In This Week’s Lansing Update:
- Legislation Would Allow for Concealed Weapons in Churches
- Strengthened Parental Consent Laws Move to House
- 2012–13 Departmental Budgets Begin to Move Through the Legislative Process
Parishioners may soon find themselves attending church services with persons carrying a concealed weapon if legislation currently moving through the State Senate were to be enacted.
Senate Bill 59, sponsored by Senator Mike Green (R-Mayville), would expand the category of individuals who would be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on the premises of any property or facility owned or operated by a church. Currently, only a limited number of individuals (essentially law enforcement officials) may do so, as can someone with a concealed weapons permit who also has the permission of the presiding official or officials of the place of worship.
Michigan Catholic Conference believes it is highly inappropriate to carry any weapon, be it open or concealed, into a church where the virtues of peace and reconciliation are taught and practiced. As such, the Conference has asked members of the State Senate to remove the provision from the legislation.
SB 59 moved out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes earlier this week and is expected to be addressed by the full Senate in early to mid April. Look for an action alert next week from the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network urging opposition to the bill.
Minor girls denied a parental consent waiver from one circuit court family division would be prohibited from seeking a waiver from a similar court under legislation that passed the State Senate this week with bipartisan support.
Senate Bill 135, sponsored by Senator David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc) would bolster existing law requiring parental consent prior to an abortion for a minor. Currently, the Parental Rights Restoration Act, enacted in 1990, requires that an abortion may not be performed on a girl under the age of 18 without both her consent and the consent of one of her parents or legal guardian. A provision exists for a girl to obtain a waiver of the parental consent requirement by petitioning a family court.
SB 135 will add to the law so that when a judicial waiver is denied, the girl seeking the waiver “shall not initiate proceedings seeking a waiver of parental consent regarding the same pregnancy in another family division of circuit court.” She may, however, appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals.
To promote consistency with the evaluations of requested waivers of parental consent, SB 135 will provide specific factors for the court to consider when analyzing whether to grant a waiver. These factors include considering the minor’s capacity “to make a reasoned and responsible decision,” and evaluating whether “both of the minor’s parents or the legal guardian has demonstrated through neglect or abuse a lack of concern or competence in serving the minor’s best interests.”
Similar legislation passed both chambers of the Michigan Legislature with bipartisan support several years ago, but was vetoed by then-governor Granholm. SB 135 awaits a hearing from the House Judiciary Committee.
Foster care families and agencies would receive an increase from the state, universities conducting research on human embryos would again be required to report progress of the research, and the Tuition Grant program may receive an increase in funds next fiscal year under departmental budgets now moving through the legislative process.
The budget cycle in Michigan follows a similar timeline each year: in early February the Governor presents his or her Executive Budget recommendation to the Legislature, which then deliberates the governor’s suggestions as well as its own in each chamber’s appropriation subcommittees. Once the subcommittee passes its version of a department budget, that budget goes to the respective chamber’s full appropriations committee for consideration before being voted on by the full chamber.
In this year’s Department of Human Services (DHS) budget, the Senate DHS appropriations subcommittee included a small per day increase for foster care parents while the House DHS budget afforded the same. Also included in the budget is a $5 increase for Catholic and other private child placing agencies. The House DHS budget also includes approximately $34 million for non-profit organizations, meaning Catholic agencies that assist the most vulnerable could potentially take advantage of those funds. That budget will soon be addressed by the full House Appropriations Committee.
Under the House Appropriations Higher Education budget, universities conducting research on human embryos would be mandated by the state to report how many embryos the institution has acquired; how many are in storage; and how many have been destroyed during the research. Last year the University of Michigan, which is the only state university conducting such research, presented the committee with a series of press releases and news stories rather than the numbers the committee requires. This year’s Higher Education budget not only renews the reporting requirements, but would also penalize those non-complying institutions by withholding additional performance funds.
The House Higher Education budget also reinstated a one million cut from the Executive office for the Tuition Grant program and added an additional million dollars for the program. The Michigan Tuition Grant program is the state’s only needs-based scholarship program that benefits low-income students attending any of Michigan’s independent and Catholic universities. Michigan Catholic Conference has made preserving Tuition Grant dollars a priority in each year’s higher education budget.
MCC also monitors the Department of Community Health (DCH) budget each year as that budget appropriates funding for the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health care for the state’s poorest citizens. This year’s House DCH budget also includes start-up funding for an abortion alternative program.
More information about departmental budgets will be provided in Lansing Update as the legislative process continues.