Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
On Tuesday, May 5th, Michiganders resoundingly voted against a statewide ballot proposal regarding road and transportation funding, which also included funding for schools and local government. The measure was defeated by an 80%–20% margin. Following the defeat of the proposal, news reports and polling indicate that Michigan citizens still want a solution for the roads. In Lansing, lawmakers have begun discussing ways to come up with the $1.2 billion needed for infrastructure repair as plans continue to develop for the state’s 2015–2016 budget. Stay tuned for further updates as this discussion continues. For areas of the state that had other measures on their local ballot, click here to find further election results.
The Michigan Senate passed its omnibus budget proposal this week, following the House’s action last week, which approved its budget proposal. Now that both plans have been approved, the Senate and House will have to send each other’s budget bills to what is called a conference committee to work out the differences. Among MCC-priority funding areas, both the House and Senate have approved $1 million for dual enrollment for non-public school students; $48.5 million for the Tuition Incentive Program, which helps Medicaid recipients attend public or independent colleges; funding to maintain the per diem administrative rate for private foster care agencies at $40; and $200,000 for human trafficking intervention services. Differences will still need to be worked out between the House and the Senate budget proposals on the Tuition Grant Program, which provides need-based tuition assistance to students interested in attending Michigan’s independent colleges and universities.
With the leadership and support of both Department of Community Health Appropriations Subcommittee Chairmen, Senator Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion) and Representative Robert VerHeulen (R-Walker), Senate and House proposals retained identical funding of $50,000 for the Real Alternatives program, which helps women in crisis pregnancies by providing alternatives to abortion. Should this be approved by the Governor, carry-over funds from the previous year would be combined with the $50,000 appropriation for Fiscal Year 2015–2016, providing up to $850,000 to assist pregnant women and their babies, through twelve months after birth.
MCC had previously worked to include funding in the budget to compensate non-public schools for health and safety regulations imposed by the state. Unfortunately, this funding was not included in the Senate proposal this week. Since the funding was stripped from the House School Aid budget proposal two weeks ago, the issue will not continue to be in play for this current budget cycle. While the exclusion of this funding is disappointing, MCC is thankful for the leadership of Representative Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township) during these discussions. MCC also commends Representatives Laura Cox (R-Livonia), Cindy Gamrat (R-Plainwell), Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton), Mike McCready (R-Birmingham), Paul Muxlow (R-Brown City), Phil Potvin (R-Cadillac), Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker), and Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville) who voted to keep this item in the budget. On the other side of the aisle, it should be noted that Representative Harvey Santana (D-Detroit) did not join the members of his party in their opposition, but instead chose not to vote on the issue. Staff will continue to advocate for the fair treatment of non-public schools, especially during the 2016–2017 budget process.
On March 6th, the District of Columbia passed two measures threatening the work of pro-life and religious institutions. The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) could force pro-life employers in the nation’s capital to hire individuals whose reproductive health decisions stand in opposition to the organization’s values, and it could require them to cover elective, surgical abortions in their health plans. The Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA) repeals part of D.C.’s Code that prevents religiously-affiliated educational institutions from having to support or endorse activities or groups hostile to their teachings on sexuality.
As mentioned in a previous update, Congress has ultimate control over the laws passed by the District of Columbia. Once it receives a law from the D.C. government, lawmakers have thirty days either to overrule the measure or let it go into effect. MCC encouraged Catholic Advocacy Network members to email their elected officials and hundreds responded with a strong pro-life voice. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve House Joint Resolution 43, which would have prevented RHNDA from going into effect by a 228 to 192 vote. To see how your U.S. Representative voted, click here. Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate did not take action within the thirty day window, and no action was taken in either chamber to prevent the HRAA from going into effect. Since the resolutions of disapproval did not pass, other action, such as amendments to the annual funding bill for the District of Columbia will now likely be considered as a way to address these D.C. laws and the unprecedented threat they pose to religious liberty.
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