Lansing Update
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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
September 22, 2017

  In This Update:  
  • Catholic Conference Responds to National Efforts Challenging Michigan's Adoption Legislation
  • Senate Committee Sends Safe Delivery Legislation to Full Senate
  • Sentencing Bill Clears State House Committee 
  • Meals on Wheels Resolution Passes Senate Committee
  • Prostitution Exemption Elimination Continues to Full Senate
  • The Word from Lansing Column: Taking Steps to Overcome Racism
  • Civil Rights Commission Tables Request to Reinterpret ELCRA
  • USCCB Calls for U.S. Senate to Amend Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill
  Catholic Conference Responds to National Efforts Challenging Michigan's Adoption Legislation  
On the heels of a statewide advertising project undertaken by the Catholic Church in Michigan titled "Freedom to Serve" that promotes religious agencies and their work in the public square, out-of-state advocacy entities announced on September 20 a campaign to disparage Michigan's efforts to ensure diversity in child placement. The campaign includes a lawsuit against a 2015 state law that protects religious liberty rights for faith-based adoption and foster care placement agencies. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) called the lawsuit "mean-spirited, divisive and intolerant" as this law has helped to promote diversity in child placement. 

"This suit challenging Michigan's counter-productive toward efforts to assist vulnerable persons and to promote a variety of opportunities for differing families. It is imperative for the state law to be defended from yet another egregious attack on religious faith in public life."
  Senate Committee Sends Safe Delivery Legislation to Full Senate  
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, over 200 babies have been saved as a result of the state's Safe Delivery law. Under the law, mothers may legally surrender their newborns to emergency services providers like fire stations, hospitals, and police stations for up to 72 hours after birth. House Bill 4311, sponsored by Representative Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville), would enact greater confidentially provisions in the already successful law. Under this legislation, the parents of the child would be listed as "unknown" on the birth certificate and the infant would be listed as "Baby Doe." After a unanimous vote from the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee this week, Michigan Catholic Conference is pleased to report that the measure continues forward now to the full Senate. House Bill 4311 has already passed the Michigan House with support from members across the aisle.
  Sentencing Bill Clears State House Committee  
Sentencing in Michigan for most criminal offenses is expressed as a range of time, with state law listing the maximum sentence allowed for any given crime. To determine a person's sentence after conviction, a judge looks at several factors, including that person's record of prior convictions, various elements of the crime, and the number of victims, among others. House Bill 4500, sponsored by Representative Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp), allows for an embryo or fetus to also be counted as a victim when evaluating an offender's sentence. On Tuesday, September 19, the House Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to send the bill to the full House for further consideration. Michigan Catholic Conference has indicated support for the measure and will continue to advocate for its approval. 
  Meals on Wheels Resolution Passes Senate Committee  
This week, the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee unanimously approved a resolution to urge the U.S. Congress to continue the Meals on Wheels Program. Meals on Wheels provides nutritious meals to seniors in the community at their homes, as well as a friendly visit. This program helps to address issues of hunger, isolation, and loss of independence for the elderly, which can increase quality of life. While Senate Resolution 30, sponsored by Senator Steven Bieda (D-Warren), can only encourage Congress to take action, it sends a clear message that such a program should be maintained for the country's elderly in need. MCC is supportive of this message.
  Prostitution Exemption Elimination Continues to Full Senate  
Under current state law, on-duty police officers can be granted immunity from prosecution if they've had sex with a prostitute during an investigation. No other U.S. state allows for this unnecessary exemption, and law enforcement in other states have still been able to carry out successful sting operations without it. MCC is strongly supportive of House Bill 4355, sponsored by Representative Gary Glenn (R-Larkin Township), which would eliminate this inappropriate provision. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move the legislation to the full state Senate. The measure has already passed the Michigan House. Throughout the process, House Bill 4355 has received wide, bipartisan support from lawmakers. MCC staff is hopeful that it will continue towards final passage.
  The Word from Lansing Column: Taking Steps to Overcome Racism  
Recognizing the dignity of every person, regardless of differences in race, ethnicity, or background, is a core element of the Catholic faith. Last month, after divisive speech and racially-motivated violence that left three dead in Charlottesville, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called for the creation of an Ad-Hoc Committee Against Racism. The new chairman of this committee, Most Reverend George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, has challenged Catholics across the country to stand against racism and intolerance, accompanying statements of solidarity with concrete action. In The Word from Lansing column for September, MCC writes about the importance of discussing issues of race and taking steps forward in local communities to overcome racism.
  Civil Rights Commission Tables Request to Reinterpret ELCRA  
Earlier this summer, Equality Michigan requested the Michigan Civil Rights Commission reinterpret the meaning of the word "sex" in the state Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to include gender identity and sexual orientation. Michigan Catholic Conference submitted a letter during the public comment period, opposing any action by the Civil Rights Commission to unilaterally reinterpret the definition and understanding of "sex" within the law. MCC is concerned that an effort from the Commission would disregard necessary religious liberty protections and go beyond its scope of authority. After hearing testimony this week, the Civil Rights Commission declined to act upon the request at this time and asked Attorney General Bill Schuette to issue an opinion on whether or not they have the authority to adopt an interpretative statement.
  USCCB Calls for U.S. Senate to Amend Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill  
On September 21, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called on the U.S. Senate to amend new federal health care legislation, expressing concerns about the harm the measure causes to poor and vulnerable people. The bishops encouraged lawmakers to retain important provisions, however, that ensure no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it. In a statement, the bishops write:

"The Graham-Cassidy bill includes a Medicaid 'per capita cap' that was part of previous bills which have been rejected. The Medicaid caps will fundamentally restructure this vital program which supports the medical needs of those most in need. Over time, these modifications will result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people. Our nation must not attempt to address its fiscal concerns by placing an insufferable health care burden on the backs of the poor."

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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,