This week, the Michigan House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees passed their respective proposals for the 2021-2022 state budget, which will now be considered by the full Appropriations Committee in each chamber. These proposals respond to the executive recommendations made by the Governor's office earlier this year, as well as public testimony heard by state lawmakers about the needs of different offices and programs in the state. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) has been actively following the state budget process and advocating for items of concern, for the benefit of students and others in need. Below is the status of MCC priority-items and other items of interest.
K-12 Schools, Higher Education, and other Education-Related Funding:
Competitive Robotics Grant Funding for Nonpublic Schools: While the governor did not include this item in her proposal, the House Subcommittee provides $600,000 and the Senate Subcommittee provides $300,000 for this item, which would assist schools with competition fees and stipends for coaches, among other expenses. It has been funded in previous years.
Nonpublic School Mandates: The House Subcommittee provides $2.5 million to reimburse nonpublic schools for costs associated with meeting State health, safety, and welfare requirements for students. The Senate Subcommittee provides $250,000 for this purpose, while the governor did not include it in her proposal. If funding is approved, it would be available in addition to funds appropriated in prior years and held in escrow due to litigation.
School Safety Grants: The House Subcommittee provides $2.5 million for nonpublic schools and $7.5 million for public schools, to offer a competitive grant program for school safety projects. Neither the Senate Subcommittee nor the governor's proposal includes this item.
Tuition Grant and Tuition Incentive Programs: The governor, House, and Senate agree to maintain current funding of $42 million for the Tuition Grant Program, while the House and Senate Subcommittees provide $2.5 million additional funding for the Tuition Incentive Program, with total funding at $71.3 million. These programs help low-income students attend college.
Dual Enrollment: The governor and the House and Senate Subcommittees propose increasing dual enrollment by $167,000 to $2.3 million for nonpublic students enrolled in college courses.
Pregnancy and Parenting Student Support Services Program: The House and Senate Subcommittee proposal provide $500,000 and $148,600, respectively, to fund campus offices that assist pregnant and parenting students.
Abortion Counseling: The governor removed previous School Aid budget language from her proposal that required school districts to have a disciplinary policy for staff who refer students for abortion. The House Subcommittee returned the language to their version of the budget, while the Senate Subcommittee did not.
Reporting Requirements: The House and Senate both reinstated budget language that requires universities conducting research using human embryonic stem cells to report to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding compliance with federal guidelines.
Department of Health and Human Services Funding:
Pregnancy-Related Services: The House Subcommittee provide $700,000 to restart the previous alternative pregnancy and parenting services program, $10 million for a marketing program to promote infant adoption as an alternative to abortion, and $1.5 million for pregnancy resource center grants up to $10,000 each. The Senate Subcommittee provided a placeholder to continue consideration of funding grants for Pregnancy Resource Centers and also allocated $250,000 for Diaper Bank Assistance Grants. None of these items were in the governor's recommendations.
Private Foster Care Administrative Rates: The Governor and the Senate Subcommittee retain the current rate of not less than $46.20 per day. The House Subcommittee provides a $9 per diem rate increase to $55.20. The House also includes $50,000 for a Foster Care Closet program.
Human Trafficking Intervention Services: The Governor and House and Senate Subcommittees include $200,000 for human trafficking intervention services. Both the House and Senate proposals provide language that the Department of Health and Human Services collaborate with schools on training for students regarding human trafficking and sexual abuse prevention. Additionally, the House version provides $500,000 one-time funding for a human trafficking victim services expansion pilot program, and it allows individuals who are victims of domestic violence or human trafficking to receive additional 3 months on food assistance.
Abortion Contract and Grant Language: Despite the governor's removal of the language, both the House and Senate Subcommittees reinserted budget language which reiterate the state's policies to not contract with or provide grants to organizations which provide elective abortions, and to not use state funds for abortion counseling, referrals, or services.
Clothing Allowance: The Governor and the House and Senate Subcommittees maintain the annual clothing allowance for all eligible children in the Family Independence Program.
Raise the Age: The Governor and the House Subcommittee provide $29.1 million to implement Raise the Age polices and help seventeen-year-olds in the criminal justice system receive age-appropriate rehabilitative services. The Senate Subcommittee provides $12.1 million to phase in the implementation.
Behavioral Health Access: While the governor included $91 million to improve access to and consistency of behavioral health for Medicaid enrollees and those served through the child welfare system, the Senate Subcommittee allocated half of this amount. The House Subcommittee provided placeholder funding to allow conversations to continue about the funding, while also ensuring substantive changes are made to reform the mental health system.
