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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 26, 2019
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • MCC Speaks Out Against Dismemberment Abortion Procedure
  • Priority "Raise the Age" Packages Pass House and Senate 
  • MCC Offers Support for Catholic Charities Lawsuit
  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittees Announce State Budget Proposals
  • Parole for Medically Frail Bills Pass Committee
  • Senate Will Consider Suicide Prevention Commission Bill 
  • E-Cigarette Ban to Minors Clears Senate
  • May FOCUS: Clean and Affordable Water for All
  • MCC Honored with Three PACE Awards for PR Efforts
 
  MCC Speaks Out Against Dismemberment Abortion Procedure  
 
This week, Michigan House and Senate committees considered legislation that would prohibit dismemberment abortion in Michigan. On Wednesday, April 24, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) testified in the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee in support of House Bills 4320-4321, which are sponsored by Representatives Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp) and Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Twp). During testimony, staff brought awareness to the brutality of the dismemberment abortion procedure and highlighted post-abortion trauma that women experience, commenting that "as a society we should seek out and offer compassionate responses, alternatives to abortion, and support for all women. Women deserve better; better than the D&E/dismemberment procedure, better than abortion." A vote is expected on the bills during the next hearing. On Thursday, April 25, the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee considered similar bills, Senate Bills 229-230, which are sponsored by Senators Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) and Kimberly LaSata (R-St. Joseph). Due to other items on the agenda and limited time, MCC was not able to testify this week. However, testimony will continue over the next several weeks and staff is looking forward to sharing why this legislation is critical for Michigan. 
 
  Priority "Raise the Age" Packages Pass House and Senate  
 
Great news regarding "Raise the Age" legislation in the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives this week: both packages passed their respective chambers by wide, bipartisan margins. Instead of automatically treating seventeen-year-olds in the adult system when a crime is committed, the bills would allow most seventeen-year-olds to receive services in the juvenile system. A judge or prosecutor may still choose to charge a seventeen-year-old as an adult in cases of serious crimes.

While the two bill packages have the same overall goal, some differences remain in terms of funding the policy change, which will have to be discussed further between the two chambers. Senate Bills 84 and 90-102 will now continue to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration. Similarly, House Bills 4133-4146, 4443, and 4452 will go before the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. MCC appreciates legislators from both parties who supported the package and is especially grateful to Senator Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), Senator Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Twp), and Representative Graham Filler (R-Ovid) for their leadership on this critical issue. Many thanks also to all the Catholic Advocacy Network members who emailed their elected officials about this legislation!
 
  MCC Offers Support for Catholic Charities Lawsuit  
 
This week, the legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of Catholic Charities West Michigan, in response to a recent settlement agreement reached between Attorney General Dana Nessel and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regarding State child placement services. This new lawsuit, Catholic Charities West Michigan v. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, asks the court to protect Catholic Charities from being singled out, punished, or disfavored because its religious beliefs- beliefs that motivate its care for children, birth parents, and other vulnerable members of the community. It further argues that the new rule (as a result of the settlement agreement) violates a 2015 state law specifically enacted to ensure that providers like Catholic Charities could maintain contracts within the state while maintaining their religious beliefs. In a press release on Friday, April 26, ADF commented:

"Every child deserves a permanent home with loving parents. Protecting Catholic Charities West Michigan does nothing to interfere with other providers who hold different convictions. But eliminating this nonprofit, faith-based provider means fewer children are reunited with their birth parents or placed with loving adoptive parents. Michigan's new rule forces a Christian community to abandon or alter the religious beliefs that motivate its ministry in the first place-a move that defies both logic and the law."

MCC has commented on the settlement previously, which does nothing to serve the best interests of children: "For decades, Catholic agencies [like Catholic Charities West Michigan] have anchored communities and families by offering humanitarian aid to those in need and placing vulnerable children in loving homes. Faith-based child placement agencies help to provide diverse options for families and work to stabilize difficult living conditions for kids across the state. The lawsuit [as well as a recent federal lawsuit, Buck v. Gordon] will push-back against the ongoing adversarial efforts to move the Catholic Church and the services they provide out of the public square."
 
  Senate Appropriations Subcommittees Announce State Budget Proposals  
 
Since Governor Gretchen Whitmer presented her executive state budget recommendations for the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year in March, the Michigan House and Senate have been working on versions of the budget in their own respective appropriations (sub)committees. This week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees approved their state budget recommendations. Items of interest to MCC include:
  • Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program: provides support to women in crisis pregnancies and promotes alternatives to abortion. The Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Subcommittee proposes $750,000 for this critical program, while the governor's proposal cuts the funding. MCC will continue to advocate for the Senate recommendation.  
     
