Mandate Funding for Non-Public Schools Included in Final Budget; Send Thank You Now
This week, Governor Rick Snyder signed the education budget bill for 2016–2017, Senate Bill 801, into law. The budget included $2.5 million in funding to reimburse non-public schools for state health, safety, and welfare mandates. Michigan Catholic Conference is thankful to the governor for his support and looks forward to continued collaboration with public and non-public school groups for the benefit of all children. To send a message of thanks to Governor Snyder for signing the budget, click here.
2016–2017 Budget Signed Into Law by Governor
Governor Rick Snyder also kept several other MCC-supported measures in the 2016–2017 omnibus budget legislation (HB 5294) and the education budget bill (SB 801) which were signed this week, including:
- Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program: provides $400,000 in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to support women in crisis pregnancies with alternatives to abortion.
- Water Testing for Lead in Schools: provides $4.5 million to reimburse public and non-public schools across the state, on a voluntary basis, for the cost of testing water for lead.
- School Safety Grants: provides $2 million in grant funding for public and non-public schools to purchase equipment and/or technology to improve school safety and security.
- Children’s Clothing Allowance: provides $3.4 million to help low-income families purchase clothing for the school year at a rate of $140/year per child. This year, the budget expands the program to all school-age children that receive Family Independence Program (FIP) benefits, which allows 25,000 additional children to participate.
- Healthy Kids Dental Program: provides $244.5 million for low-income children in all Michigan’s counties to access dental care. An additional $25.6 million this year now expands the Healthy Kids Dental to all school-age children in Kent, Oakland, and Wayne Counties.
- Human Trafficking: provides $200,000 in funding for human trafficking intervention services, $390,000 to assist prosecutions and to build public awareness regarding human trafficking in the state, and a one-time appropriation of $500,000 for a special project to address human trafficking.
- Tuition Grant Program: provides $35 million in financial aid to allow eligible low-income students to attend one of Michigan’s independent colleges or universities.
- Tuition Incentive Program: provides $53 million in tuition assistance for the first two years of college in order to incentivize completion of high school for Medicaid-eligible students.
- Dual Enrollment: provides $1.5 million for non-public school students to take community college or university classes for college credit while still in high school.
- Private Foster Care Agency Administrative Rates: provides an increase in the per diem administrative rates for private foster care agencies, such as Catholic Charities, to $45 per day.
CALL TO ACTION: Urge Congress to Pass the Conscience Protection Act
The need is now urgent for Congress to enact the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 4828/S. 2927). For many months, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been working to protect the conscience rights of pro-life health care providers. As mentioned in last week’s Lansing Update, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently allowed California to continue forcing health plans to cover abortions. Your action is needed to encourage adoption of the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (CPA), which will protect healthcare providers from being forced to pay for or participate in abortions and allow victims of discrimination a “right of action” to defend their rights in court.
USCCB Laments SCOTUS Decision Rejecting Abortion Clinic Safety Law
On Monday, June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5–3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the case that struck down a Texas law on abortion clinic safety. The law specifically required individuals performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It also required all abortion clinics in the state to meet ambulatory surgical center standards, like adequate staffing, soap dispensers, and hallways wide enough for emergency personnel to walk through with a stretcher if needed. The Pro-Life Spokeswoman at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Deirdre McQuade, reacted to the decision:
"The Court has rejected a common-sense law protecting women from abortion facilities that put profits above patient safety…Abortion claims the lives of unborn children, and too often endangers their mothers...This ruling contradicts the consensus among medical groups that such measures protect women's lives."
Staff is disappointed that the Court failed to recognize or acknowledge the vast amount of evidence of the real, physical dangers present to women undergoing abortions but will continue to speak out about the physical and emotional harms that abortion poses. The Catholic Church will also continue to offer assistance, like Project Rachel, to post-abortive women.
SCOTUS Declines to Hear Pro-Life Pharmacy Conscience Case
In 2007, the State of Washington began requiring pharmacies to dispense abortion-inducing drugs like Ella and Plan B. No pharmacies could be exempted from the rules due to religious objections, and conscience-based referrals to other pharmacies were also not allowed under the rules. A pharmacy owned by the local Storman family challenged the rules in court. While the federal district court granted the Stormans a permanent injunction, the state appealed the decision, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals restored the regulations. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, Storman’s v. Washington Department of Health, by a 5–3 decision. By declining the case, the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court has been upheld, forcing pharmacists to dispense drugs contrary to their conscience. The three U.S. Supreme Court justices who wanted to hear the case and dissented from the majority opinion — Justice Samuel Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Clarence Thomas — called this case “an ominous sign” and expressed doubt that the regulations in question “were adopted for — or that they actually serve — any legitimate purpose.”
Fortnight for Freedom Draws Attention to Witnesses of Faith
Over the last several years, dioceses around the United States have highlighted the importance of religious freedom through a two-week period of special events called the Fortnight for Freedom. This year, the Fortnight began with Mass in Baltimore on June 21 — the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More — and will end with a closing Mass in DC on July 4. The closing Mass will be televised on EWTN and the CatholicTV Network. The theme of this year’s event is “Witnesses to Freedom,” which highlights individuals who have lived their faith in the public realm, including the Little Sisters of the Poor.
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