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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
May 5, 2017
 

  In This Update  
 
  • Religious Liberty Executive Order Lays Groundwork for Future Efforts
  • USCCB Calls On U.S. Senate To Strip Harmful Proposals From House-Passed Health Care Bill
  • Michigan House and Senate Approve 2017-2018 State Budget Proposals
  • Defer and Dismiss Prostitution Bills Continue to Michigan Senate
  • Measures Passes Senate Committee to Preserve OK2SAY School Safety Program
 
  Religious Liberty Executive Order Lays Groundwork for Future Efforts  
 
On May 4, the National Day of Prayer, President Donald Trump signed an executive order promoting religious liberty in a manner intended to eliminate harmful federal measures that have surfaced in recent years, including the federal HHS contraceptive mandate. MCC issued a statement after the president's signing, commenting on the importance of the freedom of religious institutions to serve others. Here is an excerpt from that statement:
 
"Today's Executive Order, reported to offer broad protections from these burdensome mandates, begins to return a greater tolerance of religious beliefs and practices than has been present in recent years. As the presence of an Executive Order on this topic affirms, the freedom for religious institutions to serve others and to express and practice - not just worship - one's religious convictions is a fundamental element of both American society and constitutional law."
 
MCC will continue to advocate, in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for strengthened legislative and regulatory protections on these and other critical matters of importance to people and organizations of faith. While the Executive Order itself is lacking policy details, it does however instruct all federal departments and agencies to construct policies and regulations in concert with the Order's primacy on religious liberty. 
 
  USCCB Calls On U.S. Senate To Strip Harmful Proposals From House-Passed Health Care Bill  
 
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a new federal health care bill, the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), by a 217-213 vote. The measure included several pro-life protections, including shifting money away from Planned Parenthood towards federally qualified health care centers for one year. Another aspect of the bill eliminates abortion funding through insurance coverage. Unfortunately, the legislation still has harmful provisions that need to be amended before final approval, or else reforms should start anew. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the proposal, saying:
 
"Even with efforts to improve the bill before passage, the American Health Care Act still contains major defects, particularly regarding changes to Medicaid that risk coverage and affordability for millions; it is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who will be most severely impacted were not heeded. The AHCA does offer critical life protections, and our health care system desperately needs these safeguards. But still, vulnerable people must not be left in poor and worsening circumstances as Congress attempts to fix the current and impending problems with the Affordable Care Act."
 
  Michigan House and Senate Approve 2017-2018 State Budget Proposals  
 
The Michigan House of Representatives and Senate each passed their respective proposals for the 2017-2018 state budget. Most of MCC's items of interests in the budget remained funded at the levels mentioned in last week's Lansing Update. The only noteworthy changes to the budget proposals concern behavioral and mental health (section 298) funding, which is an important and complicated issue that continues to be discussed among lawmakers. An amendment from Representative Daniela Garcia (R-Holland) was added to the House proposal to ensure customer health status, customer satisfaction, and provider network stability also be included when evaluating successes and weaknesses of the pilot projects which will integrate physical and behavioral health services and funding. The amendment also requires evaluation of the pilots to be performed by researchers from one of the state's research universities, and require that any changes made to the state's Medicaid program to implement the pilots only remain in effect for the duration of the pilot programs. On the Senate side, an amendment from Senator Dale Zorn (R-Ida) was added which would require the pilot projects and demonstrations models that will be used for integrating behavioral and physical health services to be evaluated by a neutral, independent third party. MCC continues to monitor and encourage public control of behavioral and mental health services over privatization. 
 
MCC would like to offer special thanks to the leadership that preserved funding for the Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services program, which provides alternatives to abortion. Recent statistics show there has been a drop in the number of abortion in our state. MCC is grateful for all of the legislative support of this valuable, life-saving program, and would like to especially thank the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Laura Cox (R-Livonia); the chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Ed Canfield (R-Sebewaing); the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell); and the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Senator Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion).
 
  Defer and Dismiss Prostitution Bills Continue to Michigan Senate  
 
Several years ago, the Michigan Legislature approved legislation that allows victims of human trafficking charged and convicted of prostitution-related offenses the opportunity to have the crime removed from their record if they were committed as a result of being a victim of human trafficking. Current law also allows some victims of sex trafficking to receive a one-time deferred sentence on prostitution-related charges that are a direct result of being trafficked, prior to a conviction, as long as they have not had a previous conviction on their record. 

House Bill 4219, sponsored this year by Representative Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), would extend this opportunity to include human trafficking victims with previous prostit
ution convictions. If passed, the legislation would allow a court to dismiss multiple state or local prostitution-related charges against a trafficking victim if these are the result of being trafficked by participating in a "discharge and dismissal program." The program defers the charge(s) while they undergo probation, such as participation in mental health or substance abuse counseling. When that probation is successfully completed, the charges would be fully dropped. MCC is supportive of this measure, which provides victims with the help they need rather than time in jail. This legislation will assist victims who currently face obstacles in finding employment and housing, as well as qualifying for student loans, because of prostitution-related arrests. The Senate Families, Children and Seniors Committee passed the measure this week unanimously, and it will continue to the full Senate.
 
  Measures Passes Senate Committee to Preserve OK2SAY School Safety Program  
 
In 2013, Michigan law called for a new program to connect children, parents, and school personnel to law enforcement. The OK2SAY program that emerged from the law, and its support hotline, encourages individuals to break their silence and to address the culture of violence and harmful behavior. Confidential tips have reported activities such as bullying, suicide threats, drugs, weapons possessions, and sexual misconduct. From September 1, 2014 to March 31, 2017, the program has received 7,349 tips and facilitated 3,071 presentations on student safety for approximately 361,941 individuals (including students and school personnel).
 
A measure currently before the Michigan Legislature, Senate Bill 267, changes the sunset provision in the original law that repeals the act-and therefore, the program-on October 1, 2017. The measure, sponsored by Senator Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan), extends the program until October 2021. It passed unanimously this week out of the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 267 continues now to the full Senate for further discussion. MCC supported the law's passage in 2013 and will support this legislation to ensure continuation of the program.

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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