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
June 15, 2018

  In This Update:  
  • Legislature Issues Final Approval of Education Budget Bill
  • Omnibus Budget Bill Sent to Governor's Desk
  • Governor Signs Driver's License Bills Into Law
  • Changes to Do-Not-Resuscitate Law Unanimously Clear Senate
  • USCCB President Comments on Asylum Policy for Domestic Violence Victims
  Legislature Issues Final Approval of Education Budget Bill  
Lawmakers of both chambers met this week to go over the conference committee changes to the 2018-2019 state budget bills. As mentioned in last week's Lansing Update, conference committees are each comprised of three senators and three representatives and are charged with smoothing out any remaining differences in the Senate and House version of the bill. During session on Tuesday, June 12, the Senate and House approved the final measures, which will now be sent to the governor for final approval. House Bill 5579, also known as the "education omnibus bill," contained the budgets for the Department of Community Colleges, the Department of Higher Education, and the K-12 School Aid budget. The Michigan House of Representatives approved the final measure, which was sponsored by Representative Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw), by a 63-46 vote. The Senate voted 25-11 in favor of final approval. HB 5579 included the following items of note to MCC:
  • Nonpublic School Health, Safety, and Welfare Mandates: includes $250,000 to reimburse nonpublic schools for expenses related to state health, safety, and welfare requirements, including conducting criminal background checks on school personnel and carrying out regular safety drills. The $2.5 million from the 2017-2018 year will be carried over to help cover school costs. 
  • Shared Time: provides $132 million to allow for a nonpublic student or homeschool student in grades K-12 to enroll in a "non-essential" or "non-core" course, coordinated through a public school, if the student's school does not otherwise offer the class. 
  • Robotics Grant: provides $300,000 in competitive grant funding for First Robotics programs, other competitive robotics programs, or Science Olympiad programs in nonpublic schools. The grant can be used to cover expenses such as competition fees, travel costs, and stipends for coaches. (Grant funding is also included for public school districts). The budget also allows funds from the 2017-2018 grant to be carried over and available in the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Tuition Grant Program: provides $38 million in financial assistance to help low-income students attend one of Michigan's independent colleges or universities. 
  • School Mental Health Fund: adds a new School Mental Health and Support Services Fund as a sub-account within the State School Aid Fund. This fund could be used for efforts to improve mental health outcomes and support K-12 students in Michigan. These efforts could include improved access to counseling, educational awareness programs, and enhanced mental health and clinical services. While the budget directs $30 million to be allocated into the fund by the end of the current fiscal year (September 30, 3018), a separate supplemental appropriations bill would be needed to actually provide funding to schools for from this fund. 
  • Violence Tip Line Reporting: A new section was added to the bill to require public school districts or intermediate districts that operates a school violence tip line to report to the Attorney General each August. The report must include information about the tip line operating hours, whether that line connects to local law enforcement, and the type and duration of training for personnel who operate the line. 
  Omnibus Budget Bill Sent to Governor's Desk  
In addition to the education-focused budget bill mentioned above, the Michigan Legislature also approved Senate Bill 848, the omnibus bill. This measure, sponsored by Senator Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), provides the budgets for most of the departments within the State of Michigan. The House of Representatives voted 66-43 in favor of sending the bill to the governor, and the Senate voted 33-2 (with 1 abstaining). Listed below are the items MCC followed and advocated for during the budget process:
  • Michigan's Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program: provides $700,000 to support women in crisis pregnancies and promote alternatives to abortion. Goals of the program include providing pregnancy counseling and knowledge about adoption, improving parenting skills, and offering basic care items to women and their children, up through twelve months of life. 
  • Prohibition on Contracts to Organizations that Perform Abortion: includes new language to prohibit contracting with or awarding grants to entities that engage in abortion-related activities, if the entity is located in a county where family planning or pregnancy prevention services are provided by the county or another qualified entity exists that does not engage in any abortion-related activities. Currently, although the law already prohibits state funding from going to organizations that perform abortions, some local health departments contract directly with Planned Parenthood as a go around to the rule. This new language will close the current loophole.
  • School Safety Grants: provides $25 million in competitive school safety grants that would be administered by the Department of State Police. The grants can be used for costs associated with improving school security, such as door locks, motion detection systems, lighting, fences, shatterproof glass for exterior doors and windows, and a number of other expenditures. The grant application will be available in August 2018, with awards announced by October 31, 2018. Projects must be completed by September 2019. Nonpublic schools are qualified applicants. 
  • Dual Enrollment:  provides $2 million for post-secondary course expenses for nonpublic high school and homeschool students while still in high school.
  Governor Signs Driver's License Bills Into Law  
This week, Governor Snyder signed two bills into law to address state ID cards and driver's licenses for individuals who reside in the United States on a temporary basis. House Bills 5686-5687, sponsored by Representatives Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Township) and Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan), prohibit the Secretary of State from issuing a state ID or driver's license for a term that extends beyond the duration of the person's legal presence in the United States. The legislation also ensures the issuance of any card or license would be consistent with federal regulations. MCC had a few concerns with the bills as originally introduced but revised its position to neutral after working with sponsors to get language changes made. The measures become Public Act 176 and 177 of 2018. 
  Changes to Do-Not-Resuscitate Law Unanimously Clear Senate  
Senate Bills 784, 786, and 827, sponsored by Senators Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), would allow a parent to execute a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order on behalf of his or her medically frail minor child. The legislation would allow a DNR for children under 18 who have been diagnosed with an advanced illness by a physician. The DNR order must be signed by the parent(s), the minor's physician, and two witnesses over 18 years of age. Additionally, the legislation provides rules and guidance to school districts about receiving, filing, and executing a minor's DNR order. Michigan Catholic Conference has worked with the National Catholic Bioethics Center to help ensure proper safeguards are in place within the legislation. This week, the Senate unanimously voted to move the measures forward, and they will be debated next in the House Committee on Judiciary. 
  USCCB President Comments on Asylum Policy for Domestic Violence Victims  
In 2016, the Board of Immigration Appeals granted asylum to a woman from El Salvador who had experienced years of domestic violence. The U.S. Attorney General intervened in the case and overturned the ruling, writing that "generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum." He also wrote that a country having problems "effectively policing certain crimes" is not enough to establish an asylum claim. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued a statement about the decision on Wednesday while at the USCCB General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale:

"At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors. We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life."

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