Towards the end of the week, the Michigan House of Representatives passed the proposed School Aid budget for October 2021-September 2022 by a 105-3 vote. House Bill 4111 contains $16.74 billion in spending, a 7.8 percent increase for the current Fiscal Year. While further items of interest to Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) will be detailed after the Senate acts on this or its own proposal, here are a few highlights the bill includes:
$600,000 for robotics grants for nonpublic schools, to assist those schools with costs related to competition fees and stipends for coaches.
$2.5 million in school safety grants for nonpublic schools.
$1 million to help reimburse nonpublic schools for expenses related to meeting State health, safety, and welfare mandates for students.
The House also approved many of the state departmental budgets this week, in a proposal that would retain $3.1 billion in the state's General Fund (HB 4110). The Senate will be reconvening on Wednesday of next week and could consider the Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposals at that time. Stay tuned for further updates on programs and budget items that MCC has been advocating for and monitoring throughout the legislative process. Click here to read what those programs and items are.
Finally, with wide bipartisan support, the State House also passed the supplemental School Aid budget bill that will carry Michigan through September 30 of this year. House Bill 4421 includes $4.4 billion in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, including COVID-related assistance for public schools and almost $180 million for the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools (EANS) program. EANS provides COVID-related assistance specifically to nonpublic schools, which can help with costs such as sanitation supplies, personal protective equipment, and technology upgrades to enable remote learning. The version passed by the House of Representatives has already been approved by the Senate, so it will be sent straight to Governor Whitmer for her final consideration and hopefully, signature. MCC is pleased that needed funding for school and student safety is close to becoming law, as staff and individuals across the state have advocated so strongly for it.
On Wednesday, June 23, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an opportunity to vote on the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" (HR 18) by a vote of 209 to 218. HR 18 would apply the Hyde Amendment government-wide and permanently prohibit taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage. In response, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the following statement:
"It is gravely wrong to force all Americans to pay for the killing of innocent babies with their tax dollars. The Hyde Amendment has saved at least 2.4 million lives by preventing taxpayer-funded abortion. Now, this 45-year-old bipartisan policy is under unprecedented threat with both the Administration and key members of Congress committed to eliminating it. Most Americans oppose using their tax dollars to pay for elective abortions, and the failure of the House of Representatives to pass H.R. 18 is unjustifiable. Congress must act to protect millions of babies and their mothers from the tragedy of abortion and protect American taxpayers from paying for the destruction of innocent human life."
If you have not already, let your elected officials know that action must be taken to protect taxpayer funding from paying for elective abortions at www.notaxpayerabortion.com/.
House Bill 4644, sponsored by Representative Rodney Wakeman (R-Saginaw Township), would amend the state Income Tax Act to provide a dependency tax exemption for an unborn child under certain circumstances. The exemption could be applied during the year of pregnancy if:
A taxpayer is at least twelve weeks pregnant and has been under the care of a physician since at least the twelfth week of her pregnancy.
The taxpayer includes a signed medical statement with her annual income tax return from her physician, attesting that the requirements of gestational age and prenatal care were met.
HB 4644 passed the House of Representatives by a 58-52 party-line vote, with Republicans supporting the measure. MCC strongly supports the bill, which would recognize the dignity of the unborn and provide some relief for families who are expecting a child. The legislation continues now to the Senate.
In 1993, Michigan adopted its Informed Consent for Abortion law. The law requires that certain information be made available to any woman seeking an abortion, at least twenty-four hours in advance of the procedure, to help consider all aspects of the decision. The House Health Policy Committee this week considered the "Woman's Right to Know Act," a measure that would require abortion providers to dispense additional information to pregnant women.
Providers must share information about the baby's fetal heartbeat. If one has not yet been detected, they must offer information about the probability of maintaining the pregnancy versus experiencing a miscarriage. If a fetal heartbeat is detected, they must provide the woman the opportunity to hear it.
If a woman was planning to undergo an abortion procedure that uses the drug mifepristone, the provider must inform her about the existence of treatment to reverse its effects, should she change her mind about terminating the pregnancy (also known as abortion pill reversal).
For women or families who have received a poor prenatal diagnosis for the baby, the provider must offer information about perinatal hospice options and support services that are available for families with children who have had similar diagnoses.
These provisions would be added to the informed consent document that is required for women considering abortion to sign, confirming that they have received the required information and had an opportunity to ask questions. No vote was taken this week, but during the committee meeting, MCC supported the measure for the way it enhances the informed consent provided to women in difficult circumstances. House Bill 5086 is sponsored by Representative Sue Allor (R-Wolverine).
House Resolution 22, sponsored by Representative Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), affirms the right to life of every unborn child in Michigan and calls for the enforcement of all laws regulating or limiting the practice of abortion. A resolution is non-binding, which means it does not have the full force of law. However, the significance of the resolution is that it reaffirms state policy and Michigan's long and unbroken history of protecting unborn children. MCC supports House Resolution 22 and will continue to advocate for policies that address the needs of women, families, and the unborn.
Legislation regarding protection against abuse for children and for elders both passed the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee this week and will continue to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration:
House Bill 4880, sponsored by Representative Roger Hauck (R-Mount Pleasant), would add physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, and athletic trainers to the list of professions required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.
House Bills 4472-4479 would make it a crime in Michigan to assault or restrain an elder adult or vulnerable adult and would expand a current prohibition against embezzlement from a vulnerable adult to include an elder adult. The bills are sponsored by Representatives Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), Douglas Wozniak (R-Shelby Twp.), Rodney Wakeman (R-Saginaw Twp.), Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield), Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills), Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak), Diana Farrington (R-Utica), and Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac).
Michigan Catholic Conference supports these steps to combat abuse and hold abusers accountable.
After hearing initial testimony last week, the House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee voted to move forward two bills that would prohibit local ordinances and policies from including "sanctuary city" language, or language that limits the extent to which law enforcement and other government employees can assist the federal government on immigration matters. Several Michigan cities currently have sanctuary city policies that would be impacted by these bills, policies that prevent the local police department from soliciting immigration status from individuals who seek police services, report crimes, or are witnesses. However, a person's immigration status can be asked for if it is relevant to the investigation of a criminal offense, or when law enforcement is processing an arrested person. House Bill 4197, sponsored by Representative Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.) would impact cities, villages, and townships and House Bill 4539, sponsored by Representative Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), would impact counties. MCC continues to share its concerns with the legislation as it receives further consideration.
Last week, the U.S. Catholic bishops met for their Spring Assembly. Among other topics, the bishops voted to begin the drafting process of a document on the Eucharist, which has drawn much public attention, including from politicians. It is important to recognize that for some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern, that the theme of the bishops' strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. The proposed document on the Eucharist will be the foundation for a major national effort in the future to reignite Eucharistic faith across the United States. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church's teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness, and beauty of the Eucharist that they celebrate. The question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot at last week's meeting. Find answers to commonly asked questions on the meeting and the proposed Eucharist document here.