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
March 2, 2018

  In This Update:  
  • Bill Expanding Definition of Coercion in Human Trafficking Law Clears State House
  • Senate Approves Pro-Marriage Policy With Wide Bipartisan Support
  • Shared Time Advocates Testify in House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees
  • MCC Supports Measures to Prevent Abuse and Hold Offenders Accountable
  Bill Expanding Definition of Coercion in Human Trafficking Law Clears State House  
Human trafficking, or modern-day slavery, is characterized by the use of force, fraud, or coercion to control victims over the age of eighteen. House Bill 5438, which passed the Senate this week, expands the state's definition of coercion. Examples of coercion already listed in Michigan law include threatening to harm an individual, threatening to abuse the legal system to get an individual arrested or deported, or destroying or concealing a person's immigration documents or identification. House Bill 5438 would also list controlling or facilitating a person's access to controlled substances. During testimony in the House Law and Justice Committee in February, Representative Laura Cox (R-Livonia), the bill's sponsor, and Kelly Carter, an attorney from Attorney General Bill Schuette's office, shared that federal cases have used this expanded concept of coercion in prosecutions before and have been successful, but the concept is not written explicitly into federal or state statute. This bill would ensure the controlled substances coercion language is clearly spelled out in Michigan's Penal Code. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) supported the measure and its recognition of the way some traffickers are using access to drugs to keep victims enslaved. The Michigan House of Representatives approved HB 5438 by a 108-1 vote, and the measure now continues to the Senate for further consideration.
  Senate Approves Pro-Marriage Policy With Wide Bipartisan Support  
In last week's Lansing Update, the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee approved an MCC-supported policy that removes obstacles to marriage and helps struggling families. Senate Bill 752, sponsored by Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), allows the State to "disregard" a new spouse's income for Family Independence Program (FIP) eligibility, up to 275 percent of the federal poverty level, for a period of eighteen months. This policy allows lower-income couples the opportunity to build financial stability, without feeling like they need to delay or forgo marriage to retain needed benefits for their children. This week, the full Senate voted in support of the bill by a 33-3 vote. MCC supports the legislation and will continue to urge its adoption. The bill now awaits a hearing in the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee.
  Shared Time Advocates Testify in House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees  
By the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Michigan will have spent approximately $135 million for shared time services. Shared time allows for a nonpublic student to enroll in a "non-essential" course at a public school that would not otherwise be offered. The policy also allows nonpublic school students participating in shared time to be considered part-time pupils for the purposes of state aid. In the executive recommendations for the upcoming 2018-2019 state budget, the governor proposes capping shared time at only $64 million, drastically cutting these services for nonpublic school students. 

The Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools (MANS), which accredits and supports Catholic and other faith-based schools, testified this week before the House and Senate School Aid Appropriation Subcommittees about the importance of shared time. MCC staff has worked closely with MANS on the testimony and on this issue. Testifying alongside MANS were representatives from nonpublic schools, including Detroit Cristo Rey High School and St. John Amelith School in Bay City, as well as representatives from the public school community, including Berkley, Carrolton, and Clarkston Public Schools. They highlighted that shared time is a "longstanding and shining example of cooperation and collaboration between public and nonpublic schools," and its preservation at full funding levels is beneficial for both. MCC will continue to push for the funding's restoration in the 2018-2019 state budget.
  MCC Supports Measures to Prevent Abuse and Hold Offenders Accountable  
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered a package of legislation aimed at addressing sexual abuse. Michigan Catholic Conference is supportive of a number of measures in the package, including House Bills 4486 and 4487 and Senate Bills 873, 874, 878, and 879, which seek greater protection against abuse and hold offenders accountable. These measures, which are sponsored by Representative Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township), Senator Margaret O'Brien (R-Portage), Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), and Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing), would: 
  • Enhance penalties for an individual convicted of third or fourth degree child abuse following a prior conviction.
  • Add school and youth recreational coaches, assistant coaches, and athletic trainers to the list of those who are "mandatory reporters," or individuals who are required to report any suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. This list already includes individuals such as teachers, physicians, and law enforcement officials. MCC led the legislative effort in 2002 which added clergy to this list.
  • Make it a felony for a paid employee or volunteer to willingly and knowingly fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
  • Increase the penalties for possession or access of child sexually abusive material to up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $50,000 (or both), if the material depicts a child under the age of twelve, includes more than 100 images, or shows sadomasochistic abuse or bestiality, and if the person knew or reasonably should have known that the material included a child. If it was a second or subsequent offense, the mandatory minimum sentence would be at least five years in prison.
Michigan Catholic Conference has expressed its opposition to other measures in the package that would allow for previously barred legal claims from decades past to be brought forth. MCC does not believe these measures protect children today or in the future and, further, has witnessed in dioceses outside of Michigan how such policies have impacted critical ministries of the Catholic Church that assist the marginalized and vulnerable of society. 
The Catholic Church has continued to implement its zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse, as no child or adult should ever have to experience this suffering. Clergy, educators, volunteers, parents, and children across the state are trained by the Church to recognize the signs of abuse and to prevent and report it. Staff are required to undergo criminal background checks. And every diocese in Michigan (and across the country) employs a Victims Assistance Coordinator to help survivors receive the support they need for healing, including counseling, pastoral care, and other appropriate assistance. To learn more about what the Catholic Church is doing to protect against abuse, click 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,