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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
March 24, 2017
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • MCC Will Defend Education Mandate Funding
  • Take Action on State Mental and Behavioral Health Recommendations
  • The Word from Lansing Column: Promoting the Freedom to Serve Others
  • House Approves Bill to Defer & Dismiss Prostitution Charges for Trafficking Victims
  • Measures Addressing Charitable Gaming Discussed in House Committee
  • House Lawmakers Consider Own Version of Safe Delivery Update
  • U.S. Bishops Write U.S. House of Representatives on Health Care Reform
 
  MCC Will Defend Education Mandate Funding  
 
Last year, Michigan Catholic Conference advocated for funding to reimburse nonpublic schools for completing state health, safety, and welfare requirements. The final 2016-2017 state budget provided $2.5 million to nonpublic schools for these mandates, which include conducting fire and lockdown drills, performing background checks of staff, and maintaining student immunization records. This week, public school groups filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the funding. While the Michigan Constitution prohibits aid to nonpublic schools for advancing or promoting religious curriculum or instruction, the $2.5 million in question does neither of these. Instead, the funding ensures students are cared for and protected, as it is the job of the Michigan Legislature to provide for the health, safety, and well-being of all its children. Michigan has long allocated funding to achieve this purpose by providing crossing guards, nursing services, and speech therapy for those in nonpublic schools. Michigan Catholic Conference continues to support the mandate reimbursement and intends to defend the law. In response to the news, MCC made the following comments:
 
"We believe that regardless of where a child attends school, they should be educated in an environment that's healthy and safe - and that applies to every student in Michigan. The appropriation has nothing to do with curriculum, instruction, or promotion of any religious curriculum, which obviously the constitution does address."
 
  Take Action on State Mental and Behavioral Health Recommendations  
 
In last year's budget recommendations, Governor Snyder proposed a system for integrating mental health and physical health management in the Michigan Medicaid system. The plan would have privatized the behavioral health system. The recommendations were not adopted at that time, but a workgroup was formed to work through ideas about the best ways to integrate and manage Medicaid mental and physical health. For over a year, a workgroup has been meeting, including the input of health plans, hospitals, community mental health groups, consumers, and advocates all across the state. In a final report to the Michigan Legislature presented on March 15, the workgroup recommended the continuation of a publicly managed behavioral health system for Michiganders who need care. Physical health is managed in a separate way under the Healthy Michigan Plan. Michigan Catholic Conference's Social Policy Committee has been supportive of the workgroup recommendations, which were developed with input from thousands of families and consumers across the state. The report indicated that partnerships and greater cooperation between the health plans and community mental health services are desirable when patients receive services, but pilots projects that lead to privatization are not. A concern of MCC and the workgroup is that for-profit groups could, in a pilot program, use the opportunity to seek greater revenue to the detriment of service provision.  
 
Now during the budget process, the Michigan Legislature has the opportunity to recommend pilot programs and models to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for the management of Medicaid behavioral health. Michigan Catholic Conference urges lawmakers to adopt the recommendations of the committee and avoid adopting pilots that establish a private, for-profit system of management. Please take a moment now to contact your lawmaker and encourage his or her adoption of the workgroup's recommendations.
 
  The Word from Lansing Column: Promoting the Freedom to Serve Others  
 
The Catholic Church offers education, health care, social services to those in need, working to uplift the dignity of all who come through its doors. MCC recently produced three short films as part of its Freedom to Serve project to illustrate how people and organizations of faith are living a life of service. During this Lenten season, the Freedom to Serve effort encourages Michiganders to examine the work of the Catholic Church in local communities. The project also encourages people to act-volunteering, donating, or contributing to the needs of others in a unique way. The three short films and the two commercials running on television this month can be viewed at www.CatholicsServe.com. Read more about this effort in The Word from Lansing column for March.
 
  House Approves Bill to Defer & Dismiss Prostitution Charges for Trafficking Victims  
 

For individuals trafficked in the commercial sex trade, many have a hard time finding employment, housing, or qualifying for student loans due to multiple prostitution-related arrests. In response to this issue, the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking has recommended legislation to help dismiss charges against victims for crimes they were forced to commit while being trafficked. Under current law, some victims of sex trafficking are able to receive a one-time deferred sentence on prostitution-related charges, as long as they have never had previous convictions on their record.  House Bill 4219, sponsored by Representative Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), would extend this opportunity to include human trafficking victims with previous prostitution convictions. The bill would also allow for multiple state or local prostitution-related charges to be dismissed under the law. Victims would be eligible for a "discharge and dismissal" program, which defers the charge(s) while they undergo probation. When probation is completed, which could include participation in mental health or substance abuse counseling, the charges would be fully dropped. MCC is supportive of this measure, which helps victims receive vital services instead of jail time. The House approved House Bill 4219 by a 108-0 vote this week, continuing the measure forward to the Senate for further consideration. It is important to note that under legislation passed several years ago, victims who have been charged AND already convicted of a prostitution-related offense have the opportunity to have the crime removed from their record.

 
  Measures Addressing Charitable Gaming Discussed in House Committee  
 

Many charitable organizations, including, schools, church groups, and Knights of Columbus councils, have worked with the State of Michigan for many years to use gaming to help raise funds. Gaming includes events like bingo, casino nights, and poker tournaments. New rules from the Gaming Control Board went into effect in 2014 are more restrictive and in many cases have hindered the ability for charities to raise money. House Bill 4081, sponsored by Representative Tom Barrett (R-Potterville), and Senator Bill 35, sponsored by Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), create specific standards for the conduct of so-called "millionaire parties," require event records and financial statements, and lay out application fees and licensing practices. These standards apply to charities and the companies that may be contracted to operate the gaming event. Michigan Catholic Conference supports these changes, which ensure that rules are followed but do not hurt the ability of charitable groups to raise needed funds for their work. This week the House Regulatory Reform Committee considered both bills, but has not yet taken a vote on either. Senate Bill 35 has already passed the Senate by a 34-3 vote.

 
  House Lawmakers Consider Own Version of Safe Delivery Update  
 
In Michigan, parents may surrender an infant up to three days old to an emergency service provider without risk of being charged with abandonment. As mentioned in last week's Lansing Update, the Senate has been considering a bill to improve parent anonymity in the law-Senate Bill 215, sponsored by Senator Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan)-that would list parents as "unknown" on the birth certificate and list the infant as "Baby Doe." This week, the House Health Policy Committee heard testimony on the identical House version of the bill, HB 4311, which is sponsored by Representative Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville). MCC supported the bill, which did not receive a vote this week. Senate Bill 215 also awaits a vote in the same committee after passing the Senate unanimously. Staff is hopeful the bipartisan support and discussion in both chambers will lead shortly to the legislation's final passage.
 
  U.S. Bishops Write U.S. House of Representatives on Health Care Reform  
 
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sent a letter this week to members of the U.S. House of Representatives on the proposed federal health care replacement bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, commented on the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Bishop Dewane praised protections for the unborn included in the act, "a key moral requirement for our nation's health care policy." At the same time, the bishop expressed concerns about the policy's modifications to the Medicaid system and potential barriers to coverage and affordability for low-income persons and seniors. Discussions are ongoing today in the U.S. House of Representatives about this policy and further updates will be provided as they are available.

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Michigan Catholic Conference, 510 South Capitol Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48933 Michigan Catholic Conference: The Official Public Policy Voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan Phone: (517) 372-9310, Fax: (517) 372-3940, publicpolicy@micatholic.org