Lansing Update: December 7, 2007

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Lansing Update Readers Encouraged to Advocate Against Embryo Destruction
  2. House Passes Landmark Smoking Ban Bill
  3. House Panel Hears Testimony on Adoption Bill
  4. Prisoner Parole Guideline Changes Pass House Committee
  5. Problematic Energy Regulation Bill Introduced

Lansing Update Readers Encouraged to Advocate Against Embryo Destruction

Michigan Catholic Conference is asking citizens across the state to contact their state representative and urge them to vote NO on House Bill 4616. The legislation would effectively allow for embryo destructive research in Michigan as well as permitting cloned human embryos to be trafficked into Michigan to be destroyed.

HB 4616 is currently sitting in the House Judiciary Committee, which three weeks ago held a hearing on the measure. The committee did not vote on the bill after hearing four hours of testimony, but the chair, Representative Paul Condino (D-Southfield), may soon take a vote.

Those citizens living in the district of a member of the Judiciary Committee are especially encourage to call, email or write their elected official urging him or her to vote NO on HB 4616.

Contacting your legislator takes less than two minutes on the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network [Link no longer available —Ed.], which includes talking points and a form letter that is ready to be sent.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee are listed here. [Link no longer available —Ed.]

House Passes Landmark Smoking Ban Bill

The Michigan House of Representatives this week passed legislation [Link no longer available —Ed.] that would significantly curtail smoking in public places. The Coalition for Smoke Free Air, of which Michigan Catholic Conference is a member, has advocated this entire year in favor of the legislation.

Debate in committee and on the full House floor focused on a polarizing issue: whether or not the government should establish regulations upon private business regarding matters of public health. Those in support of the bill argued that second-hand smoke is hazardous to the health of those surrounding the smoker and should be outlawed in enclosed places, including bars, restaurants and public workplaces. Opponents of the bill have argued that government has no right to mandate the policies of a private business, and that many businesses are already going smoke free due to customer request.

Exemptions to the bill include tobacco retailers, bingo halls, casino gaming floors, cigar bars, horse racing tracks, and private residences where a business is run with the owner being the only employee.

The fate of House Bill 4163, which passed the House with a slim 56-46 margin, appears gloomy as Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) stated this week his majority caucus is not interested in the legislation. “Members are not looking at this as a major issue. We’d like to leave the issue to the consumer and the market place,” he said.

A vote that would have given immediate effect to the bill fell short. Those supporting smoke free air in Michigan have established a web site at

House Panel Hears Testimony on Adoption Bill

Those parents who adopt children would be given the same amount of paid time away from work as those who give birth, according to legislation addressed by a House committee this week.

House Bill 5261, sponsored by Representative Matt Gillard (D-Alpena), was opposed by members of the business community who expressed reservations over a new mandate upon their member businesses.

The House Families and Children’s Services Committee [Link no longer available —Ed.] did not vote on the bill. Michigan Catholic Conference is in support of the legislation.

Prisoner Parole Guideline Changes Pass House Committee

Legislation that would direct the Department of Corrections to develop new parole guidelines was referred to the full House this week after passing the House Judiciary Committee on an 11-2 vote. The bill’s stated purpose would be to help the parole board make release decisions that “implement the intent of the sentencing judge, consistent with the public safety,” instead of simply to “enhance the public safety.”

According to House Bill 4548, the department would be required to keep an audio or video recording of inmate interviews conducted by the parole board for a six-month period, whereas current law states the parole board can grant the release without taping the interview if the individual has a high probability of release. Under the proposed law, an individual could use the interview as part of an appeal and have it entered in the court record if parole is initially denied.

The legislation also requires revised parole guidelines to do the following: protect the public, reflect a prisoner’s actual current risk of re-offending, and encourage good behavior in prison and participation in prison programs. Current parole guidelines also state that the department may consider the prisoner’s statistical risk screening and/or age. HB 4548 would delete this provision and instead require the department to consider the prisoner’s institutional program performance, the prisoner’s physical and mental health, and the prisoner’s probation or parole history.

Michigan Catholic Conference supports the legislation as a means of ensuring that the intention of the sentencing judge was given due credit at time of the parole process. Knowledge of the actual court proceedings at the time of trial should be given proper consideration when a parole board meets many years later.

Problematic Energy Regulation Bill Introduced

This week legislation was introduced that would have a negative repercussion on the manner by which Catholic parishes and schools choose their energy source.

House Bill 5524, introduced by House Energy and Technology Committee [Link no longer available —Ed.] Chairman Frank Accavitti (D-Eastpointe), would severely curtail, if not eliminate, electric utility choice that is currently allowed through statute. Under Public Act 141 of 2000, electric utility customers have been able to choose their service provider and are allowed to switch back and forth. Catholic parishes and schools have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in this competitive market. HB 5524 would only allow customers to make the choice once, during the first 90 days after the legislation becomes law.

While the proposed legislation would technically be a “choice,” the measure would effectively destroy competition. Michigan Catholic Conference has indicated its opposition to this legislation.