Lansing Update: January 25, 2008

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Embryo Destructive Research Proponents Discuss Ballot Drive
  2. Catholic Conference Advocacy Ensures Protection of State EITC
  3. House Committee May Act Soon on Partial-Birth Abortion Ban
  4. MCC Testifies in Support of Juvenile Parole Reform Bills

Embryo Destructive Research Proponents Discuss Ballot Drive

As it appears that legislation seeking to clone and kill human embryos for research is unlikely to move in the House of Representatives, proponents of such research have begun discussing details of a petition drive for the November general election ballot.

House Bill 4616, which would amend state law that protects human embryos from being destroyed, has been rumored for weeks to receive a committee vote, but has yet to appear on the House Judiciary Committee’s agenda. This week the campaign manager for the Stem Cell Research Ballot Question Committee told the Associated Press [Link no longer available —Ed.] the campaign would need to raise $10–20 million and would begin collecting petition signatures in March to amend the state constitution.

Michigan Catholic Conference has remained steadfast in its opposition to efforts to allow for the destruction of embryos while at the same time urging legislators to do more to support [Link no longer available —Ed.] ethical and proven adult stem cell research.

Should Stem Cell Research BQC continue to move toward the ballot, it would need to have the State Board of Canvassers approve a petition form before collecting some 500,000 valid signatures to place the issue on the November ballot. Petition signatures would need to be collected and submitted to the Secretary of State’s office by July 7.

Catholic Conference Advocacy Ensures Protection of State EITC

Michigan’s recently enacted Earned Income Tax Credit (MEITC) will stand to benefit over 600,000 low-income working families this tax year despite the gloomy outlook of the state’s economy, MCC staff announced at a press conference [Link no longer available —Ed.] at the State Capitol this week. The findings were discussed in detail by Patrick Anderson of Anderson Economic Group (AEG), which was commissioned by the Catholic Conference to update its 2002 report A Hand Up for Michigan Workers: Creating a State Earned Income Tax Credit.

“Some in the media, and some policy-makers have suggested that the MEITC should be halted before it takes effect as a means of cutting Michigan’s budget. Our message today is that the state cannot chip away at the budget deficit on the backs of Michigan’s working poor, especially at a time when more Michigan residents are living in poverty than when the initial AEG report was released six years ago. Such action would amount to nothing more than a tax increase on those working families who are struggling to climb above the poverty line in Michigan,” said MCC Vice President for Public Policy Paul A. Long.

In September 2006 a Michigan earned income tax credit was enacted with immediate effect. The legislation allows taxpayers who qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, beginning after December 31, 2007, to claim a state credit worth 10 percent of the federal credit. Beginning December 31, 2008 and beyond, the taxpayer will be eligible to claim an additional 10 percent of the federal credit, making the final state Earned Income Tax Credit worth a total of 20 percent of the federal credit. The legislation passed the Michigan Senate 38-0 and the House of Representatives 103-3 before being signed into law.

Due to the visibility [Link no longer available —Ed.] of the issue, State Senator Nancy Cassis (R-Novi), sponsor of legislation that would have halted the implementation of the EITC, announced on the Senate floor this week that she no longer would push for such action. “With the Legislature giving tax check rebates to some of our biggest corporations, among them the Big Three, it seems only fair and right to give credit checks to the other end of the spectrum, our working poor,” she told the upper chamber.

House Committee May Act Soon on Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

After the Michigan Senate this week passed legislation [Link no longer available —Ed.] that would mirror the federal partial-birth abortion ban, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Paul Condino (D-Southfield), told a Capitol news source that he may hold a hearing on the bill in the coming weeks.

Senate Bill 776, sponsored by Senator Cameron Brown (R-Sturgis) seeks to enshrine in state law language that would prohibit the gruesome act of partial-birth abortion, the same language that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Answering why the legislation is needed even though there is a federal ban, Sen. Brown told the Senate Health Policy Committee this week that the state ban would give state law enforcement, along with federal agents, the ability to prosecute those who commit the act.

The Michigan Legislature has banned the practice of partial-birth abortion on three occasions, most recently by passing the Legal Birth Definition Act in 2003. That law, however, was vetoed by Governor Granholm and later found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court having found the federal ban constitutional, the governor’s administration has publicly expressed reservations about the constitutionality of SB 776.

MCC Testifies in Support of Juvenile Parole Reform Bills

Legislation addressed this week by the House Judiciary Committee [Link no longer available —Ed.] would prohibit judges from sentencing those under 18 years old to life in prison without the chance for parole. Michigan Catholic Conference staff, along with the Director of Restorative Justice for the Diocese of Lansing, testified in favor of the legislation.

Those who opposed the legislation included parents who wanted to ensure their child’s killer remains behind bars for ever, and a county prosecutor who stated only five individuals in the past five years had received the sentence. Supporters of the bill addressed the fact that the United States is the only civilized country in the world that does not give juveniles the chance for parole. Supporters also stated that if as a state we believe in corrections, rehabilitations and restorative justice then those sentenced as juveniles should have the same parole possibility as those sentenced as adults.

The package of bills, House Bill 4402-4405, which would also give juveniles a parole hearing 10 years after sentencing, did not receive a vote after four hours of emotional testimony.