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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 25, 2020
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • October 1 Marks Beginning of Respect Life Month
  • Legislature, Governor Come to Agreement on 2020-2021 State Budget
  • MCC Election Website Offers Voter Registration Resources
  • Senate Votes 37-1 on Bill to Waive Stillborn Certificate Fee
  • Michigan House Passes Jail Reform Bills 
  • Charitable Giving Tax Credit Clears House
  • Food Assistance Measure Continues to Senate Floor
  • Educational Assistance Measures Move Forward in Legislative Process
  • U.S. Catholic Bishops Call for Federal Executions to Stop
  • September 27 is the World Day for Migrants and Refugees 
 
  October 1 Marks Beginning of Respect Life Month  
 
October is Respect Life Month in the U.S. Catholic Church, and the USCCB has issued a statement encouraging Catholics to allow "the Gospel of Christ to touch and transform our own hearts and the decisions we make."  

"As Catholics in the United States, we will soon mark our annual observance of October as Respect Life Month. It is a time to focus on God's precious gift of human life and our responsibility to care for, protect, and defend the lives of our brothers and sisters. This year's theme, 'Live the Gospel of Life,' was inspired by the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's encyclical, The Gospel of Life. Pope John Paul's masterfully articulated defense of the right to life for children in their mothers' wombs, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the marginalized is more relevant today than ever before. Last November, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that 'the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.' While we noted not to 'dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty, and the death penalty,' we renewed our commitment to protect the most fundamental of all human rights - the right to live." 

New parish resources have been developed around the theme of "Living the Gospel of Life" and are available at www.respectlife.org. Respect Life Sunday falls on October 4.
 
  Legislature, Governor Come to Agreement on 2020-2021 State Budget  
 
In their negotiations this week, the Michigan Legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer came to an agreement on the 2020-2021 state budget. Once it is officially approved, the close to $63 billion budget would begin on October 1, 2020 and carry through September 30, 2021. While this has been a difficult environment to formulate a proposal due to COVID-19, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) was pleased to see the following items included in the budget agreement:

Education Items: 
  • $300,000 in competitive First Robotics grant funding for nonpublic schools. It covers registration fees for competitions, stipends for coaches, and other related expenses.
  • Continued funding for the shared time program. Shared time allows a nonpublic student to enroll in "non-essential" elective courses at a public school and be considered a part-time pupil in the public school for state aid purposes.
  • $100 to reimburse nonpublic schools for expenses related to state-mandated health, safety, and welfare requirements. This funding would be in addition to $5.25 million previously appropriated that is currently on hold while the program is reviewed by the State Supreme Court.
  • A seven percent increase for the Tuition Incentive Program, which assists Medicaid recipients in attending public or independent colleges, to bring its total funding to $68.8 million.
  • A ten percent increase for the Tuition Grant Program, which helps low-income persons attend Michigan's independent colleges and universities, to bring its total funding to $42.0 million.
  • Language that requires school districts to have a disciplinary policy for staff who refer students for abortions.
  • An additional $5 million for mental health services available for Michigan students.
Health and Human Service Items:
  • $1.5 million to fund an increase in the rates for private adoption agencies that serve children in foster care awaiting safe and permanent homes. 
  • A retention of the current administrative rate for foster care providers, which is not less than $46.20.
  • A $400,000 increase in funding for runaway and homeless youth programs (total of close to $7.8 million) and an increase of nearly $650,000 for emergency homeless shelters (total of approximately $23.3 million). 
  • A $2 million increase in federal funding for programs for senior citizens, as well as $40,000 for a pilot program to call and check on seniors, especially those who are isolated or homebound.
  • New language that requires the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to work with schools on initiatives that provide education on human trafficking and sexual abuse prevention.
  • The annual provision of $200,000 for human trafficking intervention services was maintained.
  • Current funding for the Heat and Eat program is maintained. This policy utilizes the low-income energy assistance program to help individuals in need to qualify for additional food assistance from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  
  • An allocation of $7.23 million, again this year, to provide an annual clothing allowance for low-income children in the Family Independence Program.
Sadly, no funding was included for Michigan's Pregnancy and Parenting Support Services Program, which has been supported by MCC for years. The program had assisted nearly 9,000 Michigan women and their babies with services such as pregnancy counseling, prenatal health information, parenting support and education. It also provided necessary care items, such as clothing, diapers, and formula during pregnancy and up through the first twelve months of a child's life. MCC remains committed to advocating for programs that assist women in crisis pregnancies and provide life-affirming support.
 
  MCC Election Website Offers Voter Registration Resources  
 
This past Tuesday, September 22 marked the celebration of National Voter Registration Day across the country, a day that raises awareness about the importance of participating in the democratic process. Michigan Catholic Conference's election website provides easy links for Michigan residents to check their voter registration status or to figure out what steps might be needed to register to vote. The website also provides resources on Catholic teaching, conscience formation, and the statewide candidates and issues on the upcoming November ballot.

Visit www.micatholic.org/2020Election to learn more. 
 
