Policy Council Adopts 2017-2019 Agenda
LAMPa’s Policy Council has adopted a two-year issue agenda that puts hunger and its underlying causes at the top of its list of priorities. The action was taken by the Policy Council following its annual meeting with Pennsylvania Bishops in December, and builds upon the discernment and visioning work undertaken at a September retreat, which also included Directors of Evangelical Mission and other Lutheran partners from each of Pennsylvania’s seven ELCA synods. It reflects ongoing ministries of Lutheran congregations and organizations around the state as well as prayerful consideration of what we are called to name in our life as public church in Pennsylvania. Learn more about the basis for our advocacy agenda.
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, community food pantries and other providers of essential nutritional assistance. 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.
Creating 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 and community gardening. This includes supporting continued adequate funding for the Pennsylvania Agriculture Surplus System – PASS.
Improving School Breakfast Participation
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 through a partnership with the Pa. Hunger Coalition and the Office of the First Lady.
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. LAMPa will work with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding to ensure that Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding public education.
Because a child’s brain is 90 percent developed by age 5, investments in education must start early, before the achievement gap is too wide and very costly to overcome. LAMPa will work to expand access to high-quality pre-k programs for all 3- and 4-year-olds in Pennsylvania. Currently, only 30 percent of that age group in Pennsylvania is served by quality pre-k programs.
POVERTY — PROMOTE HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL STABILITY
Promote Sustainable Development
LAMPa will encourage economic development in Pennsylvania that is sustainable for all of creation, including workers and those who depend upon them.
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.
Increase the Minimum Wage
In Pennsylvania, with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, 5.5 percent of Pennsylvania’s workforce — 190,800 people — earn the minimum or less. Of those workers, 65 percent are women and many are raising families, 74 percent are white, 58 percent are under the age of 25 and 60 percent do not have a high school diploma. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would help close the wage gap. LAMPa supports 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.
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 continue to promote the recommendations of the bipartisan legislative commission on homelessness to redirect resources toward prevention, rather than emergency shelter and crisis health care. This includes encouraging inter-agency cooperation to support individuals and families so that they do not become homeless, and to quickly locate people back into housing instead of temporary shelter. This will be informed by our many ministries with those who are homeless or housing insecure.
EXPAND AND SAFEGUARD ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE
Mental Health Treatment
LAMPa will work for greater funding for 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.
This work will also continue the momentum to address the opioid epidemic and seek to broaden the understanding of policymakers to attack underlying causes, such as poverty and hopelessness.
LAMPa will continue to focus on ensuring that all Pennsylvanians have access to high-quality, affordable health care. In concert with the PA Health Access Network, LAMPa will continue to press for expanding Medicaid to reach the greatest number of people who fall into the health care coverage gap.
To improve transparency and trust in policing, LAMPa will work with partners, on legislation to require demographic data collection in pedestrian and traffic stops and transparency in reporting of use of deadly force by police.
Prohibiting LGBT Discrimination
It is currently legal to discriminate against persons in employment, housing, and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
From 2011 to 2012, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania employed a “justice reinvestment” approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest savings in strategies to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. Despite the declining prison population and averted corrections costs, however, Pennsylvania has the highest rate of incarcerated adults in the Northeast and spends more than $2 billion annually on corrections. Pennsylvania now seeks to make further improvements to its criminal justice system that will help generate greater savings for reinvestment in public safety strategies. LAMPa will engage advocates to push for such reforms, harnessing the experiences of our returning citizens ministries.
Promote Safe Harbor Legislation
More than 100,000 children are exploited through prostitution in the United States each year. Adults psychologically manipulate these children, often with illegal drugs. As a consequence, children are charged with prostitution, drug possession, loitering, and other offenses that are inherently related to prostitution. These children are victims, and they deserve the protection of the child welfare system, not re-victimization and incarceration in the juvenile justice system. LAMPa will work with our network, particularly with Women of the ELCA throughout Pennsylvania, for legislation that will divert sexually exploited children from the justice system into more appropriate human services.
Watershed and Natural Lands Protection
LAMPa will design an education, action and advocacy campaign around stewardship of water resources in the Commonwealth and work to protect and preserve public lands.
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 promote funds to adequately monitor and police such emissions as well as promoting energy efficiency. In this work, LAMPa will encourage sustainable development across Pennsylvania, but particularly in areas whose economies currently depend upon fossil fuel extraction.
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 anti-sanctuary legislation that would force local municipalities to use their own resources to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement, thereby threatening trust between local law enforcement and their communities. Such practices tend to decrease public safety.