In recognition of the changing nature of public policy advocacy and communication, and in an effort to use the Church's resources in these areas most effectively, the bishops of New York state have determined that the "Catholics at the Capitol" lobby day in Albany will not be held this year and is not likely to be held in subsequent years.
The bishops will still come to Albany on Monday, March 9, for meetings with Gov. Cuomo and elected officials (including a legislative reception that evening). What will take place instead is a multi-pronged approach to advocacy with the state legislature that will be developed, some of which will be implemented in the 2015 session.
"This new approach is expected to include a more segmented, targeted approach to advocacy, so that we have the right people in Albany, advocating for the right issues at the right time," said Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference. He noted for example, in February both the New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors and the Catholic School Superintendents will hold advocacy events at the Capitol and regionally, bringing leadership from numerous Catholic Charities agencies and schools offices across the state to lobby on human services and education funding issues as the state budget is being negotiated.
"In recent years, in this era of on-time state budgets, the March Catholics at the Capitol event would often occur after a budget framework had already been agreed upon, leaving our voice in regard to funding largely muted," Barnes said.
Similarly, life and family issues typically come to a head at the end of session in June. So the state Catholic Conference will be prepared to work independently and with its partners and allies to arrange advocacy days on an ad hoc basis in order to maximize impact, as was done successfully in 2013 when Gov. Cuomo proposed his abortion expansion bill.
In addition to advocacy events at the Capitol throughout the year, the new approach will include advocacy initiatives in the local dioceses and a continued emphasis on building the Conference's already-robust Catholic Action Network and social media presence.
"The Catholic Conference has been holding the Catholics at the Capitol day (formerly known as the Public Policy Forum) since the mid-1980s, with a largely unchanged format and focus," Barnes said. "The bishops strongly believe that the Church must recognize the changing times, and continue to evolve so best to meet the needs of poor and vulnerable New Yorkers through advocacy in the public square."