Lansing Update: July 5, 2013

  1. MCC Applauds Governor’s Signature of Indigent Defense Reform
  2. Low-Income Energy Assistance Signed into Law
  3. Chairman of USCCB Religious Liberty Committee Renews Call for Federal Conscience Protections
  4. Senate Launches Healthy Michigan Workgroup to Study Medicaid Reform

MCC Applauds Governor’s Signature of Indigent Defense Reform

Governor Rick Snyder this week signed legislation into law that will establish a Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), a policy which Michigan Catholic Conference has supported for several years. The MIDC will create and implement minimum standards for indigent defense across the state. Michigan Catholic Conference staff, which was present at the governor’s ceremonial bill signing, commented on the new laws:

“These statutes will ensure all persons, regardless of income, receive adequate legal counsel. Michigan Catholic Conference was pleased to see the passage of this reform and to have stood with other advocates as the governor signed House Bill 4529 and Senate Bill 301 into law on Monday. It is not a question of how many individuals are impacted by an ill-equipped public defender, but a matter of justice. One person’s liberty is everyone’s liberty; one person’s dignity is everyone’s dignity. Michigan Catholic Conference would like to thank Governor Snyder, who created an advisory commission to study indigent defense in 2011, for his leadership and support of these bills. MCC also would like to thank Representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) and Senator Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) for their tireless work on this legislation.”

Low-Income Energy Assistance Signed into Law

Senate Bill 284, introduced by Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) was also signed into law this week [Link no longer available —Ed.] as Public Act 95 of 2013.

As mentioned in previous Lansing Updates, SB 284 creates an energy assistance fund for eligible low-income households, which is an important step towards helping Michigan’s poor and vulnerable find a path to energy self-sufficiency. Additionally, the bill prohibits utility companies that choose not to issue a surcharge to pay for the fund from turning off a customer’s heat between the months of November and April. Michigan Catholic Conference supported the measure throughout the legislative process and applauds lawmakers for their action on this human dignity issue.

Chairman of USCCB Religious Liberty Committee Renews Call for Federal Conscience Protections

This week the chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference’s Committee for Religious Liberty urged federal officials to uphold American tradition and protect conscience rights. Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, along with other faith leaders and Catholic institutions, came together for a news conference at the National Press Club and also released an open letter to the public regarding conscience rights. Last week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a final rule for the HHS Mandate, and also announced it was extending until January 1, 2014 the implementation of the policy. USCCB has stated publicly that while further analysis is necessary, a first study of the 110-page final rule shows that “the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts” has unfortunately not been eliminated. According to the open letter:

“Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.”

To read the rest of the letter, click here. Please continue to email your federal elected officials [Link no longer available —Ed.] and let them know that you support conscience protections.

Senate Launches Healthy Michigan Workgroup to Study Medicaid Reform

This week the Senate Government Operations Committee announced the formation of an eight-member Healthy Michigan Workgroup, which will meet over the next few weeks to try and assemble legislation with enough support to expand and reform Medicaid services to 450,000 of Michigan’s uninsured residents. While the House passed Medicaid reform legislation, House Bill 4714, several weeks ago, Senate leadership decided more time was needed to discuss the proposal and add additional reforms to the bill. Through this workgroup, lawmakers are hoping to arrive at legislation that can be supported in the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee, commented that the committee will meet again in several weeks to consider the workgroup’s suggestions.

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