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
August 28, 2020

  In This Update:  
  • MCC Responds to AG's Campaign Against Nonpublic Schools in COVID Aid
  • State Revenues Improved from May Estimates but Still Down
  • Report Highlights Move Away from Funding of Fetal Tissue Research
  • U.S. Bishops Lament New Federal Executions This Week
  • Ban of Abortion in U.S. Global Health Assistance Praiseworthy 
  • September 1 Marks World Day of Prayer for Creation
  MCC Responds to AG's Campaign Against Nonpublic Schools in COVID Aid  
Earlier this year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Congress provided assistance to public and nonpublic schools through the federal CARES Act. This week, a federal judge ruled against the U.S. Department of Education's rule that clarified how COVID-19 response funding provided by the CARES Act could be distributed to nonpublic schools. As an ardent supporter of nonpublic schools and school choice both in Michigan and across the country, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) provided for the California court an amicus brief in support of the federal policy. In a statement, MCC wrote:

"Judge Donato's ruling, while disappointing, is not unexpected. Clearly the Attorney General went out to California to find a favorable ruling that discriminates against nonpublic schools. Congress included nonpublic schools in the CARES Act to ensure all students are treated equally, without prejudice due to the school they attend. As national policies and a litany of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings are moving the country closer to equality in education, some elected officials in Michigan continue to prioritize ideological politics over the thousands of low and middle-income families enrolled in nonpublic schools who, like their public school friends, are equally impacted by the COVID pandemic."
  State Revenues Improved from May Estimates but Still Down  
At the beginning of the week, members of the Senate Fiscal Agency, the House Fiscal Agency, and the State Budget Office met for the August Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. This conference projects available state revenues and provides estimates for lawmakers, which helps as they continue to formulate their state budget proposals. During this August meeting, officials revised the state's revenues for the 2020-21 fiscal year up from May estimates. While Michigan is still facing a deficit, federal unemployment assistance and the CARES Act helped provide some relief.
  • In January 2020, the General Fund estimate was pegged at $11.2 billion, and now that number is projected to be $9.5 billion. For 2020, the revenue numbers are up $1.3 billion for the General Fund, and up $2.3 billion for the School Aid Fund.
  • For 2021, the May budget hole for General Fund of $3.2 billion has been reduced to a projected hole of $926 million. Some of the hole is cushioned by carry forward revenue from the higher than projected numbers from the current fiscal year.  
MCC will continue to monitor the impact of state revenues on the budget formation process. 
  Report Highlights Move Away from Funding of Fetal Tissue Research  
Last week, the National Institutes of Health issued a Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board report addressing funding and research proposals. In that report, the Board recommended withholding federal funding from thirteen out of fourteen research proposals involving the use of fetal tissue. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commended the ethical scrutiny given to fetal tissue research at the federal level:

"We applaud the Administration for moving NIH in a direction that shows greater consideration for medical ethics in research, and greater respect for innocent human life. It is neither ethical nor necessary to further violate the bodies of aborted babies by commodifying them for use in medical research. The victims of abortion deserve the same respect as every other human person. We are grateful that the Administration is following through on its commitment to end federal funding of research using aborted fetal tissue."
  U.S. Bishops Lament New Federal Executions This Week  
In 1837, Michigan became the first English-speaking jurisdiction in the world to outlaw the death penalty. MCC worked to ensure this prohibition was included in the state's Constitution of 1963. While Michigan's ban remains in place, unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Justice has resumed executions for federal crimes. Two took place this week and several others have been scheduled for September. In light of the scheduling of these executions, the USCCB issued the following statement:

"The Church's opposition to the death penalty is clear, and we have made many requests that the federal government should not resume these executions. Yet, not only has the government done so, they have scheduled even more executions. After the first three in July, there are two this week, and two more at the end of September. We know from scripture that God created each of us in his image (Gen. 1:26-27). This gives each person an irrevocable dignity, despite their sinfulness.  When the Pharisees wanted to put to death the adulterous woman, they put the question to Jesus in this way: 'Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?' (Jn. 8:5). We must not forget the Lord's answer! Remembering the Lord's call for mercy, we renew our plea: stop these executions!"
  Ban of Abortion in U.S. Global Health Assistance Praiseworthy  
The USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities thanked and praised the Trump Administration following the release of its second report showing successful implementation of an expanded Mexico City Policy. The policy blocks U.S. federal funding for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that promote or provide counseling or referrals for abortions. According to the recent report that was released, a vast majority of foreign NGOs-1,285 out of 1,340-have complied with this policy with minimal disruption of health services and no reduction in funding. The USCCB praised the Administration for "ensuring that U.S. global health assistance funding actually promotes health and human rights and doesn't undermine them by promoting abortion." In their statement, the USCCB writes:

"Killing innocent and defenseless unborn children through abortion is not health care. Abortion violates an unborn child's most basic human right, the right to life, and it also can wound the mother emotionally and physically. Americans recognize this injustice and an overwhelming majority of them oppose giving tax dollars to organizations that are more committed to promoting abortion than providing health services."
  September 1 Marks World Day of Prayer for Creation  
In 2015, Pope Francis declared September 1 the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, joining with the Orthodox Church in praying for our common home. In his letter establishing the day as an annual celebration, the Holy Father wrote that its purpose was to "offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live." Global Catholic Climate Covenant offers many helpful resources at its website for celebrating the day, including prayers, small group resources, videos, and more.

Catholics and other people of good will have the opportunity to celebrate this World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, as well as a "season of creation" in the month of September through Sunday, October 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of ecology and animals).

Additional Care of Creation Resources:
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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,