In This Week’s Lansing Update:
- Religious Liberty and Conscience Rights Bill Re-Introduced
- U.S. Bishops Address Latest Efforts to Reform Immigration
- Federal Judge Rules Past Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences Unconstitutional
- Michigan Legislature Returns to Session
This week Senate Bill 136, the “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act,” was introduced into the State Senate. Last session, a similar bill (SB 975) was sponsored by Senator John Moolenaar (R-Midland), which passed the Senate but was not addressed before the end of the legislative session. The bill would protect health care providers and payers from having to participate or pay for health care services that violate their religious beliefs. Senate Bill 136 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy. MCC will work with supporters of the legislation to help promote conscience rights in this state.
On Monday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators outlined their principles for comprehensive immigration reform. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Migration, praised the bipartisan introduction of the principles and encouraged Congress to continue to work in a bipartisan manner to address reform. Archbishop Gomez said that while the framework still needs improvement, the USCCB will work with Congress toward legislation that "respects basic human rights and dignity while also ensuring the integrity of our borders." To learn more about the Church’s position on immigration and to read a recent statement from the Michigan bishops about immigration reform, click here.
Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles constituted cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violated the U.S. Constitution. On Wednesday, federal Judge John Corbett O'Meara ruled the decision applies to past cases where juveniles have already received a mandatory life without parole sentence. The USCCB has said in response to the decision: "While there is no question that violent and dangerous youth need to be confined for their safety and that of society, the USCCB does not support provisions that treat children as though they are equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development. Life sentences without parole eliminate the opportunity for rehabilitation or second chances." In Michigan there are more than 350 persons serving a life sentence who committed murder while they were a juvenile. Michigan Catholic Conference supports legislation that would allow the opportunity for a parole hearing for those in this category.
The 2013-2014 Legislative Session is now underway as committee hearings have begun in the State Senate and new committee members and chairs have been announced in the House. Members have also started introducing legislation. Next week, Governor Rick Snyder will present his budget recommendations to a joint meeting of the House and Senate appropriations committees. Shortly thereafter the Legislature will begin debate on the governor’s agenda for the forthcoming state budget.