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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
April 27, 2018
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • Court of Claims Ruling Strikes Down Mandate Funding; Next Steps Being Considered
  • House Committee Continues Consideration of Child Protection Measures
  • Legislation Expanding Definition of Coercion Becomes Law
  • State Lawmakers Move Critical Budget Proposals Forward
  • Michigan Legislature Considers School Safety Measures
  • Updates on State Immigration Resolution, DACA, and the USA Act
 
  Court of Claims Ruling Strikes Down Mandate Funding; Next Steps Being Considered  
 
On Thursday, April 26, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens issued a ruling that 2016 and 2017 budget appropriations to reimburse nonpublic schools for the costs of state health, safety, and welfare mandates violated the Michigan Constitution. The Constitution bans direct or indirect aid to nonpublic schools. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) contends that the $5 million in funding ($2.5 million each year), however, is "noninstructional in character" and ensures that all Michigan students are cared for and kept safe. MCC is hopeful that the decision will be appealed and responded to the judge's ruling, saying:

"The decision is disappointing. At this point, we will be consulting with legal counsel regarding next steps. We believe that every student in this state, regardless of what school they attend, deserves to be educated in a healthy and safe environment."
 
  House Committee Continues Consideration of Child Protection Measures  
 
The House Law and Justice Committee continued discussion about child protection and sexual assault prevention legislation this week. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) supported preventative measures that provide students in grades 6-12 information on sexual misconduct, expand the list of mandatory reporters to coaches and athletic trainers, offer further resources for education and training to mandatory reporters, and increase penalties for those who fail to report child abuse or neglect, among other aspects. Testimony on these and other measures will receive further attention in this committee in the coming weeks. To learn more about what the U.S. Catholic Church does to protect children, click here. Contact your local Catholic diocese if you're interested in receiving training on creating Safe Environments and recognizing abuse.
 
  Legislation Expanding Definition of Coercion Becomes Law  
 
Governor Snyder signed House Bill 5438 into law as Public Act 119 of 2018, which expands the state's definition of coercion in the human trafficking statute. The definition would now include controlling or facilitating a person's access to controlled substances. To learn more about this bill, which Michigan Catholic Conference supported, read the August 13 Lansing Update.
 
  State Lawmakers Move Critical Budget Proposals Forward  
 
Voting continued this week on state budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2019 (October 2018-September 2019). All House subcommittee budget recommendations have been approved by the full House of Representatives. The Senate proposals made it through the Senate Appropriations Committee this week. They are expected to receive a vote in the full Senate next week. 

If differences between the funding of a program or initiative remain after each budget version is voted on by the full House and full Senate, then those differences will be resolved in conference committee. Conference committees are made up of members of both chambers. MCC is especially following and advocating for the measures listed below.
  • Michigan's Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program: provides support to women in crisis pregnancies and promotes alternatives to abortion. The full House provided $650,000 for the program, which maintains its current level of funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $700,000.
     
  • Nonpublic School Mandates: reimburses nonpublic schools for expenses related to state health, safety, and welfare requirements, including conducting criminal background checks on school personnel and conducting regular safety drills. The full House provided $2.5 million for these mandates, which is consistent with previous years. The Senate Appropriations Committee added a $100 placeholder for these mandates so that conversation can continue. MCC will advocate for full funding to be restored during the conference process.
     
  • Shared Time: allows for a nonpublic student to enroll in a "non-essential" course through a public school if the student's school does not offer the class. The full House retains the program at its current spending level of $135 million, with several technical changes. The Senate Appropriations Committee provides $119.3 million for shared time, eliminates kindergarten as an eligible grade, further limits the number of shared time courses a student can take, and caps annual growth in students counted for membership for shared time programming. MCC prefers the House proposal and will continue to make sure adequate funding is provided for this important program.
     
  • First Robotics: provides grant funding for First Robotics programs in nonpublic schools, which can help cover registration fees for competitions and stipends for coaches, among other expenses. The full House and the Senate Appropriations Committee both provided $300,000 for this purpose.
     
