Lansing Update: October 12, 2007

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ballot Committee Formed
  2. Recall Efforts Announced Against Ten Legislators
  3. Promise Grant Legislation Seeks to Assist Non-Public Schools

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ballot Committee Formed

Michigan Catholic Conference staff learned this week that proponents of embryonic stem cell research have formed a ballot question committee [Link no longer available —Ed.] for the November 2008 statewide ballot. Filing a statement of organization with the Secretary of State’s office typically precedes fundraising and organizing.

Michigan law currently prohibits human cloning as well as the destruction of embryos for research purposes. The group seeking to change those laws, Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures, would likely amend both of those statutes, perhaps looking to solidify embryo destructive research in the state constitution.

Michigan Catholic Conference President and Chief Executive officer Sister Monica Kostielney, RSM, released the following statement regarding the formation of the ballot question committee:

“In order to protect human life at its most vulnerable stage, any proposal, legislative or ballot related, that seeks to clone and/or kill human embryos in this state must be defeated. According to a statewide Public Opinion Strategies poll, 77 percent of Michigan residents oppose ‘a proposal that would allow the killing of human embryos and using their stem cells for research.’ Human life is not a commodity that can be created and killed in an effort to generate profits and patents. Michigan Catholic Conference will continue to advocate for ethical and proven adult stem cell research that is currently helping to provide treatments, even cures, for over 70 different diseases and chronic ailments.”

Recall Efforts Announced Against Ten Legislators

This week Macomb County Commissioner and former state representative Leon Drolet announced that his group, the Michigan Taxpayer Alliance, was launching recall efforts [Link no longer available —Ed.] against certain legislators who voted to increase taxes during the recent budget crisis.

Those legislators threatened with recall include Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (D-Redford), Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland), Rep. Steve Bieda (D-Warren), Rep. Marc Corriveau (D-Northville), Rep. Robert Dean (D-Grand Rapids), Rep. Ed Gaffney (R-Grosse Pointe Farms), Rep. Mary Valentine (D-Muskegon), Rep. Chris Ward (R-Brighton), Sen. Valde Garcia (R-Howell) and Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom (R-Muskegon).

In order for a recall process to be successful, election officials in the legislator’s home county must first approve petition language. Petition gatherers must then collect enough signatures within 90 days from registered voters with a total surpassing 25 percent of the total number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election. For a House district that number is roughly 10,000 while recall supporters will need roughly 25,000 valid signatures in a Senate district.

It was in 1983 that recall efforts were last successful in Michigan. That year two state Democratic Senators, Phil Mastin and David Serokian, were ousted from the Legislature after supporting Governor Blanchard’s income tax hike. The Republican Party has since controlled the Michigan Senate.

Promise Grant Legislation Seeks to Assist Non-Public Schools

Michigan Catholic Conference staff this week testified in support of legislation that seeks to remove certain credit clauses that are required for those students wishing to receive a Michigan Promise Grant [Link no longer available —Ed.]. According to stipulations that take effect in 2010, grant applicants must have completed three credits each in high school science and math, which are requirements of the new state curriculum mandated for public schools.

Conference staff testified that such requirements would make obtaining grant funding during the first two years of college problematic for several categories of non-public and public school applicants. These students are either not mandated to obtain the credits or can obtain waivers, but still obtain qualifying scores on the assessment exam. Conference staff also argued that the state will need to cross reference the curriculum of every non-public or non-Michigan applicant to verify that the number of credits and courses behind those credits are compatible with the mandated public school requirements; and that in terms of qualifications for the scholarship, a diploma should suffice as evidence of successful completion of a field of study, and qualifying scores on the assessment test should stand as the definition of readiness.

MCC staff will continue to meet with members of the Senate Education Committee to garner support for the legislation before a vote is taken on Senate Bill 646.