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
March 12, 2021

  In This Update:  
  • Nonpublic School Assistance Vetoed; MCC Emphasizes Student Safety Needs
  • MCC Testifies in House Committee on Payday Lending
  • Bills Addressing Educational Assistance and COVID Continue to House Floor
  Nonpublic School Assistance Vetoed; MCC Emphasizes Student Safety Needs  

As shared in last week's Lansing Update, the Michigan Legislature recently passed supplemental budget bills to provide necessary funding for the 2020-2021 budget year, which ends on September 30. This week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed certain provisions into law-such as funding for emergency rental assistance, vaccine distribution, COVID-19 testing, and an increase for direct care workers-approving $3.55 billion of the total $4.25 billion package. At the same time, she vetoed several items, such as funding for nonpublic school students, parent summer school expense reimbursements, state dollars for the state unemployment fund, and aid for struggling businesses. In commenting on the vetoes, Governor Whitmer cited concerns with a provision inserted by the Legislature that would have put local health officials-not the state Department of Health and Human Services-in charge of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In rejecting the provision and items connected to it, almost $841 million in federal assistance for public K-12 schools may also be jeopardized. After the announcement, the Michigan House of Representatives attempted to override the vetoes. Even with all the House Republicans and Representatives Kelly Breen (D-Novi), Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette), Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek), Nate Shannon (D-Warren), Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit), and Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp.) voting yes to override the veto of nonpublic school funding (a 64-45 vote), the vote did not reach the two-thirds threshold required for it to succeed.

Michigan Catholic Conference was disappointed to see approximately $87 million in COVID relief for students in nonpublic schools stricken out of the final law, especially due to disagreements about school closure authority between the governor and the Michigan Legislature. This relief would have addressed the same issues as federal funding for public schools, including sanitation, learning loss, social distancing, and ventilation improvements, which would protect student health and safety.

Then on Wednesday, March 10, the House of Representatives passed two new supplemental bills with the items Governor Whitmer vetoed, without any connection to closure authority and the pandemic orders. Representatives Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) and Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit) again joined the Republicans in voting for the measure that restored the nonpublic school funding and the parent summer school expense reimbursement, Senate Bill 29. It remains to be seen when the Michigan Senate will consider the legislation. MCC is hopeful an agreement can be reached by all parties, especially as the Michigan Department of Education is still scheduled to begin accepting applications from nonpublic schools for federal COVID aid starting on March 22. Staff will continue to advocate for student safety needs in public and nonpublic schools and will provide further updates as they are available. Stay tuned for an action alert coming soon on this topic.

  MCC Testifies in House Committee on Payday Lending  

Most often in Lansing, legislative committees meet to consider specific legislation that has been introduced into the Michigan House of Representatives or Senate. However, when needed, these committees invite individuals and organizations to present information on a topic generally, so the lawmakers can learn more about the issue and determine what bills or regulations might be needed in the future. On Wednesday, March 10, the House Financial Services Committee met for such a discussion on the issue of payday lending (short-term, high-interest loans). Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) staff testified alongside Habitat for Humanity, sharing some concerns about the payday lending industry within the state, especially the high annual percentage rates often charged and the tendency for borrowers to become trapped in a cycle of debt. Data from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has shown that over 70 percent of borrowers take out another loan the same day one is paid. Approximately 90 percent of borrowers take out another loan within 60 days.

While the House Financial Services Committee spoke generally about the topic of payday lending, MCC remains engaged against a specific bill in the Michigan House that would expand payday lending opportunities in the state: House Bill 4004. Your advocacy is helping- learn more.

  Bills Addressing Educational Assistance and COVID Continue to House Floor  

The House Education Committee unanimously voted to move two bills to the House floor this week that provide additional eligibility or flexibility for certain educational assistance and address those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, House Bills 4055 and 4056, sponsored by Representatives Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) and Scott VanSingel (R-Grant), would:

  • Allow scholastic achievement to be considered as an alternative to achieving the requisite score on a standardized test (SAT) for purposes of scholarship eligibility, for the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • Grant undergraduates in private colleges and universities for the 2020 spring term and the 2020-2021 academic year to have two extra semesters of eligibility for the Tuition Grant program. The Tuition Grant Program provides financial assistance to low-income families and students attending one of Michigan's independent colleges and universities.

MCC supports both bills and will continue to advocate for their passage in the legislative process.

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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,