Lansing Update: Gun Safety Bills Pass Legislature and Much More

In this update:

Safe Storage, Expanded Background Checks for Guns OKed by Legislature

Gun safety reforms backed by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) requiring the safe storage of guns in homes and expanding background checks on purchases of all guns have been approved by both chambers of the Legislature and are headed to the Governor.

The bills that address the safe storage of guns are Senate Bills 79–82. Bills implementing universal background checks on gun purchases are House Bills 4138, 4142, and 4143.

MCC issued a statement this week applauding the bills’ passage, noting they “will help save lives, including the innocent who sadly lose their life because a gun was not locked away or properly stored in a residence.”

“It is saddening and almost always preventable when young persons, especially small children, are the fatal victims of gun fire,” said Paul Stankewitz, policy advocate for MCC, in the statement. “Hopefully the conversation around gun safety and awareness of the violence that exists in our society will lead to a greater appreciation for the value of all human life and the dignity that every person possesses from his or her conception as a child of God.”

The safe storage bills would require the safe storage of firearms that could be accessible by minors, create sentencing guidelines for violations, exempt storage devices and gun locks from sales/use taxes, and require signage at the point of sale regarding the tax exemption.

The background check legislation would expand Michigan’s background check law to include all firearms, not just pistols. They would also adjust the Michigan Penal Code and sentencing guidelines for violations.

MCC testified in support of those policies as well as bills that would implement a process to temporarily remove firearms from people who pose a risk to themselves or other people. Those bills, which set up what’s called extreme protection orders, have not cleared the Legislature.

In its testimony, MCC shared the gun safety reforms represent a step toward addressing violence that afflicts society and its impact on human life.

In addition to supporting these gun safety reforms, MCC also called for a thorough conversation about violence in society, a public information campaign to educate people that they are responsible for the weapons under their care, greater attentiveness to and awareness of those who feel alienated or isolated from society, and for meeting the mental health needs of residents.

House Votes to Repeal Law Protecting Women from Unregulated Abortion

A bill to repeal a longstanding law intended to protect women from those who publicize unregulated abortion practices was approved by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her likely signature.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), is opposed by MCC. The bill would remove a state law aimed at stopping people who would publish or sell dangerous, unscientific recipes to stop conception or cause an abortion by using “indecent or obscene language,” according to the language of the law.

As MCC explained in its prepared testimony on the bill, “obscene content is not protected by the First Amendment and one aspect of obscenity includes that which lacks serious scientific value.” In other words, the law being proposed for repeal is intended to stop those who would publicize dubious abortion procedures with false information.

MCC was not permitted to testify when the bill came before the House Judiciary Committee, even though bill supporters were permitted to testify. On Thursday, the full House passed Senate Bill 2 on a party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans against.

Senate Bill 2 is now on its way to the Governor, where it joins other controversial and extreme abortion-related measures that MCC has previously spoken out against.

In commenting on legislation that removes Michigan’s long-standing prohibition against abortion as well as a bill removing a criminal penalty for killing a woman in an abortion, MCC argued lawmakers are using the passage of Proposal 3 as justification to modify or propose state laws that were never part of the statewide conversation around the ballot measure that created a constitutional right to an abortion.

Bill to Ensure Immediate Tax Relief from Increased EITC Advances

Legislation to ensure Michigan families could immediately benefit from a newly enlarged tax break was voted out of committee with MCC support this week.

Senate Bill 144, sponsored by Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City), is to make it so the increased benefit from the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can impact working families as soon as they file taxes for the 2022 tax year.

This bill is needed because the legislation that contained the recently increased EITC did not get enough votes to take effect immediately. That bill, House Bill 4001, had other tax-related provisions in it, and it failed to gain the required two-thirds votes in the Senate needed for it to take effect immediately upon signing.

However, Senate Bill 144 was introduced containing only the EITC increase applying to the 2022 tax year with the idea that on its own, the EITC increase policy has enough support from both parties in both chambers to get two-thirds support.

Indeed, the Senate previously passed an EITC-only bill by a 27-11 vote, and the House did the same with a 100-8 vote.

If Senate Bill 144 is approved with similar votes, it’s likely to receive immediate effect and would put the EITC increase in effect immediately once Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs it. Then families could apply for and receive a state EITC refund of up to 30% of the federal credit for the 2022 tax year and have it paid out when they file taxes this spring.

