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
February 16, 2018

  In This Update:  
  • Sentencing Bill Includes Embryos and Fetuses as Victims; Continues to Full Senate
  • Taxation Prohibition on Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Passes House Committee
  • Bill to Expand Coercion Definition in Human Trafficking Statute Moves on to House
  • Weatherization Funds Bill Clears Senate Committee 
  • USCCB: Federal Budget Should Build Toward Common Good
  Sentencing Bill Includes Embryos and Fetuses as Victims; Continues to Full Senate  
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted this week to approve House Bill 4500, which, if enacted, would allow for an embryo or fetus to be counted as a victim during the sentencing process. Most criminal offenses in Michigan law list the maximum sentence an individual can be given if they are convicted of a crime, while the court determines the appropriate range of time for the sentence. To do so, judges examine a variety of factors in the case, including various elements of the crime, the offender's prior convictions, and the number of victims impacted, among others. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill, which will now go before the full Senate. MCC supported the measure, which previously passed the Michigan House in the fall of 2017, as it recognizes the impact of crime on both mother and unborn baby.
  Taxation Prohibition on Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Passes House Committee  
During the previous state legislative session (2015-2016), Michigan Catholic Conference supported measures that allowed for those who had been wrongfully imprisoned and later exonerated to receive compensation and re-entry services. The measures took important first steps in helping these individuals get back on their feet and rebuild their lives. Both bills, which were sponsored by Senator Steven Bieda (D-Warren) and Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), became law as Public Acts 343 and 344 of 2016. This week, the House Tax Policy Committee approved a measure that would exempt any State wrongful imprisonment compensation from being taxed as income. MCC supports House Bill 4991, which is sponsored by Representative Martin Howrylak (R-Troy), and will continue to advocate for its passage as it receives further consideration in the full House.
  Bill to Expand Coercion Definition in Human Trafficking Statute Moves on to House  
Pope Francis has continually spoken out about how human trafficking (modern-day slavery) harms human dignity, as well as exploits vulnerable persons. Michigan's current human trafficking law outlines the crime as knowingly recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining an individual for forced labor or services, through force, fraud, or coercion. Under House Bill 5438, which passed the House Law and Justice Committee this week, the definition of coercion would be expanded to include "controlling or facilitating access to controlled substances." Michigan Catholic Conference is thankful to Representative Laura Cox (R-Livonia) for sponsoring the legislation, which recognizes the growing reality that traffickers are using access to drugs to keep women, men, and children enslaved. The legislation continues now to the full House of Representatives. 
  Weatherization Funds Bill Clears Senate Committee  
Under the Michigan Income Tax Act, eligible individuals may claim a credit for heating fuel costs for their homes in Michigan, as long as federal funding has been provided in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grants. Eligibility for the credit and establishment of the amount a person can receive is determined by several factors, such as household resources, exemptions claimed, and heating costs. For the previous several Fiscal Years (2014-2015 through 2016-2017), the Act provided a formula to determine the amount of federal block grant funds used for weatherization. Weatherization assistance helps low-income families make their homes more energy efficient and therefore, helps to reduce energy bills. Senate Bill 647, sponsored by Senator Dale Zorn (R-Ida Township), would extend the previous provision for determining weatherization funds to Fiscal Year 2021-2022. Michigan Catholic Conference supported the measure and its benefit to low-income families. The legislation passed the Senate Finance Committee this week.
  USCCB: Federal Budget Should Build Toward Common Good  
On Monday, February 12, the Trump administration released its federal budget proposal for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2019. The Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA and chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and the Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, Florida and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed deep concerns about many of the priorities outlined in the blueprint. These concerns included, among other aspects, the underfunding of programs that serve the poor, diplomacy, and environmental stewardship. The USCCB called on Congress to "ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good." More can be read about the bishops' comments by clicking here.

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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,