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
May 4, 2018

  In This Update:  
  • MCC and Diocesan Reps Testify on Behalf of Mandatory Reporting Bills
  • In Joint Letter, MCC and MANS Urge Immediate Appeal of Mandate Ruling
  • 2018-2019 Budget Proposals Continue to Conference Committees
  • House Approves Exemption on Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation 
  • With Changes, House Committee Clears School Safety Package
  • MCC Opposes Medicaid Work Requirements in House Committee
  MCC and Diocesan Reps Testify on Behalf of Mandatory Reporting Bills  
This week, MCC staff and representatives from the Dioceses of Gaylord and Kalamazoo spoke on policies to protect children before the House Law and Justice Committee. During the testimony, these individuals shared what the Catholic Church does to create safe environments for youth, to prevent abuse, and to assist victims in their healing. The group also supported four measures that would increase the number of mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, distribute training to mandatory reporters, and increase penalties for those who fail to report. Representative Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan), Representative Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), and Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) are the sponsors of HB 5659, HB 5796, SB 874, and SB 880.

During testimony, MCC and diocesan staff demonstrated a solutions-oriented approach by bringing forward a new policy recommendation to the committee. Currently, private nonprofits (except schools) cannot access the FBI fingerprinting data. This policy limits the ability of organizations like parishes to fully evaluate national records for volunteers and employees who work with children. The testimony proposed allowing private non-profit organizations that work with children to access these records. The conversation was well-received by the lawmakers on the committee. MCC is thankful to Chairman Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Township), the members of the House Law and Justice Committee, and the bill sponsors for an informative and productive hearing. Staff is also appreciative of diocesan staff who drove to Lansing to share the work they do daily to protect children. Further testimony will be taken on these and other child protection bills before a vote is taken.
  In Joint Letter, MCC and MANS Urge Immediate Appeal of Mandate Ruling  
As mentioned last week, the Michigan Court of Claims ruled that 2016 and 2017 budget appropriations to reimburse nonpublic schools for the costs of state health, safety, and welfare mandates violated the Michigan Constitution. Today, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) and the Michigan Association of Non-public Schools (MANS) delivered a joint letter to Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette, urging them to file an expedited appeal of the opinion. In the letter, MCC and MANS write that the judge's decision "overrides the will of the Legislature and the Executive Branch, which have the responsibility to appropriate funds essential to the well-being of Michiganders." The funding is non-instructional and helps nonpublic schools keep kids cared for and safe, which should not be controversial.
  2018-2019 Budget Proposals Continue to Conference Committees  
Last week, the Michigan House of Representatives passed its state budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2019 (October 2018-September 2019). This week, the State Senate followed suit. MCC was pleased to see the following items included at the same funding levels in both:
  • First Robotics: provides $300,000 in grant funding for First Robotics programs in nonpublic schools, which can help cover expenses such as competitions fees and stipends for coaches.
  • Tuition Grant Program: provides $38 million in financial assistance to low-income students, so they may attend one of Michigan's independent colleges or universities. 
  • Dual Enrollment: provides $2 million to allow high school students to enroll in a class offered at a post-secondary institution while still in high school.
The following differences remain between budget proposals that will need to be worked out in conference committees, which are made up of members of the House and of the Senate:
  • Michigan's Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program: provides support to women in crisis pregnancies and promotes alternatives to abortion. The House provided $650,000 for the program, which maintains its current level of funding. The Senate approved $700,000.
  • Nonpublic School Health, Safety, and Welfare Mandates: reimburses nonpublic schools for expenses related to state health, safety, and welfare requirements, including conducting criminal background checks on school personnel and regular safety drills. The House provided $2.5 million for these mandates, which is consistent with previous years. The Senate retained 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 House retains the program at its current spending level of $135 million, with several technical changes. The Senate 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.
  House Approves Exemption on Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation  
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 of Representatives widely approved a measure that would exempt any State wrongful imprisonment compensation from being taxed as income, by a vote of 107-2. MCC supports House Bill 4991, sponsored by Representative Martin Howrylak (R-Troy), which will now receive further consideration in the Senate.
  With Changes, House Committee Clears School Safety Package  
After adopting several changes during their meeting this week, members of the House Appropriations Committee approved six bills aimed at improving school safety. Michigan Catholic Conference supported most of the measures, as providing safe learning environments for the state's kids is a critical to their education and growth. The major changes to the bills are listed in the bullets below.
  • House Bill 5828 creates a School Safety Commission to establish school safety metrics, inspect all school buildings, and issue a "safety grade" for each building. An amendment to this measure would keep the ratings of the school confidential, so that schools with low grades can make necessary changes without making themselves a target to those wishing to cause them harm.
  • House Bill 5851 requires school districts and public school academies to report on prevented attempts or threats of violence at school or towards school employees or students. This bill was changed to provide clearer definitions of what the schools should be reporting. 
  • House Bill 5852 requires new law enforcement officers to receive active violence response training starting in 2020. Changes this week removed specific training standards and would allow the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to come up with minimum standards.
MCC wrote about other measures in the bill package in last week's Lansing Update. The bills are sponsored by Representatives Jason Wentworth (R-Clare), Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Township), Bob Kosowski (D-Westland), Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Township), Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), and Joseph Bellino (D-Monroe).
  MCC Opposes Medicaid Work Requirements in House Committee  
The House Appropriations Committee heard testimony this week on Senate Bill 897, sponsored by Senator Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake). The bill would place work requirements on able-bodied, non-pregnant recipients of Medicaid between the ages of nineteen to sixty-four. Under these requirements, Medicaid recipients would need to show they are working, pursuing job training, or participating in work-related education for an average of twenty-nine hours a week. Several extenuating circumstances and exemptions have been added to the measure, including those who are caretakers or full-time students. While MCC appreciates the inclusion of exemptions to protect the vulnerable, concerns remain with predicating one's health coverage on his or her employment status. The Conference opposed this bill in committee. Senate Bill 897 has already passed the full Senate and now awaits a vote by the committee.

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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,