Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
On November 4th, voters will cast their ballots and decide the outcomes of many important national, state, and local races. This week, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) launched an election website [Link no longer available —Ed.], which provides resources to encourage conscience formation according to Catholic Social Teaching and Scripture as well as participation in the political process. These resources include a video made in conjunction with diocesan and parish staff around the state about faithful citizenship, candidate survey questions and responses from the Attorney General and U.S. Congressional races, and MCC materials about evaluating candidates. Parishes interested in sharing the election website and content on their own websites can find banners available at www.micatholic.org/2014election. [Link no longer available —Ed.] Thank you in advance for using and sharing these resources.
This week, a comprehensive package of twenty-two bills addressing the topic of human trafficking passed the Michigan House and Michigan Senate with strong bi-partisan support, and a number of unanimous votes. The legislation addresses human trafficking from many angles, including added protection and services for victims, increased penalties for traffickers, and the creation of a formal commission. The human trafficking commission will ensure continued analysis of the problem in our state, the training of professionals who encounter survivors, and an increase in public awareness. To curb the demand driving this crime, legislation will require registration on the sex offender registry for those who solicit or engage a prostitute who is under the age of eighteen. Among a number of other provisions, legislation within the package will also allow victims of human trafficking to have their criminal records expunged for crimes committed while being trafficked. Michigan Catholic Conference is supportive of the efforts to address this crime and offense against human dignity. The bill package will now be presented to the governor, with the anticipation that it will soon become law.
Last week the Michigan House approved legislation, House Bill 5669, allowing non-public schools to provide professional development opportunities to their teachers that count towards state teacher recertification requirements. Currently, non-public school teachers are able to count college credits or continuing education units towards their recertification, but are not able to count professional development hours from their school, even if it the same content as the sessions attended and counted by public school teachers. Now that the legislation has passed the House, it now awaits consideration from the Senate. Michigan Catholic Conference will continue to support the measure and send further updates as action is taken.
Currently under the law, parents of an adoptive child are able to receive additional funding from the state to help an adoptee with a medical condition or impairment, as long as they decide during the adoptive process that they will need it. At times, however, the impairment or disability is not known until after the adoption process is finished. Senate Bill 890, sponsored by Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale), would allow adoptive parents to receive assistance for a child with a medical condition or impairment that existed at the time of the adoption but was not obvious. The legislation will ensure that adopted children with disabilities are able to receive the quality care that they need. Michigan Catholic Conference supported the measure, which was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate this week. The bill will now be sent to the governor for his signature.
“Right to Try” laws provide terminally ill patients access to potentially life-saving medications, which are not yet fully approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This week, the Michigan legislature passed both Senate Bill 991, sponsored by Senator John Pappageorge (R-Troy) and House Bill 5649, sponsored by Representative Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton). Senate Bill 991 will implement a “Right to Try Act” in Michigan, authorizing access to, and use of, experimental treatments that have passed Phase One of the FDA clinical trial process, but have not yet been approved for general use by the FDA. This policy provides hope to patients with a terminal illness, when they have already exhausted other approved treatment options. Michigan Catholic Conference successfully worked with the sponsor of the bill to ensure its language would protect vulnerable people and contain a strong informed consent provision. House Bill 5649 is a companion measure that will prohibit disciplinary action against professional licenses held by health care providers and health facilities that recommend or provide treatment as authorized by the “Right to Try Act.” Both bills now await the governor’s signature. Similar legislation has already been enacted in Colorado, Missouri, and Louisiana, while citizens in Arizona will be voting on it this November.
The House Committee on Oversight this week reviewed House Bill 5802, introduced by Representative Phil Cavanagh (R-Redford Twp.), which would create a state Interagency Council on Homelessness within the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The Council would include the director of seven state departments (Technology, Management and Budget; Military and Veterans Affairs; Community Health; Corrections; Education; Human Services; and Natural Resources) with the governor appointing a representative of Michigan's courts and five public members. The council’s main role would be to maintain a ten-year plan to end homelessness, to provide an annual progress report to the governor and legislature, and to serve as the single statewide homelessness planning and policy development resource. The council would be required to develop measurable goals for housing units available for target homeless populations, measure how well homeless programs help their clients become employed, and create a statewide data collection and reporting system. Michigan Catholic Conference is very concerned with the issue of homelessness in Michigan, and although it does not have a position on the bill at this time, staff will continue to monitor it.
Please note that lawmakers will not be meeting for regular session for most of October as they will be back in their districts. Michigan Catholic Conference will send updates if there is any relevant news related to issues of concern or the election, but expect communications to be less frequent until the lawmakers return. Thank you.
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