In This Week’s Lansing Update:
- Michigan Catholic Conference's Quick Guide to Legislative Advocacy
- Michigan Legislative Process
- Participating in the Legislative Process
- Further Resources
Happy New Year! As 2013 begins, Michigan Catholic Conference would like to thank all of you for being a part of the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network. With the help of members last year, legislators were able to hear from a strong Catholic voice on a variety of issues that impacted the common good of the state of Michigan. With a new legislative session beginning earlier this week, MCC wanted to go over a few basic elements of grassroots advocacy to help you communicate with legislators about issues of religious liberty, human life and dignity, education, children and families, health care, economic justice and regulatory policies, restorative justice, and immigration.
The Michigan Legislature consists of a 38-member Senate and a 110-member House of Representatives. Each of these chambers meets for their regular legislative session, which lasts for two years, in January of the odd numbered year. The 2013-2014 legislative session began on Wednesday and will continue until December 2014. During this time, lawmakers will introduce, discuss, amend, and pass legislation that will be important for the state of Michigan.
Much of the important work in each chamber happens through the committee structure. After a bill has been introduced, standing committees hold hearings, consider amendments, invite discussion on the bills, and make recommendations about legislation to the full House and Senate. These committees are formed by subject matter, which means that the Education Committee will discuss bills that impact education and schools, the Health Policy Committee will discuss bills that impact health care, and so on. Appropriations committees review every spending bill and make important decisions about how much funding a bill will contain.
A bill has to be approved by both chambers and signed by the governor to become law. To learn more about how this process works, click here.
As Catholics, we are called in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to "all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good." The U.S. Catholic bishops tell us in the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship that it is our moral obligation to do this by participating in public life. Below are ways we can fulfill this obligation.
Learn About the Issues
- Become informed about current issues—read the paper, watch the news, or listen to the radio.
- Discuss Catholic social teaching and current issues with family, friends, neighbors, and clergy.
- Attend candidate forums, town hall meetings, or lawmaker office hours to learn more about the issues and lawmaker positions.
- Email, call, or write your legislators with assistance from the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network. [Link no longer available —Ed.] MCC will send updates and alerts to help members contact their legislators quickly and easily.
- Talk to your legislators during their visits back in your district.
- Testify in one of the relevant standing committees on behalf of an issue that is important to you.
- For tips on how to participate in the legislative process, click here.
Follow Up After Legislative Action
After you have contacted your legislator about a bill, continue to follow the issue. Using the bill number or keyword search on the Michigan Legislature website, you can look up any bill that has been introduced.
- Once you have selected the bill, scroll to the bottom of the page to find a list of all actions taken on the bill (committee hearings, votes in either chamber, etc). Next to each action is the date on which the action took place as well as the legislative journal that recorded the action.
- Click on the appropriate journal and search for the "roll call" vote on your bill to see how your legislator voted. Since the journal contains all that day's actions, you might have to skim through it before you get to the vote.
- The journal will contain a list of who voted for the legislation (yeas), against the legislation (nays), who chose not vote (not voting), and who was absent during the vote (excused).
If you agreed with the way your legislator voted on a particular issue, let him or her know that you appreciated their vote. If you disagreed, politely explain why and ask him or her to reconsider his or her stance if the subject comes up again.
Spread the Word
Please pass on MCC emails to friends and family and encourage them to sign up for the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network. The Michigan Legislature needs to hear more Catholic voices at the State Capitol this year!
Michigan Catholic Conference is the official voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan on matters of public policy.