Homeless Services: The governor and House and Senate Subcommittees all agree to maintain funding for emergency shelters, homeless programs, and runaway youth grants.
Senior Service Programs: The Governor and the House and Senate Subcommittees all agree with maintaining funding of senior services programs, with the House also continuing one-time funding of $150,000 for small grants for health-related senior programs at multipurpose senior citizen centers.
Telemedicine Services: The Senate Subcommittee has included new language -not included in the governor or House Subcommittee proposals- to require the same level of reimbursement for services provided through telemedicine as for services provided through face-to-face contact in the Medicaid program, and to encourage telehealth for children's special health care services.
Following the verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement to draw attention to the dignity of every person, the need to address racism in America, and the importance of peaceful dialogue:
"A jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd. As we receive this result, we recall that God is the source of all justice, love, and mercy. The death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed. Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters, it is sacred. The events following George Floyd's death also highlighted the urgent need for racial healing and reconciliation. As we have seen so plainly this past year, social injustices still exist in our country, and the nation remains deeply divided on how to right those wrongs."
The National Institutes of Health announced last Friday, April 16 that it is reversing a Trump Administration policy regarding fetal stem cell research. The previous policy, which was praised by the U.S. Catholic bishops, banned government funding of research involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions. Following the Biden Administration's announcement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities denounced the decision, saying:
"The bodies of children killed by abortion deserve the same respect as that of any other person. Our government has no right to treat innocent abortion victims as a commodity that can be scavenged for body parts to be used in research. It is unethical to promote and subsidize research that can lead to legitimizing the violence of abortion. Researchers have demonstrated that we can do effective scientific research and develop efficacious clinical treatments without harvesting tissue from aborted babies. It is also deeply offensive to millions of Americans for our tax dollars to be used for research that collaborates with an industry built on the taking of innocent lives. I call on the Biden Administration to instead fund research that does not rely upon body parts taken from innocent children killed through abortion."
Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a proposed rule to reverse "The Protect Life Rule," a regulation issued by the Trump Administration in 2019 to clearly separate abortion from family planning in the federal Title X family planning program. The USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities expressed profound disappointment over this action:
"This policy change will allow the Title X program to become an indirect funding avenue for abortion providers. In spite of explicit prohibitions in Federal law and clear congressional intent that abortion may not be a part of this program, it has repeatedly been coopted by abortion supporters as a funding stream for organizations, programs, and facilities that directly promote and provide abortions. While the USCCB has always had strong objections to government promotion and funding of contraceptives, we have also long supported clear financial and physical separation between Title X-funded projects and programs and facilities where abortion is a method of family planning. This proposed rule is terrible policy; it would reintegrate abortion into what is supposed to be a pre-pregnancy family planning program. I strongly urge the Biden Administration to suspend this proposed rule and leave the Title X program as it was intended and authorized to be - a program entirely separate from abortion."
This week, the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee voted to move House Bills 4159 and 4160 to the House Judiciary Committee. The bills, which are sponsored by Padma Kuppa (D-Troy) and Julie Calley (R-Portland), would add new language to the Michigan Penal Code to prohibit someone from "intentionally and knowingly threatening, commanding, forcing, coercing, or exploiting the vulnerability of a vulnerable adult" in order to cause that vulnerable adult to provide sexually explicit material of him or herself. The term "vulnerable adults" would apply to:
A person 18 or older who requires supervision or personal care or lacks the personal and social skills to live independently, due to age, developmental or physical disability, and mental illness.
A person 18 or older who is not able to protect him or herself from abuse, neglect, or exploitation because of a mental or physical impairment, or because of advanced age, and who is suspected of suffering from abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
A child placed in an adult foster care family home or an adult foster care small group home.
MCC has supported such legislation in a previous session and is continuing to advocate for the bills to become law.
This week, the Michigan House of Representatives continued consideration of legislation that would reclassify certain misdemeanor offenses as civil infractions for low-level violations. Specifically, House Bills 4141-4143 and 4150 would lower the penalties for:
Driving a moped or snowmobile without registration or driving an unregistered vehicle.
Using a temporary plate or farm vehicle registration improperly.
Buying a car on a suspended driver's license.
Each passed nearly unanimously through the Michigan House and continue now to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. MCC supports these measures to ensure Michiganders are not forever "criminalized" and to offer judges more discretion to determine the appropriate response to a crime. The bipartisan bills are sponsored by Representatives Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield), Kevin Coleman (D-Westland), TC Clements (R-Temperance), and Annette Glenn (R-Midland).