Lansing Update: March 12, 2010

In this week’s Lansing Update:

  1. Senate Panel Restores Tuition Grant, Addresses Human Embryo Research
  2. Community Health Budget Moves With Medicaid Cuts

Senate Panel Restores Tuition Grant, Addresses Human Embryo Research

The Michigan Tuition Grant program would be restored to the tune of $31 million and universities would be required to report activity involving human embryos under a budget bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee this week.

Senator Tom George (R-Kalamazoo), chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee, successfully included an amendment in the higher education funding bill that would require universities to document with the state how many human embryos they’ve created, received, stored and used for research. A package of bills [Link no longer available —Ed.] that addresses those same issues is awaiting consideration on the full Senate floor, which is supported by the Conference.

The Tuition Grant program, according to its Web site [Link no longer available —Ed.], “is available to Michigan residents with financial need who plan to attend or are attending independent, degree-granting Michigan postsecondary institutions.” Several of those institutions that accept state Tuition Grant dollars operate in the Catholic tradition. While Governor Granholm has sought to eliminate funding for the program in seven of the previous eight budget cycles, the Legislature has restored the funding in order to assist low-income families afford tuition costs.

The human embryo research transparency bills have been a priority for the Conference following the passage of Proposal 2 of 2008, which amended the state constitution to allow human embryos to be destroyed for research purposes. The ballot question was strongly opposed [Link no longer available —Ed.] the by the Conference. MCC has advocated for a statutory framework of that amendment that would provide penalties for those who violate its terms and to ensure those who engage in human embryo destruction are transparent in their research.

The legislation, which funds Michigan’s public universities for the 2010–11 fiscal year, will now be addressed by the full Senate Appropriations Committee.

Community Health Budget Moves With Medicaid Cuts

Some caretakers relatives and 19 and 20-year old individuals would see their Medicaid benefits cut if a Department of Community Health budget approved by the Senate appropriations subcommittee this week were to be signed into law. The budget bill is approximately $70 million less in general fund dollars than that recommended by the Administration.

On a positive note, the Senate DCH budget restores about $5.3 million in general fund dollars, $19.6 million with federal funds, for Medicaid adult dental care that was eliminated in the governor’s recommendation. The budget bill eliminates some $8 million in Medicaid benefits for caretaker relatives along with another $7 million in coverage for some 19 and 20-year old recipients.

Overall, including federal funding, the Senate DCH budget totals approximately $13.6 billion, with about $1.9 billion of that amount coming from the state’s general fund. The departmental funding bill now moves on to the full Senate Appropriations Committee.