Use your voice and vote! As Lutherans, civic engagement is an important part of what it means to love our neighbors. Martin Luther described government as an earthly kingdom through which we should seek the common good. By voting, we are living out our calling and responsibility to “protect and coordinate the well-being of individuals, communities, and creation.”1For information about where and how to vote, voter registration, and what is on your ballot, you can view the website of the Minnesota Secretary of State here.
Ballot Measures: Several of you have asked about our stance on the rent control measures proposed in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Although Lutheran Advocacy-MN works on affordable housing issues, we do not have a position on these rent control proposals. In response to your questions, under the Events Section of this newsletter (below), we have included a section in which we attempt to briefly summarize the proposals, the discussions surrounding them, and some resource links to help you be informed on this complex issue.
Lutheran Delegations at COP26:
The International UN Climate Change Conference, COP 26, is occuring in Glasgow, Scotland from Oct. 31-Nov.12 (COP26 = 26th session of the Conference of Parties). The conference is an important place for countries to discuss how to tackle the climate crisis and agree on targets.
Gathered for the events are climate experts, policy makers, and world leaders, as well as many nonprofit and faith-based organizations from around the world. Both Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the ELCA have delegations at the meetings.
The ELCA delegation includes ELCA Advocacy’s Program Director of Environmental and Corporate Social Responsibility, a couple of State Public Policy Directors, some synod level representatives, a few college/seminary students, and the Desk Director for American Indian & Alaska Native Tribal Nations at the ELCA (a member of the Cherokee Tribe).
Follow our ELCA participants with #ELCAatCOP26 and @ELCAadvocacy. Lutheran Advocacy-MN will try to keep up on Twitter and Facebook, also, with posts, retweets, and more (@LuthAdvocacyMN and https://www.facebook.com/luthadvocacymn).We also invite you to participate in a Webinar with our ELCA COP26 participants on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at Noon (Central Time). We will send more information along with the Zoom link as the event gets closer.
Housing Webinars: Our partner, the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC), is hosting a series of five webinars on topics related to affordable housing in Minnesota. Both those new to the issues and experienced housing advocates are welcome. The topic of the November webinar is “Homelessness: Understanding Impact, Creating Opportunities”
When: The first Thursday of the month from October through February (November 4, December 2, January 6, February 3)
What Time: 6:30-7:30 pm
Where: If you registered for the October webinar, you should receive an updated Zoom invitation via email automatically. If you are new to the webinars, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the zoom link.
Previous webinars are available on the JRLC website
Creation Care/COP Climate Conference Webinar: The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) began yesterday and lasts until November 12th in Glasgow, Scotland. Join our partner, Fresh Energy, and J. Drake Hamilton (Senior Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy) for a recap on what happened at COP26 and what it means for Minnesota.
When: Wednesday, November 17
What Time: 12:00 noon
Where: Register for the Zoom event here
ELCA Reflection on COP26: Join our ELCA COP26 participants as they share their perspectives and experiences from Glasgow.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 7
What time: 12 noon CST
Where: Zoom link will be available closer to the event. Watch ELCA Advocacy and Lutheran Advocacy MN for updates.
ELCA Hunger Webinar Series (November—Hunger and Poverty by the Numbers): Our ELCA World Hunger colleagues are producing a “Hunger at the Crossroads,” webinar series. Understanding hunger – and working to end it – means seeing the many ways hunger and poverty intersect with so many other issues, including climate change, food production, access to housing, racial justice, gender justice and more.
