LAMPa Policy Council Sets 2021 Priorities
LAMPa’s policy council met virtually on Dec. 3, 2021, and approved the following policy priorities for 2021. They are based on the experience of our ministries, guided by ELCA Social Statements and LAMPa’s mission: “In response to God’s love in Jesus Christ, we advocate for wise and just policies in Pennsylvania that promote the common good.”
LAMPa will work with Lutheran Disaster Response as well as congregational, synodical and social ministry partners, to ensure that state and federal emergency feeding funds reach those in most need. LAMPa will also provide information about relief and volunteer needs as opportunities for ministry.
IMPROVE ACCESS TO HEALTHY, AFFORDABLE FOOD
State Food Purchase Program Funding
The PA Department of Agriculture’s State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) is the Commonwealth’s most significant source of support for the efforts of Pennsylvania food banks, and other providers of essential nutritional assistance, including our congregational and community food pantries . SFPP has made it possible for these providers to acquire and distribute food in all 67 counties. LAMPa will work with food banks and other hunger advocates for strong funding for SFPP.
Promoting Fresh, Local Food Systems
LAMPa will work with synods and congregations to provide education, resource development and advocacy on how to get fresh foods to local communities. Campaigns may include development of advocacy on use of SNAP benefits, building local food policy councils, support for farm-to-school or farm-to-food bank programs, community gardening and eliminating food waste. This includes supporting continued adequate funding for the Pennsylvania Agriculture Surplus System – PASS.
Improving School Breakfast Participation and Expanding Summer Feeding
LAMPa will continue to equip congregations to press for improvements to school breakfast programs in their communities, as well as raise the visibility of the effectiveness of school breakfast at the state level. In addition, LAMPa will assist congregations and hunger leaders in establishing summer feeding programs for children in high-need underserved areas.
PROTECTING ALL OF CREATION, ESPECIALLY THE MOST VULNERABLE
Addressing Climate Change
LAMPa will work to promote emissions standards to mitigate climate change, including equipping congregations to make sound choices regarding their own practices, such as energy consumption. This includes working to secure funds to adequately monitor and regulate such emissions as well as promoting investment in sustainable infrastructure, energy efficiency and development of clean sources of energy. In this work, LAMPa will encourage sustainable development across Pennsylvania, but particularly in areas whose economies currently depend upon fossil fuel extraction or processing, and support efforts to create resiliency among the most vulnerable populations – frequently of low-income and Black and Latinx communities — who face the brunt of the effects of climate change here and around the globe.
Protecting Clean Air, Water and Land
LAMPa will work to protect the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink by advocating for adequate funding for agencies charged with enforcing and promoting those protections as well as assistance for landowners attempting to prevent or mitigate pollution. We will also work to prevent rollbacks in regulations that would threaten health and safety.
LAMPa will encourage economic development in Pennsylvania that is sustainable for all of creation, including workers and those who depend upon them. High-quality internet access for all Pennsylvanians will be a priority in this and other policy areas.
Conservation of Public Lands
LAMPa will oppose degradation or diminishment of the health of public lands such as state parks and forests.
POVERTY — PROMOTE HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL STABILITY
Oppose Predatory Payday Lending
Payday loans are a predatory product that charge triple-digit interest rates and entice borrowers into a debt trap. LAMPa will continue to oppose any efforts to introduce predatory payday lending and the weakening of Pennsylvania’s strong consumer protection laws.
Safeguard Benefits and Access to Benefits
Safety net programs such as SNAP, WIC, energy assistance and others lift thousands of families out of poverty. While working to encourage program efficiency and maximum participation of those eligible, LAMPa will remain vigilant to attempts to cut such safeguards or create costly hurdles for our most vulnerable neighbors.
LAMPa will work to direct resources toward prevention of homelessness, in addition to emergency shelter and crisis health care, encouraging inter-agency cooperation to support individuals and families so that they do not lose their homes, and to quickly locate people back into housing instead of temporary shelter. LAMPa will work with ministries to raise the voices of those who are at risk or experiencing homelessness and to eliminate barriers to safe, affordable housing. Access to affordable housing is a primary hurdle for victims of domestic violence seeking to flee an abuser, and homelessness is considered a significant factor in both a child’s academic performance and likelihood that they will experience sexual abuse.
