Lansing Update: March 6, 2009

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Conference Urges Support for D.C. Voucher Program
  2. High School Drop-out Age Increase Headed to Senate
  3. Support for USCCB Pro-Life Email Campaign Urged by MCC
  4. Catholic Conference Issues Statement in Support of Safe Stem Cell Research Discovery
  5. Schedule for Departmental Budgets Announced

Conference Urges Support for D.C. Voucher Program

The United States Senate next week is likely to address measures that will determine the future of an income-based scholarship program in the District of Columbia, and the Michigan Catholic Conference is asking for emails to be sent to Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin in favor of the program.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was created by Congress some 5 years ago and allocates approximately $15 million per year to provide vouchers to students who meet certain financial requirements. Roughly 1,700 students receive the voucher each year and have family incomes less than $23,000.

The scholarship program has been unanimously successful in providing a quality education in a safe environment to primarily minority students. Efforts are underway, however, to eliminate the program for what appears to be strictly political purposes.

Legislation has been offered by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) to eliminate the scholarship program altogether while Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev) has offered an amendment to the federal omnibus spending plan to maintain the viability of the program.

Messages in support of the program can be sent to Sens. Stabenow and Levin through the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network. [Link no longer available —Ed.]

High School Drop-out Age Increase Headed to Senate

The Michigan House of Representatives this week passed legislation that would increase the dropout age in Michigan from 16 to 18. The bill now awaits consideration from the Senate Education Committee.

Under current law, students are required to attend school until they reach age 16. Proponents of raising the compulsory attendance age argue it’s important to get students to graduate with at least a high school diploma as more 21st Century jobs require more education.

Similar versions of the legislation have lied dormant in the legislature, but an amendment tacked on to House Bill 4030 in committee does not allow for the dropout to occur unless a student receives consent from his or her parent. The amendment satisfied enough concerns within the House as the bill received 71 votes.

Support for USCCB Pro-Life Email Campaign Urged by MCC

Michigan Catholic Conference is asking for participation in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) e-mail campaign urging Congress to maintain widely supported pro-life policies and to oppose the federal funding and promotion of abortion.

The e-mail campaign augments the massive national postcard campaign launched in dioceses throughout the country in late January. Both efforts are being coordinated through the USCCB’s partner organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA).

The e-mails urge a constituent’s Senators and Representative to “please oppose FOCA

For more information on the USCCB’s pro-life e-mail campaign visit: [Link no longer available —Ed.].

Catholic Conference Issues Statement in Support of Safe Stem Cell Research Discovery

Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy Paul Long made the following statement this week regarding a study in the online journal Nature, and reported in the Washington Post, that stem cell researchers have discovered an additional way to pursue stem cell research while avoiding the destruction of embryos:

“Michigan Catholic Conference welcomes today’s news of yet another scientific advancement that allows researchers to pursue ethical and proven stem cell research without the need to destroy living human embryos. The announcement, made in the online journal Nature, reports that researchers have found a way to coax virus-free skin cells into an embryonic stem cell-like state while avoiding the ethical and moral landmine of intentionally destroying human embryos. It is the hope of the Conference that state lawmakers will pursue legislation that enables non-embryo destructive stem cell research to flourish in Michigan, such as measures introduced last year that promote Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research.”

Schedule for Departmental Budgets Announced

A timetable for passing the 2009–10 budget agreed to by Senate Appropriations Chair Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks) and House Appropriations Chair George Cushingberry (D-Detroit) calls for first House passage by April 3, second House passage by June 5, and final passage by June 26.

The full schedule includes first House subcommittee action by March 20 and full committee action by March 27. Second House subcommittee action is to be completed by May 22 and full committee action by May 29.

The breakdown of bills originated in each chamber this year is:

Senate originated: Agriculture; Capital Outlay; Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth; General Government; History, Arts, and Libraries; Human Services; Judiciary; State Police; Military and Veterans Affairs; Strategic Fund Agency; Transportation.

House originated: Community Colleges; Community Health; Corrections; Education; Environmental Quality; Higher Education; Natural Resources; School Aid.