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
September 27, 2019

  In This Update:  
  • Pregnancy Program, Funds for Nonpublic Schools May be in State Budget Jeopardy
  • Suicide Commission Bill Approved by House
  • MCC Supports Expansion of Dual Enrollment Opportunities
  • Major Legal Victory for Faith-based Adoption and Foster Care
  • REMINDER: Sign the Petition Drive to End Dismemberment Abortion
  Pregnancy Program, Funds for Nonpublic Schools May be in State Budget Jeopardy  
Smiling childrenTwo policies that Michigan Catholic Conference has strongly supported may be at risk as state budget deliberations continue. With the end of the fiscal year less than a week away, the legislature sent the remaining state departmental budgets, and the budgets for universities and community colleges, to Governor Whitmer for her review. Most of the votes on the 15 budget bills broke down along party lines, although some received bipartisan support. The legislature sent the school aid budget forward last week.

Interestingly, the negotiation process by which the budgets were passed differed greatly from previous years, and many questions remain as to what will happen in the coming days and weeks.

Earlier in the month, it appeared that budget negotiations had been on track, and there was an agreement to suspend discussions on long term road funding. Within a day, however, those talks broke down as Legislative leadership wanted to add an additional $400 million in General Fund dollars to fix the roads. Governor Whitmer withdrew from budget discussions as she believed that this appropriation would remove incentive for legislative leadership to negotiate further on a long term road funding solution.

As a result, as soon as the budget bills were passed on Tuesday, Governor Whitmer called them "a mess" and called it a budget of "shell games". Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) countered by saying she did not participate in budget discussions and did not respond to repeated requests to negotiate.

It seems likely that the governor wishes to avoid a shutdown, so she may sign the budget bills, but take advantage of her ability to line item veto many items of importance to Legislative Republicans. If this does occur, it could be part of a broader strategy to force the legislature to the table to work on a long-term road funding solution.

As for what this means for the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) and other advocacy organizations remains to be seen. There is a high potential that programs such as Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services and health and safety funds for non-public school students could be line-item vetoed.
  Suicide Commission Bill Approved by House  
Legislation that would create a Michigan Suicide Prevention Commission was approved by the House of Representatives this week 97-11. Senate Bill 228, sponsored by Senator Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), details the groups and individuals that would be represented on the commission, as well as the purpose of the proposed commission: to research the causes of suicide and present recommendations for addressing risk factors. The measure now heads back to the Senate for final concurrence before going to the governor. MCC supports the legislation in order to provide additional life-affirming support and care to Michiganders and to reduce the suicide rate in the state.
  MCC Supports Expansion of Dual Enrollment Opportunities  
Dual enrollment is the practice of obtaining college credit and vocational training while still attending high school. For public school students, tuition and fees are paid by the school district using the state per pupil funding allowance. For nonpublic school students, tuition and fees are paid by the state Department of Treasury. Currently, eligible courses are those offered by a postsecondary institution (i.e., a community college, state university, or independent nonprofit degree-granting college or university) that either is not offered by the school district or is offered but not available because of a scheduling conflict. High school students take these advanced courses during the school year. House Bills 4546 and 4547, sponsored by Representatives Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian) and Ben Frederick (R-Owosso), would also allow students to enroll in college courses that are only offered when their high school is not in session (i.e. the summer). MCC supported the measures during a hearing this week in the House Committee on Education, as it expands educational opportunities for public and nonpublic school students.
  Major Legal Victory for Faith-based Adoption and Foster Care  
On Thursday, St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing, along with Chad and Melissa Buck, parents of five children with special needs, won a major victory for the adoption agency and the families and children it serves. In Buck v. Gordon, St. Vincent joined the Bucks and Shamber Flore, a former foster child, in fighting the Attorney General of Michigan's attempt to shut down faith-based foster and adoption agencies. The federal court ruled that "the State's real goal is not to promote non-discriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St. Vincent's religious belief and replace it with the State's own." This week's ruling is one more step toward ensuring that faith-based agencies can continue working with the State to find more homes for foster children. The preliminary injunction issued allows St. Vincent Catholic Charities to maintain its work and signifies that there is a likelihood they will prevail on the merits of their claim. MCC strongly supports this decision and looks forward to ensuring the State's 2015 law that specifically protects faith-based agencies continues to be recognized by the courts.
  REMINDER: Sign the Petition Drive to End Dismemberment Abortion  
End Dismemberment AbortionSince June 26, Michiganders have been collecting signatures for the Citizen's Initiative Petition to End Dismemberment Abortion in this state. To ban this particularly brutal abortion procedure, a goal of 400,000 signatures from Michigan voters is needed to bring the legislation before state lawmakers. MCC and the Catholic bishops of Michigan are strongly supportive of the initiative to end dismemberment abortion and are pleased with the enthusiastic reaction thus far in the Catholic community.

There is still time to have your signature counted-many parishes will be continuing to collect signatures throughout October, which is Respect Life Month. Check with your local parish for opportunities to sign the petition form or visit the Michigan Values Life website to request a petition form, which you can sign and ask friends or family in your county to sign as well:

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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,