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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
December 1, 2017
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • TAKE ACTION! Public Comment Period on HHS Mandate Exemption Open Until Dec 5
  • Federal Tax Reform Discussion Continues; USCCB Calls for Changes in Both Proposals
  • Elimination of Prostitution Exemption for Law Enforcement Close to Governor's Desk
  • Michigan Senate Unanimously Passes Bill Regarding FGM and Parental Rights
  • Border District Dual Enrollment Expansion Continues Towards Final Passage
  • Senate Oversight Committee Approves Unemployment Compensation Reform Package
 
  TAKE ACTION! Public Comment Period on HHS Mandate Exemption Open Until Dec 5  
 
On October 6, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued two interim final rules that, together, create a broad religious and moral exemption from the HHS Mandate. The mandate requires employee health plans to cover services like contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. Although this action does not rescind the mandate, it does give religious and moral objectors immediate relief from its onerous burdens. HHS has called for public comments about this policy change by 11:59 PM EST on Tuesday, December 5. 

Please take a few minutes now to offer comments in support of these broader exemptions before the public comment period ends. Your voice is needed!
 
  Federal Tax Reform Discussion Continues; USCCB Calls for Changes in Both Proposals  
 
Reform of the tax code has been a major topic of discussion in Congress. On November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of tax reform through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops expressed disappointment after its passage, as the measure seemed to ignore impacts on the poor and on families. Among other aspects, the measure eliminated the personal exemption, repealed the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction, and eliminated the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and incentives for charitable giving. The House version also impacted several important programs for students and teachers in nonpublic schools, including the exclusion of qualified tuition and educational assistance programs. These changes would hamper the ability of nonpublic schools to hire and retain staff, as well as the ability of schools that use local business tuition support to aid students from low-income families.

The U.S. Senate has not yet voted on its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but is likely to consider it soon. The U.S. bishops expressed several issues with this version (as currently written) as well, including its raising of income taxes on the working poor, the elimination of personal exemptions, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate apart from broader health care reform. Thankfully, this version of the tax proposal does not include the negative provisions regarding education mentioned above. Additional updates on this reform will be provided as discussions continue and as Congress attempts to reconcile differences between these versions of the legislation.
 
  Elimination of Prostitution Exemption for Law Enforcement Close to Governor's Desk  
 
State law currently allows on-duty police officers to be granted immunity from prosecution if they have had sex with a prostitute during an investigation. Michigan is the only state left in the country with this unnecessary exemption. Historically it was thought that immunity was necessary to prevent individuals from discovering a cop's identity during a sting operation; however, law enforcement in other states have proven able to carry out operations without such an exemption. Additionally, the Michigan State Police has indicated that this provision is not used or taught in police training. Two measures that would eliminate the exemption, House Bill 4355 and Senate Bill 275, received consideration in the State Legislature this week. House Bill 4355 passed the Senate unanimously, and Senate Bill 275 passed the House by a 91-17 bipartisan vote. After a concurrence vote of Senate Bill 275 in the Senate, both measures will soon be put before the governor for his final consideration. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) has advocated throughout the year for the passage of these bills and is thankful to the bill sponsors, Representative Gary Glenn (R-Larkin Twp.) and Senator Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan), for their leadership on this discussion. 
 
  Michigan Senate Unanimously Passes Bill Regarding FGM and Parental Rights  
 
In response to reported cases of female genital mutilation of minors in the greater Detroit area, the Michigan Legislature has considered several bills to address the issue. FGM is the painful cutting or removal of female genital organs, which has no health benefits and can lead to emotional and physical health complications. House Bill 4716, sponsored by Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township), would allow a court to terminate parental rights to a child, if the parents were convicted of performing female genital mutilation on a minor or transporting a minor for that purpose and if termination was in the best interest of the child. MCC supports this measure, as it protects the child from harm while also providing courts flexibility to deal with each case based on the needs of the child. The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 4716 this week, which previously passed the House of Representatives by an 89-16 bipartisan vote.
 
  Border District Dual Enrollment Expansion Continues Towards Final Passage  
 
The State of Michigan has long facilitated student participation in dual enrollment, which allows students to take courses for college or university credit while still in high school. For the first time, however, this year's budget (October 2017-September 2018) included funding to allow public school students in Michigan border districts to dual enroll in secondary institutions outside of the state, if those institutions were within 20 miles of the border. House Bill 4735, sponsored by Representative Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis), codifies this policy in the Michigan School Code and offers this opportunity to nonpublic schools as well. MCC supports the policy to ensure all students have quality educational opportunities. This week, the Senate Education Committee approved the measure, which has already emerged from the Michigan House with 64-43 support. Now, the bill proceeds to the full Senate.
 
  Senate Oversight Committee Approves Unemployment Compensation Reform Package  
 
The Senate Committee on Oversight met this week to consider a package of bills that address the state's unemployment compensation system. These bills arose out a major error in the computer system for the Unemployment Insurance Agency that wrongly accused thousands of individuals of benefits fraud. House Bills 5165-5172 would implement several reforms, which include addressing imposter unemployment claims, amending penalties for fraud, and providing access to advocacy services for those falsely accused of fraud. The legislative package also creates a mechanism in the Michigan Employment Security Act for employers and affected employees to report fake claims of unemployment. MCC supports the bills, which continue now to the full Senate. 

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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