LAMPa Sets 2013-14 Advocacy Agenda

LAMPa Mission Statement: In response to God’s love in Jesus Christ, we advocate for wise and just public policies in Pennsylvania that promote the common good.

“The witness of this church in society flows from its identity as a community that lives from and for the gospel. Faith is active in love; love calls for justice in the relationships and structures of society. It is in grateful response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ that this church carries out its responsibility for the well-being of society and the environment.” (ELCA Church in Society Social Statement).

LAMPa advocates speak to state public policy makers, working towards long term change, preservation of human dignity and promote the common good by addressing issues as they come before the Pennsylvania General Assembly. As they do so, LAMPa advocates will build the capacity of this church for evangelical witness and service in the world to alleviate poverty and to work for justice and peace.

1. Hunger

a. Expansion of School Breakfast Program in Pennsylvania

Currently only 42.6% of PA students eligible for free or reduced price lunches are receiving school breakfast. This score card places PA school breakfast participation at 36th in the nation. School breakfasts are a proven method to combat hunger, improve children’s health and foster educational achievement, and Pennsylvania is forfeiting federal funds by not maximizing participation in the program. Anti-hunger organizations can play a crucial role in advocating strongly for improvements in the school breakfast program, bringing successful strategies to the attention of community groups and state-level stakeholders who want and building coalitions to work for school breakfast expansion.

Goals: More children in the state receiving adequate nutrition on school days. Lutheran congregations stepping forward as public leaders, better connected in their community and equipped to be hunger advocates in the future.

b. Preserve Funding for State Food Purchase Program

The State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) provides grants to all 67 counties for the purchase of foods and nutritional supplements, for critical transportation and infrastructure needs, and to cover the charges associated with accessing federal food commodities worth millions. It is an essential tool for Pennsylvania’s food banks and food pantries in the effort to provide for our most vulnerable citizens.

Goals: Strong funding for SFPP in 2013-14. Building LAMPa network capacity in hunger-related advocacy

2. Poverty

a. . Cliff Effect Minimization Bill

The “cliff effect” is the support program drop off families face when a small wage increase makes them ineligible for work supports (such as child care). The sudden elimination of such supports can endanger or derail a low income family’s pathway out of poverty. This bill, introduced last session by Sen. McIllhinney (R-Bucks), would
taper off benefits as earning power increases and increase the asset limitation for work support programs. The bill as written last session also asks the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study current state practices within several Departments which promote poverty reduction and to develop an integrated, comprehensive plan to mitigate the “cliff effect”.

Goals: Passage of this bill and support for families working their way out of poverty. Education in the LAMPa network about work support programs in PA

b. Halt Predatory Lending

Strong efforts to halt legalized predatory loans resulted in halting the Payday lending bill in 2012, but Payday are redoubling efforts to pass legislation in the new session. Legalized payday loans “are like throwing gasoline on a fire” and negatively impact people in poverty, most often driving them further into debt and farther from self-sufficiency. LAMPa will work in coalition with the Stop Predatory Payday Loans in PA network to defeat the bill again.

3. Health Care – Medicaid Expansion

LAMPa is working through the PA Health Access Network to urge the Corbett Administration to accept an expanded Medicaid as part of ACA implementation in the state. LAMPa drafted a sign-on letter that garnered over 60 organizational signatures in support.
Goal: Pennsylvania participation in expanding Medicaid, resulting in over 500,000 new people insured

4. Affordable Housing – Funding for the State Housing Trust Fund

This long-term campaign (3 years) will build on the housing successes of the last year by seeking funding sources for the State Housing Trust Fund, also known as the PA Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement act (PHARE). PHARE was established in December 2010 as the result of a five year campaign, but without any funding. The passage of the Marcellus Shale impact fee in 2012 directed revenue from the 30+ county-levied drilling fees into the fund. In its first year PHARE has generated $9.2M to address homelessness and housing issues for those counties. Building on the success of this initiative, this campaign will set a 3-year goal to generate $25M in new dollars to address homelessness and rental housing in the rest of the state where the needs are equally pressing. It will be conducted in coordination with the Housing Alliance of PA and a coalition of other organizations.

Goal: Increased low income housing and homeless prevention opportunities in PA, an economy stimulated by economic investment in construction and local businesses

5. Immigration
Continue to monitor and oppose anti-immigrant legislation.

6. Care for Creation
Endorse and participate in the Campaign to Stop Drilling in Pennsylvania State Parks. The campaign seeks to preserve the original intent of our parks as areas set aside exclusively for public recreation and a resource paid for by taxpayers. The campaign would seek special protections for all of our public lands. Already 700,000 acres of the Commonwealth’s forestland is under lease. It will establish that the DEP should not grant any permit to drill in or within 300 feet of a park without requiring special additional protections to protect our parks. The campaign also seeks a special impact fee on drilling and pipelines within our parks – “right-sizing” the fees to properly value the parks, and to discourage drillers. If natural gas and other resources are taken from public park lands, the revenues generated should be reinvested in the conservation and restoration of the Commonwealth’s natural and recreational resources.

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