In this issue of Lansing Update:
- Petition Forms Approved for Embryo Destructive Research Ballot Drive
- Governor Releases Budget Recommendations for Fiscal Year 2009
- Action Urged for Partial-Birth Abortion Ban
- House, Senate Pass Differing Versions of Driver’s License Fix
- Prisoner I.D. Bills Move to House Floor
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers has approved a petition form that will be used to gather enough signatures to place an embryo destructive research proposal on the November general election ballot. Michigan Catholic Conference, which advocates for ethical and proven adult stem cell research, is a leading opponent of embryo destructive research and remains committed to ensuring that the ballot proposal is defeated.
Officials with the organization “Stem Cell Research Ballot Question Committee” have stated publicly that a petition drive [Link no longer available —Ed.] will likely begin March 1. The campaign would need to collect more than 380,000 valid signatures of registered voters by July 6 to place the issue on the November statewide ballot. If approved, the proposed constitutional amendment would reverse Michigan’s policy of protecting human embryos from being destroyed, a policy that has been in state law for nearly 30 years.
The language that will appear on the petition forms is as follows:
A PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE MICHIGAN CONSTITUTION TO PERMIT CERTAIN EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH. THE AMENDMENT WOULD CREATE A NEW ARTICLE I, SECTION 27
ARTICLE 1, 27:
Ethical stem cell research
Sec. 27 (1) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to alter or abrogate Michigan laws prohibiting or criminalizing human cloning.
(2) To ensure that Michigan citizens have access to stem cell therapies and cures, and to ensure that physicians and researchers can conduct the most promising forms of medical research in this state, and that all such research is conducted safely and ethically, any research permitted under federal law on human embryos may be conducted in Michigan, subject to the requirements of federal law and only the following additional limitations and requirements:
(a) No stem cells may be taken from a human embryo more than fourteen days after cell division begins; provided, however, that time during which an embryo is frozen does not count against this fourteen day limit.
(b) The human embryos were created for the purpose of fertility treatment and, with voluntary and informed consent, documented in writing, the person seeking fertility treatment chose to donate the embryos for research; and
(i) the embryos were in excess of the clinical need of the person seeking the fertility treatment and would otherwise be discarded unless they are used for research; or
(ii) the embryos were not suitable for implantation and would otherwise be discarded unless they are used for research.
(c) No person may, for valuable consideration, purchase or sell human embryos for stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures.
(d) All stem cell research and all stem cell therapies and cures must be conducted and provided in accordance with state and local laws of general applicability, including but not limited to laws concerning scientific and medical practices and patient safety and privacy, to the extent that any such laws do not:
(i) prevent, restrict, obstruct, or discourage any stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures that are permitted by the provisions of this section; or
(ii) create disincentives for any person to engage in or otherwise associate with such research or therapies or cures.
(3) Any provision of this section held invalid shall be severable from the remaining portions of this section.
On behalf of Governor Granholm, State Budget Director Bob Emerson this week released the governor’s 2009 budget recommendations to a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee. Highlights of the budget from the Conference’s perspective include a preservation of the Michigan Tuition Grant program [Link no longer available —Ed.], a grant increase to the Family Independence Program, and preservation of Medicaid dollars in the Department of Community Health budget.
After calling for the Tuition Grant’s eradication in each of her previous budget recommendations, Governor Granholm chose to give up on a political fight that the Legislature has won annually by reinstating full funding for the program. Michigan Catholic Conference, along with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, has worked with the House and Senate in years past to ensure students attending private colleges and universities, including those that are Catholic, receive needed financial aid for higher education.
Two departments of annual concern to the Conference, the Department of Community Health and the Department of Human Services, faired well in the governor’s recommendations. In the Department of Human Services, the Family Independence Program received an additional $10 million, its first grant increase in 18 years. The program covers nearly 80,000 cases, including 150,000 children, and increases monthly payments for a parent with two children to $498 per month. The department also saw a $32 increase to the children’s clothing allowance budget and funding for private child placing agencies.
In the Department of Community Health, the state’s largest budget of $12.5 billion preserved Medicaid funding that provides health care for one out of every seven Michigan residents. The state’s Medicaid program comprises 90 percent of the department’s budget and includes an extra $117 million for payments to health maintenance organizations. Also included in this year’s recommendation is $262 million for psychiatric hospitals, $470 million for community based long term care services and $2.3 million for a pilot mental health program that seeks to move patients from jail to treatment.
The governor’s recommendations will now be deliberated and reconciled with versions to be passed separately by the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
Michigan Catholic Conference is asking readers of Lansing Update to contact Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (D-Redford Township) and House Judiciary Committee chairman Representative Paul Condino (D-Southfield) urging them to take action on legislation that bans partial birth abortion in Michigan. (25 Jan 08: House Committee May Act Soon on Partial-Birth Abortion Ban).
Speaker Dillon [Link no longer available —Ed.] may be contacted at (517) 373-0857 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Representative Condino [Link no longer available —Ed.] may be contacted at (517) 373-1788 or email@example.com.
This week both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed legislation that seeks to clean up the unintended consequences of Attorney General Mike Cox’s recent opinion that the State of Michigan cannot issue driver’s licenses to persons who are not legal residents of the state.
Michigan Catholic Conference has been working with several organizations and legislators since the opinion was released as it denies licenses to foreign priests, seminarians, refugees and others who work for or are served by the Church in Michigan.
The legislation has become contentious as the Senate bills tie the driver’s license fix to federal Real I.D. requirements that were mandated by the Department of Homeland Security, but are not required to be implemented at the state level until the end of 2009. Measures passing the House of Representatives do not address Real I.D., but do fix the issue of those who are not legal residents of the state, but are in the country legally.
Conference staff has written a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Bishop) asking the upper chamber to address Real I.D. requirements at a later time so that the driver’s license fix can be enacted as soon as possible.
Legislation that would allow prison identification cards to be used to obtain a driver’s license passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week.
The Conference supports the package of bills, arguing from a restorative justice perspective that individuals need proper identification to find employment following their release from prison. According to the legislation, the Department of Corrections would be required to issue an identification card to each inmate and assist that individual in gaining other forms of identification, including a driver’s license.
The bills are House Bills 4525-4528 and 5568.