WASHINGTON (GBCG) - The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) has set seven legislative priorities for 2008 in which the faith community can bring a unique and much needed voice to the debate. The priorities target two kinds of legislation - those already being considered by Congress, and those which should be considered to address issues of justice and inequality.

The 2008 legislative priorities of GBCS, the public witness and advocacy arm of the denomination, cover a broad spectrum: global warming, poverty, health care, drug sentencing reform and ending the war in Iraq. All of these priorities support emphases of the GBCS Board of Directors, and further specific objectives adopted by the board at its annual meeting.

"They either are objectives that we think can be accomplished this year," explained Mark Harrison, director of GBCS's Peace with Justice Program, "or issues that are so important that they need to be emphasized regardless of our hopes to accomplish them this year or not."

Here are the 2008 priorities:

  • Increase Affordable Housing - GBCS will focus its support in 2008 on the "National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act" (S.2523). John Hill, director of Economic and Environmental Justice, said this is a companion bill to legislation that passed the House of Representatives last fall.

  • Reduce Global Warming Pollution - GBCS supports comprehensive legislation to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Hill. GBCS supports efforts to strengthen the "Climate Security Act of 2007" (S.2191). Hill said this is a bipartisan effort to reduce U.S. global warming pollution.

  • Protect Children's Health - To protect the health of all children, the Rev. Cynthia Abrams, director of GBCS's Alcohol, Other Addictions and Health Care program, said GBCS will encourage Congress to support three pieces of legislation: H.R.1108/S.625, which provides for regulation of tobacco by the Food and Drug Administration; full funding for the "STOP Underage Drinking Prevention Act" (Public Law #109-422); and reauthorization of the "State Children's Health Insurance Program" (SCHIP).

  • Re-authorize the President's AIDS Plan - President Bush's current AIDS funding expires at the end of 2008 and "must be reauthorized," declared Linda Bales, director of the Louise and Hugh Moore Population Project at the board. Bales noted GBCS will work in collaboration with other faith-based and other groups to achieve funding for prevention, care and treatment. She said the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and malaria is crucial to have any chance to achieve the goal.

  • 2nd Chance Act - Bill Mefford, director of GBCS's Civil and Human Rights Program, said the "Second Chance Act" (S 1060) will reduce recidivism and will strengthen families of ex-offenders through providing critical programs in the areas of employment, housing, and substance abuse and mental health treatment.

  • End Global Poverty - GBCS supports the "Global Poverty Act." Harrison said this bipartisan bill requires the president to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the U.S. foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty.

  • End the War in Iraq - GBCS will support legislation that requires a date certain to remove U.S. military forces from Iraq. Harrison said the legislation should specify that no permanent military bases should remain in that country.

Hoosiers on the General Board of Church and Society include: Albert Bohnstedt (NIC) of Fort Wayne, Ind.; the Rev. Marie Lang (SIC) of Greenwood, Ind. and Ike Williams (SIC) of Carmel, Ind. For more information, log on to www.umc-gbcs.org.