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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 26, 2020
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • Advocacy on Payday Lending Appreciated, State Lawmakers Leave for Short Recess
  • New Law Extends Telemedicine to Medicaid Recipients
  • MCC Supports Bills to Reduce Unnecessary Incarceration
  • Discussion Continues Around Police Training
  • Dual Enrollment Expansion Close to Governor's Desk
  • U.S. Bishops Celebrate Religious Freedom Week
  • Catholic Conference Offers Prayers for Father's Day
 
  Advocacy on Payday Lending Appreciated, State Lawmakers Leave for Short Recess  
 
Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) appreciates the hundreds of messages sent to state senators this week on the potential payday lending expansion- THANK YOU.  Your efforts are helping to educate lawmakers and to speak out on behalf of those who are financially struggling in this state. Thankfully, the legislative session has recessed without a vote on House Bill 5097. However, legislators will return in a few weeks, so please continue to keep the pressure on. If you have not yet reached out to your state senator, email him or her now

MCC will continue to keep members updated if a hearing on the legislation is scheduled.
 
  New Law Signed to Extend Telemedicine to Medicaid Patients  
 
On Wednesday, June 24, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bills 5414-5416 into law as Public Acts 99-101 of 2020, which expand access to telemedicine for those with Medicaid coverage. The new laws require the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide telemedicine coverage through the medical assistance and Healthy Michigan Medicaid programs, and to allow for telemedicine through the state's mental health code. MCC appreciates the bipartisan leadership of the bill sponsors-Representatives Phil Green (R-Millington), Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park), and Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp)-and is glad to see this change adopted in Michigan law, especially during the pandemic.
 
  MCC Supports Bills to Reduce Unnecessary Incarceration  
 
In 2019, the bipartisan Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration met to analyze factors impacting jails across the state, as incarceration rates have nearly tripled over a relatively short period of time. The group was charged with creating policy recommendations "to reduce incarceration trends, promote public safety, and safeguard civil rights." This week, the House Judiciary Committee considered the first round of recommendations. House Bills 5551, 5684-5698, and 5802-5804 would:
  • Reclassify a number of current misdemeanors as civil infractions-such as license plate or registration violations-which would result in civil fines rather than jail time.
  • Eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for dozens of misdemeanors and allow for greater judicial discretion in these cases.
The bill sponsors include legislators from across the state and across the political spectrum, including Representatives Julie Alexander (R-Hanover), John Cherry (D-Flint), Tim Sneller (D-Burton), Annette Glenn (R-Midland), Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), Graham Filler (R-DeWitt), Gregory Markkanen (R-Hancock), Steve Johnson (R-Wayland), Mike Mueller (R-Linden), Ronnie Peterson (D-Ypsilanti), Gary Howell (R-North Branch), and Kyra Harris Bolden (D-Southfield). MCC supported these common-sense measures, which ensure that Michiganders are not forever "criminalized" and give discretion back to judges to determine the appropriate response. Each now continue to the full House of Representatives.
 
  Discussion Continues Around Police Training  
 
In the Michigan Legislature this week, MCC supported House Bill 5837 to require law enforcement recruits and current officials to undergo training or continuing education on de-escalation techniques, implicit bias, and mental health resources that are available. This measure from Representative Ronnie Peterson (D-Ypsilanti) is similar to legislation staff previously supported in the State Senate to improve safety for both the general public and for officers. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee and the full House of Representatives with unanimous support. 

At the national level, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently sent a letter to all members of the U.S. Congress, which offers reflections and principles for police accountability and reform. In their letter, the bishops note that, although law enforcement officers offer "a great and needed service," the "terrible and unjust killing of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and so many more," demonstrates that there must be "better practices for formation and accountability for police, certainly in the use of lethal force, but also in patterns of discrimination and prejudice, so that real accountability can happen before more lives are lost." An excerpt of the letter reads as follows:

"We stand in the long tradition-from St. Augustine, to St. Thomas Aquinas, to Dr. Martin Luther King-that claims that the purpose of law and law enforcement is the promotion of justice. The 'only solution to the challenges of this moment,' is to follow the wise counsel of Pope St. Paul VI: 'If you want peace, work for justice.'"  
 
  Dual Enrollment Expansion Close to Governor's Desk  
 
Many students across Michigan participate in dual enrollment opportunities, which allows them to obtain college credit and vocational training as high schoolers. Courses that are eligible for dual enrollment include those that are not offered by the school district or that are offered but not available for a student due to scheduling conflicts. Currently, all courses must be offered during the school year. The Michigan Legislature is currently considering an expansion to dual enrollment through House Bills 4546-4547. The measures, sponsored by Representatives Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian) and Ben Frederick (R-Owosso), would allow students to take a course when their high school is not in session, such as during the summer, if their school approves it. MCC supports the measures, which passed the Senate this week and are close to final consideration from the governor.
 
  U.S. Bishops Celebrate Religious Freedom Week  
 
Throughout the past week, the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty has been encouraging Catholics to pray and to promote religious liberty at home and abroad. Commencing on June 22 (the Feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher) and ending on June 29 (the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul), the theme for this year's Religious Freedom Week is "For the Good of All." Commenting on the week, the USCCB drew attention to why action is important in the protection of this freedom:

"Religious freedom is under stress throughout the world. Even in our Western liberal democracies, discrimination against religion in general and Catholic Christianity, in particular, is growing - albeit in perhaps more sophisticated and less violent ways...Yet, just as freedom of speech depends not only on one's right to say what's on one's mind but also on the existence of institutions like newspapers, universities, libraries, political parties and other associations that make up what we call 'civil society,' so too freedom of religion 'for the good of all' must also encompass protecting those institutions that nourish the individual's free exercise of religion. The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person. Religious freedom is the human right that guarantees all other rights - peace and creative living together will only be possible if freedom of religion is fully respected."

Resources for Religious Freedom Week may be found at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek
 
  Catholic Conference Offers Prayers for Father's Day  
 
On Sunday, June 21, Americans celebrated Father's Day. Michigan Catholic Conference would like to recognize the blessings that all fathers (physical and spiritual) give to their families, communities, and the wide Church, especially across the state: 

"God, you are the giver of all life, human and divine. Bless our father. May he be the best of teachers for his children [godchildren, parishioners, etc.], bearing witness to the faith by what he says and does, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. (adapted, Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers)."

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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