  • Tuition Grant Program: provides low-income students with financial assistance to Michigan's independent colleges or universities. The full House, as well as the Senate Appropriations Committee, provided $38 million for the grant program in their education proposals.
     
  • Dual Enrollment: allows high school students to enroll in a class offered at a post-secondary institution while still in high school. There is $2 million for dual enrollment included in the versions that passed the full House and the Senate Appropriations Committee.
 
  Michigan Legislature Considers School Safety Measures  
 
The House Appropriations Committee this week considered a package of bills to address safety in schools. Michigan Catholic Conference supported House Bills 5828, 5829,  5850, 5851, and 5852, which would:
  • Create a School Safety Commission to establish school safety metrics, inspect all school buildings, and issue a "safety grade" for each building. 
  • Create a School Safety Plan Fund to help the Commission inspect school buildings and to provide grants for improvements.
  • Eliminates the sunset on the School Safety Act, which provides confidential tools for reporting violent or threatening behavior against students or school employees to law enforcement.
  • Require school districts, intermediate school districts, and public school academies to report on prevented attempts or threats of violence on the school grounds or towards school employees or students. 
  • Require new law enforcement officers, beginning on January 1, 2020, to receive active violence response training.
The bills are sponsored by Representatives Jason Wentworth (R-Clare), Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Township), Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Township), Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), and Joseph Bellino (D-Monroe). Michigan Catholic Conference remained neutral on House Bill 5830, sponsored by Representative Bob Kosowski (D-Westland), which would implement new safety measures in school buildings built after January 1, 2019. The bill would require these public and nonpublic schools to adopt safety measures approved by a Commission that does not yet exist. 

On Thursday, April 26, the Senate also unanimously approved an appropriations measure for enhancing school safety. Senate Bill 601 provides $18.65 million in funding to secure and protect school buildings. Under the measure, $15 million would be provided to the Department of State Police for issuing safety grants for public and nonpublic schools or school districts, similar to those offered in 2015 and 2017. An additional $3 million would be provided to implement a statewide school panic button app system. SB 601 also provides additional funding for the OK2Say program, which helps individuals report confidential tips about potential harm or crime against students or school employees to law enforcement. Michigan Catholic Conference is thankful to Appropriations Chair and bill sponsor Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell) for ensuring that nonpublic schools are eligible for the school safety grants and inclusion in the statewide school panic button app system.
 
  Updates on State Immigration Resolution, DACA, and the USA Act  
 
The Senate adopted House Concurrent Resolution 15 of 2017 this week, which calls on the U.S. Congress to take bipartisan, comprehensive action on immigration. The measure, sponsored by Representative Jim Lilly (R-Park Township), was also adopted by the House back in October 2017. While the resolution is nonbinding and can only encourage action, it signals that this issue is important to Michigan.

In other immigration news this week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that the Trump administration's rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was "arbitrary and capricious" because the Department of Homeland Security failed to explain why the program was unlawful. The Court ordered DACA be reinstated and allows new and renewal DACA applications to go forward, although it did give the administration ninety days to further explain its reasoning behind terminating the program. DACA originally began in 2012 to provide temporary work authorization and protection for qualifying "Dreamer" youth who applied. These Dreamers were brought to America by their parents for a better life, and for most, the U.S. is the only country they have ever known. On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with expiration on March 6, 2018. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also announced support for H.R. 4796, the USA Act, this week. The Act would provide qualifying Dreamers with protection from deportation, as well as a path to citizenship. Additionally, the USA Act of 2018 would augment border security at the U.S./Mexico border, in part through deployment of new technology; increase the number of immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals staff attorneys; and seek to address root causes and prevent future irregular migration from Central America. Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas and chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, commented on the measure, saying:

"We are hopeful our support of the current version of the USA Act, and our continued support of the Dream Act, will encourage Congress to act now and find a humane legislative solution for Dreamers."

Two of Michigan's U.S. Representatives, David Trott and Fred Upton, are co-sponsors of the bill.

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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