Lansing Update: May 13, 2005

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Ultrasound Bill Ready for Full House Vote
  2. Senate Outlaws Sale of Violent Video Games to Children
  3. .xxx Domain Names Sought for Adult-Only Web Sites
  4. State Superintendent Search Narrowed to Three Finalists
  5. Federal Stem Cell Bill Introduced, With Michigan Support

Ultrasound Bill Ready for Full House Vote

Following passage from the House Health Policy Committee on a bipartisan 14-2 vote, House Bill 4446 this week was prepped by the full House for movement onto the Senate. The legislation, sponsored by state representative Dave Robertson, would require physicians to perform an ultrasound on a patient and allow her the option to view the ultrasound image before performing the abortion. The lower chamber moved the bill up to third reading after adopting one amendment and defeating several others.

Currently, abortion providers perform an ultrasound in the abortion process to determine the gestational age of the child to establish which abortion procedure to use. Several women testified during a House Health Policy Committee hearing that, while an ultrasound was performed prior to their abortion, they were either not offered the chance to see the image or were denied the opportunity to view the image upon request.

The adopted amendment deleted language that required a 24-hour waiting period following the ultrasound. Michigan Catholic Conference staff testified in committee that this provision would present an undue burden and thus become unconstitutional.

The bill is expected to pass the full House next week.

Senate Outlaws Sale of Violent Video Games to Children

Youths under the age of 17 could not buy or rent violent or sexually explicit video games under legislation approved by the Senate this week. A four-bill package was sent to the House of Representatives aimed at keeping minors away from games that depict graphic death, maiming, criminal sexual conduct and other scenes.

Lawmakers from both parties and the administration agreed that the bills are common sense measures that will protect children from games meant for adults. Although, if enacted, the law will likely face court challenges from the video game industry. Federal courts have struck down similar bans approved in Washington state, Indianapolis and other cities saying the bills encroached on the First Amendment.

The legislation would carry up to a felony conviction and a $40,000 fine for a third offense committed. Earlier this month the administration announced a sting operation that found children, ranging in age from 9 to 16, were able to purchase adult rated video games at 26 of 58 stores involved.

Senate Bills 249, 416, 463 and 464 now head to a House panel for consideration.

.xxx Domain Names Sought for Adult-Only Web Sites

The House Commerce Committee this week passed two resolutions that called for establishing the .xxx domain name for adult-only web sites. The pair of resolutions asks the United States Department of Commerce to enforce the use of .xxx to be solely for adult web sites.

The proposed language in House Concurrent Resolution 10 and House Resolution 30 would not only prevent adult web sites from popping up when children were researching, but they would also prevent educational sites, such as ones on breast cancer, from being blocked, according to their sponsors.

State Superintendent Search Narrowed to Three Finalists

Beginning with the resignation of Tom Watkins in early January the state has been searching for a new Superintendent of Public Instruction. From an initial pool of 29 applicants the State Board of Education has narrowed the field down to the following three candidates:

Michigan Catholic Conference submitted to the State Board of Education the following four questions for inclusion in the complete list to be answered by the candidates:

  1. What role do you see yourself playing in the relationship between public and non-public education in Michigan?
  2. What can/should the Superintendent do to better facilitate a relationship between the traditional public schools/charter schools of this state, and the children who are educated in private, religious and home school environments?
  3. What can be done to ensure that the cooperation and consultation required by federal/state laws and programs occurs between public school districts and the religious/non-public schools located within their geographical jurisdiction?
  4. What “value system” would you bring to this position, and what values should the Department of Education uphold in order for public schools in Michigan to foster a more decent, civil society?

Public interviews are scheduled for May 18 with hopes for naming the new Superintendent by mid-June.

Federal Stem Cell Bill Introduced, With Michigan Support

Bolstered by a new poll claiming broad support for embryonic stem cell research, dozens of congressmen and women introduced legislation this week that would allow researchers, under the National Institute of Health, to access fertilized eggs from fertility clinics for research on embryonic stem cells.

H.R. 810, titled the “Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, has listed among its co-sponsors Congressman Joe Schwarz (Battle Creek) of Michigan, and Congressman and woman John Conyers and Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, both of Detroit.

Earlier this year the Michigan Catholic Conference announced a statewide effort in promoting awareness of the ethics of stem cell research. The information, provided through Focus, was distributed to all 803 parishes in the state along with all Catholic high schools, colleges and universities and focused on the differences between adult and embryonic stem cells.

Support for the introduced legislation was bolstered by a poll conducted by the Winston Group at the request of the Republican Main Street Partnership—a coalition of congressional moderates. The poll canvassed 800 Republicans from 13 congressional districts.

Michigan Senate Passes Biotech Development Bills

Two bills that supporters hope will spur biotechnology testing and development in the state were passed unanimously by the state Senate this week.

SB 358 and SB 359 will create a system where the state’s life sciences and biotechnology institutions can help promote testing of new products in the state by offering discounted costs in exchange for stock in a biotechnology company.

The state is a leader in developing new patents, but lags in getting those proposed products through the federal Food and Drug Administration testing system and to market.

Under the bills, the companies developing the products could pay lower costs for the testing process if they make arrangements with state institutions in the life sciences corridor for ownership options in the firms.

Companies that would not qualify under the bills are those that conduct embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.