB 675 would provide a pilot program to allow use of EBT cards to purchase food online.
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