In This Week’s Lansing Update:
- State of Michigan 2013–14 Budget Update
- Human Trafficking Legislative Day May 2 in Lansing
- Immigration Clerical Assistant Bill Passes House Committee
- Continued Push Needed for Federal Religious Liberty Legislation
The Michigan House of Representatives this week passed two budget bills, one related to education spending and the other that provides funding for all other state departments for the fiscal year that begins October 1. The State Senate has already passed a number of budget bills but has yet to take action on the Department of Community Health (DCH) budget, which includes funding for an important Real Alternatives program that will provide assistance to women in crisis pregnancies. The DCH budget is on hold while differences related to Medicaid expansion are addressed by Senate members. It is expected in the next two weeks that the Legislature will send both chambers’ bills to conference committee so that House and Senate members can work together to resolve differences in each chamber’s respective budgets.
Conference committees are expected to begin before the May 15 Revenue Estimating Conference, where the State Treasurer and the directors of the House and Senate Fiscal agencies will receive an update on the amount of revenue that will be available. The Legislature is hoping to complete the 2013-14 budget by Memorial Day. Through Lansing Update, Michigan Catholic Conference will continue to provide budget updates related to critical programs such as Real Alternatives, tuition assistance, and the expansion of Medicaid.
On Thursday, May 2, the four female members of the State Senate—Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan), Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton), Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), and Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing)—will host a bipartisan Human Trafficking Legislative Day to raise awareness about modern day slavery in Michigan and to discuss how the legislative process can be used to address the problem. It is estimated that approximately 150 girls under the age of 18 are sold into sex trafficking each month in this state. Blessed John Paul II called human trafficking “a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights,” and the Church has long fought against this evil. MCC supports the efforts of the Senators and invites interested persons to join the May 2 legislative day in Lansing. To learn more about the schedule of the day and to RSVP, click here [Link no longer available —Ed.].
This week the House Committee on Regulatory Reform passed House Bill 4528, a bill that removes the requirement that "immigration clerical assistants" must register with the state. Immigration clerical assistants provide services to individuals regarding the preparation of immigration documents. MCC worked with the bill sponsor to maintain the prohibition against fraudulent activities and to increase the damages awarded to those individuals harmed by willful violations of the act. The bill will now be considered by the full House.
The United States Congress must soon decide whether or not to include the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940) in its next “must-pass legislation,” which is legislation that must be acted upon to keep the federal government operating. This is a pressing legislative measure fully supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that will work to protect conscience rights in federal law. If you have yet to send a message to your congressional representative in support of this policy, please do so today.