The bill was approved by the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee this week and awaits action on the Senate floor.

MCC has long supported the EITC as a proven policy to help provide a path out of poverty for working families while at the same upholding the dignity of work.

The increase of the state EITC to 30% of the federal credit was recently signed into law by the Governor after a massive coalition consisting of MCC and more than 200 groups successfully advocated for its passage.

MCC Backs Bill Providing Driver’s Licenses for Prisoners Returning to Society

Bills to help prisoners returning to society by providing driver’s licenses or state identification cards earned support from MCC this week.

House Bills 4191 through 4194 would put into state law the requirement that the state Department of Corrections apply for a driver’s license or state personal ID card on behalf of a prisoner who is scheduled to be released from prison.

The state already does this by a matter of procedure, but these bills would make that law.

MCC offered support for the bills in accordance with its advocacy principle of pursuing restorative justice, which includes supporting policies that provide comprehensive reentry services to assist the formerly incarcerated in becoming productive members of society.

Driver’s licenses or state identification are crucial not only for transportation purposes but also for job applications, for instance. Helping former prisoners—the vast majority of which leave prison at some point—return to society is proven to reduce the chance they return to a life of crime and ultimately aimed at upholding their dignity as children of God.

The House Criminal Justice Committee took testimony only on the bills this week.

Catholic School Leaders Meet with Lawmakers During Capitol Advocacy Day

More than 50 nonpublic school leaders—with roughly half from Catholic schools—visited the Capitol this week to meet with lawmakers and advocate for the equitable treatment of nonpublic schools in state budget spending.

The Michigan Association of Nonprofit Schools (MANS), with assistance from MCC, hosted its annual public policy day in Lansing this week. The event invites nonpublic school leaders from across the state to come and speak with their elected representatives about public policy issues that impact nonpublic education.

Brian Broderick, executive director for MANS, addresses the nonpublic school leaders before their legislative visits.

Catholic schools from all seven dioceses in the state were represented at the event.

Before their legislative visits, the school leaders were addressed by State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice, who leads the state Department of Education. In his remarks, he shared that he supports growing the teaching profession across the board, including in nonpublic schools.

Dr. Michael Rice, the state superintendent, addresses nonpublic school leaders attending the MANS public policy day.

The school leaders were provided information on spending policies to discuss with lawmakers that are of interest to nonpublic schools in the upcoming budget, such as including nonpublic schools in:

MCC will be supporting these items through the state’s budget-setting process this spring.

State House Resolution Supports Amendment Deemed Harmful to Pro-Life Laws

The state House this week adopted a resolution asking Congress to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that could imperil pro-life laws across the country, among other issues that have been raised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

House Concurrent Resolution 3 is a nonbinding measure that calls for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment was approved by Congress in 1972 and ratified by Michigan, but the necessary three-fourths of states did not ratify it by the seven-year deadline set by Congress.

Along with disputes over the validity of the deadline for ratification, there are disputes over the validity of states that have ratified the amendment as well as the states that have rescinded their ratifications.

The USCCB is opposed to the amendment because it could be used as a federal mechanism to overturn abortion laws across the country, among other issues. For more background, click or tap here.

HCR 3 is now in the Senate Government Operations Committee for further consideration.

Juneteenth Recognized as State Holiday Under Bill Receiving MCC Support

MCC supported a bill this week that would make Juneteenth an official state holiday set for June 19.

Senate Bill 50 is sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), which commemorates the day in 1865 when African Americans in Galveston, Texas learned they had been freed from slavery two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation.

MCC supports making Juneteenth as a state holiday due to its significance in American and African-American history and in recognition of how “today’s continuing inequalities in education, housing, employment, wealth, and representation in leadership positions are rooted in our country’s shameful history of slavery and systemic racism,” as put by the USCCB.

The Senate Finance, Insurance and Consumer Protection Committee took testimony only on Senate Bill 50 this week.

Legislature Heads to Spring Break

The House and Senate will not return to session until the week of April 11, the week immediately following Easter Sunday. MCC will publish Lansing Update as needed, particularly as the Governor considers several bills sent to her desk for consideration.