Lansing Update: December 9, 2005

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. House and Senate Pass Welfare Reform Legislation
  2. Board of State Canvassers Approve Three Ballot Initiative Forms for 2006
  3. Ultasound Bill Passes Senate, Heads Back to House for Concurrance

House and Senate Pass Welfare Reform Legislation

Both the House of Representatives and Senate this week exchanged a major package of bills that seek to reform the state’s welfare program before existing provisions expire December 31. Differences between House and Senate versions likely will be ironed out early next week before heading to the governor’s desk.

Michigan Catholic Conference has advocated since the introduction of the bills for the preservation of lifetime limits while both the administration and legislature have sough for the policy’s removal. Arguing that creating time limits will only cut a major hole in the state’s social safety net, Conference staff has also urged legislators to rescind support for punitive sanctions that are also included in the bills.

Welfare reform began after completion of last year’s budget, which revealed a major increase in case loads and exposed the high cost of providing benefits to the state’s most vulnerable. Since its inception the Michigan Catholic Conference has consistently advocated that the target of welfare reform should be poverty, not poor people, and that the state should do everything in its power to care for those who need assistance most. While the Conference has called for and supports the inclusion of job training and education provisions in the bills, several other provisions that address sanctions are found to be objectionable.

Legislation passing the Senate would impose harsh penalties for those who violate the terms of their agreement with the state. According to the bill, the penalty for the first and second offense is withholding assistance for 90 days each, then enacting a 24 month sanction for a third violation. Any imposed sanctions would count toward a 48-month time limit sought by the administration and legislature, which is ardently opposed by the Conference.

Should the House and Senate fail to agree on each chamber’s reforms, or the governor decides to veto the package of bills, legislation already passing both chambers that would extend the expiring provisions until December 31, 2006 would be enacted.

Other provisions included in Senate Bills, 892, 893, 894 and House Bills 5438, 5439, 5440, 5441, 5442 include:

Board of State Canvassers Approve Three Ballot Initiative Forms for 2006

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers met this week to decide the initial fate of three initiatives hoping to appear on the November 2006 general election ballot. The Board of State Canvassers is comprised of 4 members, with the Democrat and Republican parties each appointing two individuals. The Board members’ obligations are either to accept or reject State Bureau of Elections staff’s recommendation of approving signature petitions or petition forms for statewide ballots.

The three initiatives that had their respective petition form language approved are:

While all three groups’ petitions were approved to form, each organization must now collect more than 317,000 valid signatures for their proposal to appear on the November 2006 ballot.

Ultasound Bill Passes Senate, Heads Back to House for Concurrance

Earlier this week the Michigan Senate passed 36-0 legislation that would mandate abortion providers who utilize ultrasound machines in their procedure to offer the woman the opportunity to view the photo of the child.

When House Bill 4446 passed the House of Representatives in March it mandated all abortion providers to offer the woman the choice to see the ultrasound photo. The Senate Health Policy Committee passed the same language, but the full Senate amended the bill to read only those abortion clinics that already use an ultrasound machine to offer the choice of viewing the image.

Representative Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc), sponsor of the bill, has expressed disappointment with the Senate changes and will work to return the bill to its original intent. Michigan Catholic Conference testified on the original bill’s behalf before the House Health Policy Committee.