Lansing Update: May 9, 2014

  1. Senate and House Pass Budget Bills
  2. Human Trafficking Day Held at State Capitol; Bills Move Forward
  3. Michigan Attorney General Files Brief in Marriage Case
  4. Child Support Payment Legislation Discussed in House Committee
  5. Senate Regulatory Reform Committee Considers Immigration Clerical Assistant Bill
  6. MCC Issues New FOCUS on Topic of Juvenile Life Without Parole

Senate and House Pass Budget Bills

This week, the House and Senate passed their respective budgets for Fiscal Year 2015 (October 2014–September 2015), which will now be sent to conference committees. Conference committees are made up of three members of each chamber, and they work to address the differences between the House and Senate budget bills and produce final versions. Outlined below are several MCC-priority measures included in the budget thus far:

  1. Real Alternatives: Michigan Catholic Conference is pleased to report that both the Senate and the House have again included funding for Real Alternatives in the Department of Community Health budget. This program provides support to women in crisis pregnancies from their child’s conception through twelve months of the child’s life, including pregnancy counseling, prenatal health information, parenting support/education, and necessary care items such as clothing, diapers, and formula. The Senate included $2.2 million in funding for Real Alternatives, and the House increased its allocated amount from $700,000 to $1.5 million due to an amendment from Representative Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City). To read more about this program in MCC’s The Word from Lansing, click here.
  2. Tuition Grant and Tuition Incentive Programs: In his budget recommendations, Governor Snyder proposed $31.7 million for the Tuition Grant Program, which assists low-income Michigan residents to attend independent colleges. This amount represents the same funding level as last year. The Senate agreed with this amount, while the House has increased the appropriation by $1.8 million. This difference will be resolved in conference committee, which may result in an increased appropriation. Both chambers have agreed with the governor to provide an additional $1.5 million to the Tuition Incentive Program, which assists Medicaid recipients to attend public or independent colleges, bringing the funding level to $48.5 million.
  3. Dual Enrollment: The House and Senate have agreed with the governor to maintain funding dual enrollment opportunities at just over $1 million. Dual enrollment allows for non-public high school students to obtain college credits while still in high school.
  4. School Safety Grants: As passed by the House and Senate, the budget for the Michigan State Police includes a one-time appropriation of $5 million to provide grants for local public safety technology and equipment needs, with a focus on school safety. Eligible items to receive grant funds include enhanced 911 abilities, emergency alert software, and other technologies. MCC staff worked with Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton), Chairman of the Senate State Police and Military Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, and Representative Michael McCready (R-Birmingham), Chairman of the House State Police Appropriations Subcommittee, to guarantee that non-public schools are included in this program. Language was added to require the grants to be “without bias toward public or private educational institutions.”
  5. Medicaid: Proposed budgets from both the House and Senate for the Department of Community Health include total funding of approximately $17.5 billion. These include funding for the “Healthy Michigan Program,” commonly referred to as Medicaid expansion, which will also yield approximately $232.1 million savings to the state general fund dollars. This is because some programs initially covered solely by state general funds will now be covered through federal funding of the expansion.
  6. Stem Cell Reporting: The Senate and House retain language from the current year budget that requires public and private organizations that conduct human embryonic stem cell derivation to report their activities to the Department of Community Health. The report shall list all human embryonic stem cell lines submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the status of each submission, and the number of human embryonic stem cell lines derived and not submitted.

Human Trafficking Day Held at State Capitol; Bills Move Forward

On Thursday, May 8, individuals from around the state participated in the second annual Human Trafficking Legislative Day, sponsored by Senator Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan). The event brought further attention to the issue of modern human slavery and legislative efforts that are currently taking place in Michigan. The chaplain from Lansing Catholic High School, Fr. Gordon Reigle, helped to lead prayer with other interfaith leaders and individuals at a vigil that ended the day.

Several important human trafficking bills were also considered this week in both chambers. On Wednesday, May 7, the House Criminal Justice Committee took testimony on Senate Bill 597, sponsored by Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), which requires medical professionals to receive training and education regarding human trafficking. MCC supported the bill, but no vote has yet been taken. Additionally, MCC supported HBs 4867, 4021, 5231, and 5232, sponsored by Representatives Tom Leonard (R-Lansing), George Darany (D-Dearborn), Joseph Graves (R-Argentine Township), and Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton), in the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee. These measures expand the definition of kidnapping and update prostitution statutes to bring them into line with the human trafficking legislation revisions.

Michigan Attorney General Files Brief in Marriage Case

Back in March, U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman regrettably struck down Michigan’s 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which issued a stay of the decision to put the marriage amendment back into effect during the appeals process. This week, Attorney General Schuette filed an official state brief [Link no longer available —Ed.] arguing that the U.S. District Court judge’s decision should be reversed by the Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs have until June 9 to respond. The Michigan Catholics bishops remain committed to upholding the truth about marriage and have spoken out about the need for continued support of marriage following the March decision.

Child Support Payment Legislation Discussed in House Committee

On Wednesday, May 7, the House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors heard testimony on House Bills 5508, 5509, 5511, 5512, which address new methods for the state to collect child support payments that are past due. The bills would allow the state to intercept gambling winnings from private, nontribal casinos, withhold past due child support from any payment received by a plaintiff or claimant against the state, and to deny or terminate Family Independence Program benefits. The Committee also discussed HB 5472, which would allow the court to approve a plan to address the reasons an individual is having problems paying child support, such as long term unemployment, substance abuse, or a medical condition. Michigan Catholic Conference will continue to monitor these bills, which are part of a larger child support reform package.

Senate Regulatory Reform Committee Considers Immigration Clerical Assistant Bill

The Senate Regulatory Reform Committee approved House Bill 4528 on Thursday, May 8, which removes the requirement that "immigration clerical assistants" must register with the state. Immigration clerical assistants provide services to individuals regarding the preparation of immigration documents. MCC worked with the bill sponsor, Klint Kesto, (R-Commerce Township), to maintain the prohibition against fraudulent activities and to increase the damages awarded to those individuals harmed by willful violations of the act. The bill, which passed unanimously in the House, will now await further consideration from the full Senate.

MCC Issues New FOCUS on Topic of Juvenile Life Without Parole

MCC’s latest FOCUS publication, which is distributed to parishes, schools, and individuals throughout the state, discusses the issue of juvenile life without parole in Michigan, as well as the Church’s perspective on the sentence and restorative justice. To read this publication, click here.

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