  Senate Votes 37-1 on Bill to Waive Stillborn Certificate Fee  
 
After passing the House of Representatives in March with wide bipartisan support, House Bill 5289 cleared the Senate this week to assist families grieving a stillborn child. More specifically, the measure prohibits the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from charging a fee when a family requests up to two copies of a certificate of stillbirth. This documentation allows parents who have a stillborn child to claim an exemption on their state income tax, which can help defray expenses after their loss. MCC supports the policy and is hopeful it will soon become law.
 
  Michigan House Passes Jail Reform Bills  
 
On Wednesday, September 23, the Michigan House of Representatives voted unanimously for several measures -House Bills 5844, 5846-5857- that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for various misdemeanor offenses in the Motor Vehicle Code, School Code, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Railroad Code and Public Health Code. In the cases of several drunk or drugged driving offenses, the legislation would prohibit a judge from waiving the minimum sentence unless the offender completes a specialty court program, which encourages rehabilitation. MCC supports these measures and looks forward to their continued consideration in the Senate. The sponsors of the package include Representatives Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe), Tim Sneller (D-Burton), Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming), Steven Johnson (R-Wayland), and Jack O'Malley (R-Lake Ann).
 
  Charitable Giving Tax Credit Clears House  
 
House Bill 6162, sponsored by Senator Joe Tate (D-Detroit), would provide taxpayers a nonrefundable tax credit for fifty percent of the amount contributed to food banks, food kitchens, or homeless shelters, up to $100 credit for an individual and $200 for a joint return. Earlier in September, MCC supported the measure in the House Government Operations Committee, as it encourages charitable giving within communities. This week, the full House of Representatives voted 82-23 to continue the bill forward. After this vote, HB 6162 continues to the Senate Finance Committee.
 
  Food Assistance Measure Continues to Senate Floor  
 
The Senate Families, Seniors and Veterans Committee heard testimony this week on Senate Bill 1006, a measure to revoke Michigan's law that prohibits individuals with multiple drug felonies from participating in federal food assistance. This ban emerged decades ago as federal legislation barred those with more than one felony offense from receiving assistance, but states were allowed to modify and opt out of the federal ban if they so choose. An amendment adopted during the committee clarified that individuals with drug convictions would be allowed to receive food assistance only, but not cash assistance. After adopting the amendment, the committee voted to move the bill forward to the full Senate. MCC supported the measure, which is sponsored by Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint), as it eliminates unnecessary barriers for those who have served their time and are trying to rebuild their lives.
 
  Educational Assistance Measures Move Forward in Legislative Process  
 
In an effort to help low-income students in need, especially in light of COVID-19 disruptions, the House Education Committee approved two bills that offer more flexible assistance through traditional programs: the Tuition Grant program and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship program. MCC supported both measures.
  • House Bill 6171, sponsored by Representative Scott VanSingel (R-Grant), would allow two extra semesters of eligibility for certain recipients of the Tuition Grant program. These recipients include qualifying undergraduate students enrolled in private colleges and universities for the 2020 spring term and the 2020-2021 academic year. 
     
  • House Bill 6172, sponsored by Representative Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), would amend eligibility standards for the Michigan Competitive Scholarship program. Currently for a student to be eligible, he or she must demonstrate a financial need, possess a high school diploma or equivalent certification, and achieve at least a 1200 on the SAT. Under the bill, for the 2020-2021 academic year, scholastic achievement could be used as an alternative to the required SAT score. Additionally, those eligible for the 2020-2021 academic year have eleven years to use their scholarship, rather than the usual ten years. 
The legislation will continue to the House Ways and Means Committee for further discussion.
 
  U.S. Catholic Bishops Call for Federal Executions to Stop  
 
As the U.S. Department of Justice has continued to schedule and hold federal executions, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is boldly speaking out on the need for the executions to stop:

"In the last 60 years, before the Trump administration restarted federal executions, there were only four federal executions. Since July, there have been five, which is already more federal executions than were carried out in any year in the last century. There are two more federal executions scheduled this week. After the first murder recorded in the Bible, God did not end Cain's life, but rather preserved it, warning others not to kill Cain (Gn. 4:15). As the Church, we must give concrete help to victims of violence, and we must encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of those who commit violence. Accountability and legitimate punishment are a part of this process. Responsibility for harm is necessary if healing is to occur and can be instrumental in protecting society, but executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable, as Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have all articulated...We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions."
 
  September 27 is the World Day for Migrants and Refugees  
 
The Vatican has designated Sunday, September 27 as the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 106th observance of this day is "Forced like Jesus Christ to Flee", a focus on the plight of internally displaced persons. The USCCB commented on the importance of the day and this year's theme in a statement this week, saying:

"The World Day for Migrants and Refugees is an opportunity to reflect on the global contributions of immigrants and refugees, and highlight the work of the Church to welcome, protect and integrate them. We are reminded that regardless of our background, we are all built in the image of God and should be treated as such. In his message on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis has highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the forced displacement of people and the difficulties they encounter when seeking protection. This day is an opportunity to unite the world in addressing forced displacement and pray for the well-being of our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters as we continue to work to bring solidarity, compassion and love throughout our human encounters. It is of vital importance for us to embrace love for our neighbor as we love ourselves and live out this commitment daily. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, also noted in his annual message, 'To preserve our common home and make it conform more and more to God's original plan, we must commit ourselves to ensuring international cooperation, global solidarity and local commitment, leaving no one excluded.'"


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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