Deeper Information (for those who like the details)
Rent Control Debate: Rent control or rent stabilization happens when a city or municipality steps in to regulate market rental increases. In Minneapolis, the proposed ballot measure would grant power to the city council to enact rent control measures. The measure does not specify what those rent control measures would be; it only grants the power to enact them. In St. Paul, the proposed ballot measure would enact an ordinance that prohibits landlords from raising the rent more than 3% in one year. As is true with all St. Paul city ordinances, the city council could modify the ordinance after a year but not before then. Both supporters and opponents of these rent control measures have affordable housing in mind. Homes for All Coalition participants are not unified in their positions. Supporters point to large and unaffordable increases in rent that have been occurring more frequently in recent years as investors and hedge funds from out of the state buy existing units and increase rent (double or even triple) with or without cosmetic changes. There are no protections in place for large rent increases, and such increases force those who live in the community out of their homes. Supporters also note that almost all increases in rent from local owners are below 3% annually. Opponents to rent control stress that the affordable housing crisis is a supply crisis which would be exacerbated by rent control measures. Since St. Paul’s ballot ordinance would apply to both new and existing housing, they claim rent control would curb new investment and building projects in the area. The St. Paul proposal is not pegged to inflation or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as is the case in many cities with rent control/stabilization. That could mean the 3% rate might not be enough to cover maintenance, rising property taxes, and other expenses, particularly for landlords who already tried to keep rent affordable (they start at a lower rate). Here are some resources: What’s on the ballot: Rent control | MPR News Rent control on Minneapolis, St. Paul ballots: Here's what proposals will do (fox9.com) https://www.cura.umn.edu/research/minneapolis-rent-stabilization-study https://www.twincities.com/2021/09/24/st-paul-rent-control-ballot-initiative-how-would-it-work/ (St. Paul measure only) Federal Reconciliation Bill: Reconciliation is a process that attempts to speed up consideration of spending, taxes, and/or the debt ceiling, while circumventing the possibility of a Senate filibuster (requiring 60 of 100 votes, rather than a simple majority). The reconciliation process was set up in legislation in 1974, was first used in 1980, and has been used 26 times by one party or the other, with 22 reconciliation bills signed into law (Examples: deficit reduction packages in the 1980s & early 1990s, 1996 Welfare Reform, 2001 & 2003 tax cut packages, 2009 Affordable Care Act, 2017 tax cuts. It was also used in an attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in 2017, but failed).
Much of the current reconciliation bill includes the various budget areas considered by each chamber (House & Senate), but also includes new programs, or expansions/changes of existing programs. Large portions of the bill are not new, as some reporting might lead people to believe, though the proposed changes could be significant changes in direction. While giving the impression of being stuck in negotiations for weeks or even months, the bill and negotiations shift almost hourly (making it difficult to track).
Like with the annual budget and appropriations bills, ELCA Advocacy does not typically attempt to address a whole bill, but rather will support or oppose specific measures within the bill, and try to influence those sections.
Climate Crisis: ELCA Advocacy has been working to dramatically reduce harmful emissions, expand clean energy options, and provide a “just transition” for workers and communities that will be most impacted by the transition to the Clean Energy Economy.
The reconciliation bill includes several new and reinstated programs meant to address the climate crisis and expand clean energy. One of the major provisions, the Clean Energy Performance Program (CEPP), will likely not be included in the final bill. It was created to incentivize energy providers to generate more clean energy and penalize providers that miss basic targets. A couple of other clean energy/climate emission reduction programs will also be dropped from the bill, due to opposition from an influential senator whose state has traditionally supplied coal, the worst fossil fuel for harmful, toxic and climate change causing emissions.
Minnesota Senator Tina Smith has been very engaged in creating various parts of the clean energy and emission reduction programs. In a recent conversation, her staff told Lutheran Advocacy-MN that there are still many emission reduction aspects in the legislation, and that if the overall bill passes, even without CEPP, there will still be significant changes leading to major reductions in harmful emissions.
Circle of Protection: The ELCA has been part of the Circle of Protection since its founding more than a decade ago. The Circle of Protection consists of the heads of Christian denominations, agencies, organizations, and educational institutions “who believe that God expects national leaders to prioritize the needs of poor and hungry people.” Through the CIrcle of the Protection, Bishop Eaton and ELCA Advocacy have worked to address investments in the reconciliation bill and other legislation that could help stabilize and lift families and children out of poverty, especially as related to programs for affordable housing, nutrition assistance, Medicaid, tax credits, child care, and more. While advocating for those programs, the Circle of Protection has highlighted for leaders several opportunities to reduce the costs of some programs with targeted approaches based on income.
There are sections in the reconciliation bill that address those various investments, though how those investments could or would be realized remain major issues of negotiation. In just the last couple of weeks, some of those programs have been significantly weakened, but could still represent important steps in stabilizing those who are most vulnerable.