In this issue of Lansing Update:
- House Passes Omnibus Bill Targeting Medicaid, Welfare
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bills Introduced in Lansing
- “Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005” Update
- Michigan Catholic Conference to Assist USCCB in Immigration Campaign
In an effort to craft the fiscal year 2005–06 state budget, the House of Representatives this week passed House Bill 4831, a nearly 700-page budget bill that combines almost all of the departmental budget bills into one giant spending plan.
While some $59 million in tuition grants for private and independent colleges will be retained, allowing students to receive state scholarship dollars to attend Michigan’s four Catholic colleges, recipients of Medicaid and welfare assistance have been targeted by the House for massive cuts.
Among the detrimental aspects of the spending plan, which passed on a party line vote, include:
- Eliminating Medicaid eligibility for caretakers and all 19 and 20 year olds,
- Creating a $5 monthly co-pay for “non-exempt” Medicaid adults and an additional $3 co-pay for physician visits,
- Eliminate those from welfare assistance who have been receiving state dollars for more than four years,
- Reduce maximum monthly assistance allotment by $50 (average monthly benefit is $409), and
- Increase co-pays for families with children on the MIChild plan from $5 to $10.
The omnibus bill now heads to the Senate, where MCC staff will continue to strongly advocate against the cuts due to the harm they will cause to the state’s poor and vulnerable population.
Claiming the legislation is needed to bring more research and development jobs to Michigan, state Rep. Andy Meisner (D-Ferndale) this week introduced three bills that will water down the state’s statutory ban on human cloning to allow for embryonic stem cell research.
While the state currently has one of the strongest bans on human cloning in the nation, House Bills 4900, 4901 and 4902 are written to amend the ban to encourage activity in the “therapeutic cloning” field. Such a process involves cloning a human embryo to extract its stem cell lines for research purposes then killing the cloned embryo.
Michigan Catholic Conference immediately announced its stringent opposition to the bills, calling on legislators to find more ethical and reasoned approaches to help boost the state’s economy. According to the MCC, neither state nor federal government should be in the business of creating or destroying human life, especially at the unwitting expense of taxpayers who will be required to fund such research.
In addition, MCC staff has called upon citizens, government officials and the media to direct its attention toward adult stem cell research—which is currently treating some 58 debilitating diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, brain cancer, breast cancer, sickle cell anemia, juvenile diabetes and dozens of other life-threatening conditions.
House Bills 4900-4902 have been referred to the House Health Policy Committee.
On May 24, 2005 the United States House of Representatives voted 238-194 on H.R. 810, the federal “Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005,” which would allow researchers, under the supervision of the National Institutes for Health, to access fertilized eggs from fertility clinics for the purpose of embryonic stem cell research.
Prior to the vote MCC President and C.E.O. Sister Monica Kostielney, R.S.M. sent a letter to all 15 members of the Michigan congressional delegation urging their “NO” vote on the measure. The bill now awaits consideration from the U.S. Senate, where it may pass if taken up for a vote—although President Bush has vowed to veto any measure that would allocate further federal dollars for such destructive research.
Members of the Michigan congressional delegation voting for/against the bill are as follows:
Yes Votes (6):
Conyers, Jr. (D-Detroit); Dingell (D-Dearborn); Cheeks-Kilpatrick (D-Detroit); Levin (D-Royal Oak); Schwarz (R-Battle Creek); Upton (R-St. Joseph)
No Votes (9):
Camp (R-Midland); Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids); Hoekstra (R-Holland); Kildee (D-Flint); Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Hills); McCotter (R-Livonia); Miller (R-Harrison Twp.); Rogers (R-Brighton); Stupak (D-Menominee).
On May 10 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops kicked-off a campaign to raise awareness of issues surrounding immigration in the U.S., including building support for proposals to grant residence to millions of immigrants currently in the country. The campaign is titled “Justice for Immigrants.”
Additional goals of the campaign include:
- Educating the Catholic public on how immigration and immigrants benefit the nation,
- Improving public opinion about the contribution of immigrants,
- Advocating for changes in immigration laws and policies, and
- Organizing networks that assist immigrants with legal problems.
His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, consultant to the USCCB’s committee on migration, said at a press conference announcing the campaign that bishops “have grown increasingly disturbed by the current public discourse surrounding immigrants, in which newcomers are characterized as a threat to our nation and not a benefit.”
“Anti-immigrant fervor on TV and radio shows, citizens attempting to enforce immigration laws, and, most disturbingly, the enactment of restrictive immigration laws are evidence of this negative public environment,” he said.
Michigan Catholic Conference will be working with relevant diocesan offices to support the goals of the campaign, which has set up a website at www.justiceforimmigrants.org