In This Week’s Lansing Update:
- Effort to Promote Religious Liberty in Health Care Continues
- Father David Walkowiak to Succeed Bishop Hurley in Grand Rapids Diocese
- U.S. Bishops Welcome Opportunity to Work on Bipartisan Immigration Reform
- Stem Cell Reporting Added to Senate Higher Education Budget
- Drug-Screening Policy Moves Out of House Committee
While waiting for the State Senate to take up Senate Bill 136, the “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act,” Michigan Catholic Conference has worked to inform the greater public about the importance of health care conscience rights. This week, Policy Advocacy Rebecca Mastee, J.D., filmed a short 3-minute video that explains what Senate Bill 136 does, shows why it is important religious liberty legislation, and dispels myths about the bill. Click here to watch MCC’s YouTube video about Senate Bill 136.
Also this week, to the great excitement of MCC staff, The Detroit News wrote an editorial in support of SB 136 [Link no longer available —Ed.], with the headline “Rights of Conscience Must Be Preserved.” The editorial reads, in part: “At a time when the White House has decided enacting its health care bill is more important than respecting civil liberties, the state must offer its citizens what protections it can.”
In addition, MCC Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy Tom Hickson responded to the Detroit Free Press’ opposition to Senate Bill 136 with this Letter to the Editor [Link no longer available —Ed.] that ran on Thursday. To further amplify the importance of the bill, MCC’s Mastee has written an op/ed viewpoint column [Link no longer available —Ed.] for the Lansing State Journal.
Thank you to all who have sent messages in support of SB 136. If you have yet to contact your senator, please take a few brief moments today to email him or her through the Catholic Advocacy Network [Link no longer available —Ed.].
The Diocese of Grand Rapids announced this week that Father David John Walkowiak, a priest from the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, will succeed Bishop Walter Hurley as the 12th bishop of the diocese. Bishop-elect Walkowiak will be ordained to the episcopacy June 18, 2013 at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Grand Rapids.
“I am grateful to Pope Francis for entrusting me with this apostolic office as bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids,” said Bishop-elect Walkowiak. “In accepting this appointment I renew my trust in the Lord who asks me to set out again on a new mission. I thank God for providing me with the opportunity to serve this local church, which I pray will be a blessing to its people.”
Los Angeles archbishop Jose Gomez, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, released a statement Wednesday welcoming the introduction of bi-partisan immigration reform in the U.S. Senate:
“The U.S. bishops look forward to carefully examining the legislation and working with Congress to fashion a final bill that respects the basic human rights and dignity of newcomers to our land—migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations… I commend the Senators who have introduced this bipartisan bill, as they have shown leadership and courage in this effort.”
Institutions of higher education that destroy human embryos for research purposes will be required to document their activities to the Department of Community Health under a proposal sponsored by Senator Mark Jansen (R-Gaines Township). The policy is included in the Senate Higher Education budget that moved through the Senate Appropriations Committee this week. The embryo research reporting requirements would, in effect, bring the universities that destroy human embryos into compliance with certain requirements of the state constitution and the National Institutes of Health.
Michigan Catholic Conference strongly supports this policy and will continue to urge its passage as the bill moves through the legislative process.
This week the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee passed legislation that would authorize the Department of Human Services (DHS) to conduct a suspicion-based drug screening program for those who receive Family Independence Program (FIP) assistance. The policy would launch a one-year pilot project in three counties across the state.
Michigan Catholic Conference has opposed similar legislation in the past and has continually advocated for significant changes if the policy were to move forward. For example, the legislation that passed the committee allows those who test positive to continue to receive assistance provided the recipient seeks treatment. In most cases, the treatment would be borne by Medicaid. The bill has also been improved by no longer forcing those who test negative to pay for the test, which MCC had raised as an important matter of fairness.
House Bill 4118, which includes MCC’s policy suggestions mentioned above, now awaits consideration from the full House of Representatives. The bill is tie-barred to funds that will pay for testing of those individuals who are suspected of using drugs but test negative.