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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
December 18, 2020
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • Michigan Bishops Share Moral Considerations About COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Thank You for Advocacy on Payday Lending Bill
  • Legislation Preventing Water Shutoffs Headed to Governor's Desk 
  • Juvenile Expungement Measures Close to Becoming Law
  • House Passes Food Assistance Bill, Sends to Governor for Final Consideration
  • Jail Reforms Widely Clear Michigan House of Representatives 
  • MCC Launches Webpage to Share Guidelines for End of Life Decisions
 
  Michigan Bishops Share Moral Considerations About COVID-19 Vaccines  
 
As the immunization process has begun in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan bishops are addressing moral questions that have arisen about the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines and their connections to abortion: specifically, how they use cell lines originating in tissue taken from aborted babies. While the three options are in various phases of use and development, the bishops write that "it is morally permissible to receive the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna" especially in light of the "serious health risks" that "are present due to the current pandemic." The AstraZeneca vaccination, which has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, "is more morally problematic" as it "[utilized] in the design, production, development, and confirmatory testing a cell line that originated from tissue taken from an aborted baby." The bishops write that this vaccine "may be received only if there are no other alternatives" and if a delay in immunization may bring about serious consequences for one's health and the health of others." For individuals who chose not to be vaccinated, the bishops write that they "would have a moral responsibility to embrace the necessary precautions to avoid spreading the disease to others." Take the time to carefully read the bishops' statement.

It is the continued responsibility of Catholics, as the Michigan bishops point out in the document, to call for the development, production, and use of vaccines that have no connection to abortion, saying: "Our consciences must not be dulled, nor may we imply in any way that abortion is acceptable."
 
  Thank You for Advocacy on Payday Lending Expansion  
 
After two hearings in the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee, there has been no vote on House Bill 5097, a measure that would expand payday lending opportunities in Michigan. As you know from earlier emails, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) has been concerned about the bill for several reasons, including its exorbitant annual interest rate. The 2019-2020 legislative session will wrap up next week on Monday, December 21. MCC is hopeful that no more committees will be held to consider the bill, but please stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, thank you for making your voice heard. Your advocacy makes a difference at critical times in the legislative process.
 
  Legislation Preventing Water Shutoffs Headed to Governor's Desk  
 
On Thursday, December 17, the Michigan House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 241 to pause residential water shutoffs due to nonpayment, restore water service to occupied residences, and require public water suppliers to provide reports on the status of water service in their area. MCC applauds this action, which will help struggling families and combat the spread of COVID-19 by facilitating handwashing. Similar provisions were in place at the beginning of the pandemic through an executive order, but the order is no longer in effect today. As the measure now continues to the governor's desk to hopefully become law, MCC would like to thank the bill sponsor, Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), for her perseverance in ensuring the measure passed. Staff is also grateful for the wide bipartisan support the measure received in the Legislature. To read about why this bill is critical for Michigan, read MCC's latest The Word from Lansing column.
 
  Juvenile Expungement Measures Close to Becoming Law  
 
Throughout the process, MCC has supported Senate Bills 681-682, sponsored by Senators Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.), which give youth who have committed crimes a more productive future, once they have been held accountable for their actions. More specifically, the legislation would set aside most juvenile convictions two years after the final judgement or settlement of the charge or on their eighteen birthday, whichever date is later. The bill also states that:
  • Expungement would not be an option for those convicted of offenses punishable by life or those where the juvenile was tried as an adult.
  • Law enforcement, courts, and the governor would be able to access a private judicial file on the individual if necessary, but most employers would not be able to access the person's record. 
This week, the measures passed the House of Representatives with wide bipartisan support. After a quick procedural vote in the Senate to agree to the House's small changes, the expungement bills will be sent to the governor.
 
  House Passes Food Assistance Bill, Sends to Governor for Final Consideration  
 
While it looked as if the measure was done for the session, MCC was pleased to see Senate Bill 1006 passed by the full House of Representatives this week. The legislation would revoke Michigan's existing law that prevents individuals with multiple drug felonies from participating in federal food assistance. If enacted into law, it would also clarify that individuals with drug convictions would only be allowed to receive food assistance, not cash assistance. Staff supported the bill throughout the process, both in committee and through individual advocacy with House lawmakers, because it eliminates unnecessary barriers for those who have served their time and are working to rebuild their lives. With the 92-15 bipartisan vote, SB 1006 now continues to Governor Whitmer for her signature. MCC is grateful to the bill's sponsor, Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint), for his leadership on this issue.
 
  Jail Reforms Widely Clear Michigan House of Representatives  
 
This week, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of jail reform measures that were supported by MCC. Senate Bills 1046-1051 would, among other aspects:
  • Limit how long juveniles could be detained for offenses that are only crimes for juveniles.
  • Incentivize sentences that include community corrections solutions and seek to reduce the amount of people who receive jail time for probation and court order violations.
The bills now continue to the governor for final consideration.
 
  MCC Launches Webpage to Share Guidelines for End of Life Decisions  
 
Discussing end of life decisions may be one of the more difficult conversations to start. However, it also may very well be one of the most important. Whether you are the patient, a family member, or chosen Patient Advocate, there are a number of things to consider when deciding upon and executing, or accepting, an advance health care directive. Michigan Catholic Conference offers resources for individuals considering these decisions, including designating a Patient Advocate, in a manner that is consistent with Catholic Social Teaching. On a new webpage launched this week, MCC provides its Guidelines for End of Life Decisions booklet and accompanying Designation of Patient Advocate forms. Learn more at http://bit.ly/34nG4z8

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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