  • Nonpublic School Mandate Funding: reimburses nonpublic schools for expenses related to State health, safety, and welfare requirements, including criminal background checks and safety drills. The Senate School Aid K-12 Subcommittee recommends $250,000 for this item (which would be combined with carry-over funding not used during previous years), while the governor eliminated the item. MCC will continue to advocate for the Senate recommendation.  
     
  • First Robotics Funding for Nonpublic Schools: proposes competitive grant funding for First Robotics or Science Olympiad programs in nonpublic schools. The Senate School Aid K-12 Subcommittee recommends $300,000 for this purpose, which was not included in the governor's proposal. MCC will continue to advocate for the Senate recommendation. 
     
  • Mental Health Funding: ensures nonpublic school students (like their public school counterparts) can access mental health counseling, educational awareness programs, and enhanced mental health and clinical services to improve mental health outcomes. This language has been included in the Senate School Aid K-12 Subcommittee as well as the governor's proposal.  
     
  • Dual Enrollment: allows nonpublic high school students to enroll in a post-secondary institution class while still enrolled in high school. The Senate Treasury Subcommittee and the governor both retain last Fiscal Year's funding for this item at $2 million.
     
  • Tuition Grant Program: provides financial assistance to help low-income students attend one of Michigan's independent colleges or universities. The Senate Higher Education Subcommittee and the governor both retain funding at its current level of $38 million. MCC will continue to advocate for tuition assistance for low-income students. 
     
  • Tuition Incentive Program: helps Medicaid recipients attend a public or independent college. The Senate Higher Education Subcommittee retains funding at its current level of $64.3 million, while the governor's proposal suggests dropping funding down to $59.8 million. MCC will continue to advocate for the Senate recommendation.
The House Appropriations Subcommittees are continuing to consider their proposals and have not yet issued their own set of recommendations.
 
  Parole for Medically Frail Bills Pass Committee  
 
Over the past several years, Michigan has examined how to handle the care of very elderly and ill inmates in the adult correction's system. House Bills 4129-4132-sponsored by Representatives Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit), Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan) and Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield)-would allow those individuals who are "medically frail" and who qualify for medical parole to be moved to a nursing home for the remainder of their sentence. Within the legislation, "medically frail" is narrowly defined and requires multiple medical opinions before the designation. Additionally, the prisoner's case would also go before the Parole Board, to review public safety concerns and other criteria, before the "medically frail" status could be granted. Those individuals serving time for rape or first-degree murder would not be eligible for this medical parole option. MCC supported the bills, which unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and now continue to the full Senate. The measures have already passed the House of Representatives. 
 
  Senate Will Consider Suicide Prevention Commission Bill  
 
This week, the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee discussed Senate Bill 228, a measure aimed at addressing rising suicide rates in Michigan. This legislation would create a Suicide Prevention Commission, which would include representatives from a variety of disciplines. This Commission would be tasked with researching the causes and possible underlying risk factors of suicide in Michigan, as well as offering recommendations for reducing those factors. MCC supported the measure in the committee this week, which passed with a 10-0 vote and continues to the full Senate. 
 
  E-Cigarette Ban to Minors Clears Senate  
 
As outlined in a previous update, Michigan lawmakers are currently considering ways to regulate e-cigarettes and prohibit their sales to minors. Senate Bills 106 and 155, which passed the Senate by a 38-0 vote this week, regulate e-cigarettes as a new category of vapor products, rather than as tobacco products. Keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors is critical, and MCC appreciates the intent of the legislation and its bill sponsors: Senators Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes) and Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit). In MCC's view, however, lawmakers should instead take the opportunity to implement stronger protections for children by regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products, which would also bring Michigan in line with federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules. After passing the Senate this week, Senate Bills 106 and 155 continue now to the House Judiciary Committee.
 
  May FOCUS: Clean and Affordable Water for All  
 
Water is an essential resource within the Great Lakes State, impacting so many aspects of life: cleaning, growing and cooking food, transportation, entertainment, and especially, nourishment. The latest FOCUS publication, "Clean and Affordable Water for All," details the importance of water safety, affordability, and accessibility for each Michigander, as well as the Church's insights from the Gospel teaching to "give drink to the thirsty."
 
  MCC Honored with Three PACE Awards for PR Efforts  
 
Last week, the Central Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (CMPRSA) has recognized MCC for the second year in a row by honoring the organization with three top awards for excellence in public relations and communication. CMPRSA presented MCC a first-place Pinnacle Award in the Speeches category and two second-place Excellence Awards in the category of Newsletters and Guest Columns/Op-Eds. MCC commented afterwards:

"We're grateful to the national judges for recognizing this organization's efforts to promote the common good in Michigan, particularly in the policy areas of juvenile justice reform, interfaith religious liberty efforts, and the creation of strong communities and families. CMPRSA, those who worked to assemble the PACE Awards ceremony, and the many fine and talented agencies that participated in this year's annual event equally deserve applause and recognition."

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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