Increase the Minimum Wage
LAMPa will support an increase in the minimum wage in Pennsylvania that will take into account the impact on nonprofit organizations, including: phasing in to lessen the impact of increased costs on our social service safety net; that new revenues be earmarked to increase reimbursement to help lessen the impact of wage increases and a formula that ties future increases of the minimum wage to an annual wage index.
LAMPa will continue to work to strengthen laws to prevent human trafficking and protect and restore those who have been trafficked.
Improve Educational Outcomes for Pennsylvania Students
Educating our children is a collective imperative that has positive social and economic benefits. Every public school must have the resources necessary to enable every child to meet state academic standards, be prepared for post-secondary success, and become productive, knowledgeable, and engaged adults. This includes internet access. LAMPa will work to ensure that Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding public education – one that makes immediate and significant strides toward undoing the harms of systemic racism.
EXPAND AND SAFEGUARD ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE
LAMPa will continue to focus on ensuring that all Pennsylvanians have access to high-quality, affordable health care. This work will have a particular focus on reducing racial disparities in both access to care and in health outcomes. In concert with partners in Pennsylvania and in our DC Advocacy Office, LAMPa will continue to press for more transparent affordable coverage; continue to advocate for legislation eliminating “surprise” medical bills; advocate for affordable prescription drugs.
Mental Health Treatment
LAMPa will work for greater funding and access to effective mental health treatment, beginning with trauma-responsive education in schools and trauma-responsive court systems that begin to unwind the unjust, costly, ineffective and frequently racially biased practices that promote mass incarceration. We will work for policies that provide mental health responders in lieu of or in addition to police when appropriate.
This work will also continue the momentum for addressing the opioid epidemic and seek to broaden the understanding of policymakers to attack underlying causes of drug use, such as poverty and hopelessness. LAMPa, along with partners, will continue to explore avenues to improve mental health treatment options. This has added urgency across all demographics in wake of the traumas caused by COVID.
Reducing Hate Crime
Incidences of reported hate crimes are at their highest level in decades. LAMPa will work within the Pa. Coalition Against Hate to update Pennsylvania’s hate crime laws for uniformity, extend protections to threatened communities, and give law enforcement the tools it needs to prevent and address hate crimes across the commonwealth, including education for rehabilitation of perpetrators.
Prohibiting LGBT Discrimination
It is currently legal in Pennsylvania to discriminate against persons in employment, housing, and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. LAMPa will support legislation that ends that discrimination.
Safeguarding the Right to Vote
Gerrymandering and overwhelmed voting systems not only threaten the right of each individual to have his or her vote counted equally, but also contribute to an inability to effectively govern by reducing public confidence in the legitimacy of elections. In order that government may effectively serve the public good, LAMPa will support measures that safeguard suffrage.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
LAMPa will support reforms that reduce mass incarceration, curb solitary confinement, and lead to healthy and lasting re-entry into communities and families for those who have been incarcerated.
To improve transparency and trust in policing, LAMPa will work toward legislation requiring demographic data collection in pedestrian and traffic stops and transparency in reporting of use of force by police that results in death or serious injury. In addition, LAMPa will support policies requiring police departments to post online a use-of-force policy and restrict the use of chokeholds. We will work for policies that provide mental health responders in lieu of or in addition to police when appropriate.
LAMPa will help congregations create welcoming communities and oppose legislation that would target immigrants for unjust treatment or seek to deny refugee resettlement efforts. This includes legislation that would force local municipalities to use their own resources to assist Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, thereby threatening trust between local law enforcement and their communities. Such practices tend to decrease public safety. LAMPa will advocate for drivers’ licenses for all who qualify, regardless of citizenship status, as a way of combatting poverty as well as promoting safety and security on our roadways and in our communities.
LAMPa will work to advance Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) legislation, also known as “red flag” laws, allow family and police to petition judges to temporarily confiscate firearms from a person at risk of harming himself or others. That person would get an expedited hearing before a judge and could have their firearms seized for three months to a year. The legislation would grant police a search warrant to take a person’s guns if there is probable cause they haven’t been relinquished.