pST. FRANCIS — Scott Walker as governor and Republican control of the Senate and Assembly could bode well for Catholics in Wisconsin in several areas, according to John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, public policy voice of the state’s Catholic bishops.

“One party controlling everything means that it’s going to be easier for certain things to get done,” Huebscher told your Catholic Herald in a Nov. 4 interview. “Other things the Democrats would have been interested in are not going to be a priority.”

One area in which he expects to see change quickly is in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program that allows parents to choose to which schools they send their children.

“Parental choice in Milwaukee will probably not have to worry about further incursions and additional regulation,” he said. “The enrollment cap will either be lifted above its current limit, 22,500, or it will be removed altogether.”

Huebscher acknowledged that the Walker administration “made it very clear it wants to focus on state’s fiscal issues,” but he noted that budget debates are always a WCC concern and a challenge, no matter who is governor.

“This won’t affect our mission of advocating for programs that help the vulnerable,” Huebscher said. “The election of Walker doesn’t change that as much as some people might think.”

One of the topics likely to arise during the budget debates is state funding of embryonic stem cell research. Terming Walker “no fan of embryonic stem cell research,” Huebscher said, “Part of the of the (budget) debate is going to be a debate over the funding of embryonic stem cell research with public dollars at the University of Wisconsin.”

He cited two other matters that the WCC would like to see garner attention in the next legislative session.

“We’re hopeful to get relief from the mandate that health insurance plans purchased by religious entities have to cover birth control,” Huebscher said.
The other area that could be addressed, he said, is “conceal and carry.”

“We’ve been concerned about that. Other versions of that bill have not exempted churches and places run by religious entities,” Huebscher said. “We’re going to see a debate over that in the coming session.”

While noting that the election provides a “different environment” in Madison, he said the WCC message doesn’t change.

“Our policy positions are fairly constant, as is what we urge people to do,” Huebscher said.

Huebscher said that he is in the process of reaching out to legislators from both parties, “reviewing the issues and seeing what’s possible.”
“We’re scrupulously non-partisan. There are good, faithful Catholics in both parties of the legislature,” he said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of folks who were re-elected. We have cordial relationships with nearly everybody.”

He said that the WCC will continue to “advocate for the poor, question the morality and wisdom of embryonic stem cell research in any scenario and affirm the school choice program,” but he admitted, “Some debates are going to be easier to win; some are going to  be more challenging.”

Huebscher reiterated a point he made in a pre-election column (Catholic Herald, Oct. 28).

“We all have to expect and remember that citizenship is a 24/7 vocation for us. We can’t say, ‘This happened on Nov. 2’ and we can go home for two years,” he said. “Catholics have to stay involved … advocate government to reflect their values and the social teaching of the church.”