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Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

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Michigan Catholic Conference
(800) 395-5565
(517) 372-3940
510 S. Capitol Ave.
Lansing, MI 48933

December 5, 2014

  1. Historic Week for Religious Liberty Policies in Michigan House
  2. Michigan Senate Approves Prisoner Employability Bills
  3. Sentencing Reform Bills Passed by Michigan House
  4. Senate Committee Adopts Nonprofit Housing Property Exemption

Historic Week for Religious Liberty Policies in Michigan House

On Thursday, December 4, five important measures intended to uphold religious liberty and conscience rights passed the Michigan House of Representatives, all strongly supported by the Michigan Catholic Conference.

  • House Bill 5958, introduced by House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), would create a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect individual religious liberty rights from coercion or discrimination from the state, mirroring a law at the federal level. Nineteen other states have similar statutes as the federal law does not apply to the states. The bill passed by a 59-50 vote.
  • House Bills 4927, 4928, and 4991, introduced by Representatives Andrea LaFontaine (R-Richmond), Kenneth Kurtz (R-Coldwater), and Tom Leonard (R-Lansing), allow faith-based agencies to continue to operate in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs. The legislation will protect the long-established relationship between the State of Michigan and faith-based agencies in adoption and foster care placements. The bills passed on a 60-49, 59-50, and 59-50 vote respectively.
  • House Bill 4454, introduced by Representative Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek), would prohibit a public school from counting a student’s absence due to a religious holiday against his or her attendance record to determine eligibility for an attendance award or recognition. The bill passed by a 95-14 vote.

The creation of a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act and conscience protections for organizations such as Catholic Charities have been a priority for several years. We are now encouraging the State Senate to pass the bills quickly before the Lame Duck session ends. Following the passage of the bills, Michigan Catholic Conference issued the following statement:

“For the House of Representatives to pass out these important policies today indicates the level of respect that lawmakers have for religious liberty. Diversity and tolerance are welcoming principles for Michiganders; what better way to promote these values than to uphold First Amendment religious freedom rights… Religious liberty is neither right nor left, liberal or conservative. The free exercise of religion without threat of government interference is paramount and deserves swift consideration from the State Senate.”

Earlier in the week Michigan Catholic Conference asked members of the Catholic Advocacy Network to contact their elected officials in support of religious liberty. We saw nearly 1,000 messages were sent! Your support helped to convey the importance of religious liberty and conscience rights. Thank you for all your messages!

Michigan Senate Approves Prisoner Employability Bills

The Michigan Senate this week approved House Bills 5216-5218, which allows the Department of Corrections to award a “certificate of employability” to suitable parolees as evidence of their readiness to be hired. The legislation, sponsored by Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Township), John Walsh (R-Livonia), and Harvey Santana (D-Detroit), allows a certificate to be issued to a parolee based on completion of a career and technical education course, his or her misconduct record, and a silver level or better on the National Work Readiness Certificate (or similar test). The measure will now be returned to the House of Representatives for lawmakers to agree to the changes made in the Senate, before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

Sentencing Reform Bills Passed By Michigan House

A package of bills, sponsored by Representative Joe Haveman (R-Holland), passed the Michigan House on Thursday, December 4 in an effort to address sentencing guidelines in the state.

  • House Bill 5928 creates a Criminal Justice Policy Commission to collect and analyze data concerning sentencing and release policies. The commission also provides recommendations to the Legislature.
  • House Bill 5929 updates the Community Corrections Act of 1988 to reflect revisions to Michigan’s sentencing guidelines and other corrections-related statutes.
  • House Bill 5930 addresses the ability of a judge to consider reduction or termination of felony probation after certain time periods have been served, and establishes eligibility criteria for individuals to participate in the “swift and sure” probation supervision program.
  • House Bill 5931 provides new guidelines to the parole board regarding possible parole after an individual has served their minimum sentence.

MCC staff will continue to monitor this legislation as it is deliberated in the Senate.

Senate Committee Adopts Nonprofit Housing Property Exemption

On Wednesday, December 3, the Senate Finance Committee passed House Bill 5182, a bill to exempt eligible nonprofit housing for up to five years if that housing is intended for low-income residents. Under current law, property can only be exempt if local units of government approve the exemption, and this legislation would remove that step. Michigan Catholic Conference supported the bill, which was sponsored by Representative Dale Zorn (R-Ida) and will now await further consideration from the full Senate.

If you haven't done so already, please join the Catholic Advocacy Network to receive regular public policy updates—including Lansing Update—via email.

Michigan Catholic Conference
(800) 395-5565
(517) 372-3940
510 South Capitol Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48933
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