- House Committee Approves Faith-Based Child Placement Bills
- Governor Appoints Members to Two State Human Trafficking Groups
- “Choose Life” License Plate Legislation Headed to State Senate
- Wording Finalized for May Road Funding Proposal
- The Word from Lansing Column Addresses Education Policies
- USCCB Urges Consideration of Poor and Vulnerable in the Federal Budget
House Committee Approves Faith-Based Child Placement Bills
On Wednesday, March 4, the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee approved House Bills 4188–4190, which allow faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to maintain their religious beliefs while operating without fear of discrimination. For decades, state and private agencies, including those that are faith-based, have been working together to help Michigan’s vulnerable children find loving homes. This legislation, sponsored by Representatives Andrea LaFontaine (R-Columbus Township), Harvey Santana (D-Detroit), and Eric Leutheuser (R-Hillsdale), would adopt current practice into law to ensure that all of these diverse agencies continue meeting the needs of Michigan’s children. Michigan Catholic Conference issued the following statement after the committee’s approval:
“This legislation helps to preserve diversity in child placement and ensures children are of first and foremost concern. Solidifying the state’s long-standing relationship with faith-based child placement agencies will result in more providers, which means more placement of foster children into ‘forever families.’ As has been stated numerous times, this legislation does not prohibit adoption to any classification of persons, but merely places into law what the state has practiced for decades. We encourage the full House to act swiftly and send these important bills over to the State Senate.”
The bills now await further consideration from the full House of Representatives.
Governor Appoints Members to Two State Human Trafficking Groups
Governor Rick Snyder has announced his initial appointments for two state human trafficking groups. The Human Trafficking Commission, established by House Bill 5158 of 2014, makes recommendations to improve Michigan’s laws related to human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Health Advisory Board, established by Senate Bill 596 of 2014, addresses issues related to medical and mental health of human trafficking survivors. To see a list of the appointees, click here. More information about human trafficking in Michigan and the Catholic Church’s efforts against it can be found in MCC’s FOCUS publication.
“Choose Life” License Plate Legislation Headed to State Senate
The Michigan State Senate could soon take up legislation that recently passed the Senate Transportation Committee to create a Michigan “Choose Life” Fund. Under Senate Bill 84, sponsored by Senator Patrick Colbeck, the fund would receive money from the sale of “Choose Life” fundraising license plates, also created by the measure. Money would then be distributed from the “Choose Life” Fund to organizations that promote alternatives to abortion, such as crisis pregnancy centers and homes for pregnant women. MCC will continue to follow this legislation.
Wording Finalized for May Road Funding Proposal
State lawmakers voted last year to put a measure on the statewide ballot that would address funding for roads, redirect funding for K–12 schools, and allow additional measures to go into effect, such as the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for working low-income individuals and families. This plan will be considered during a special election on May 5 as Proposal 2015-1. Last week, the Michigan Board of Canvassers approved the final wording of the proposal:
A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. The proposed constitutional amendment would:
- Eliminate sales/use taxes on gasoline/diesel fuel for vehicles on public roads.
- Increase portion of use tax dedicated to School Aid Fund (SAF).
- Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career/technical education, and
- Prohibit use for 4-year colleges/universities.
- Give effect to laws, including those that:
- Increase sales/use tax to 7%, as authorized by constitutional amendment.
- Increase gasoline/diesel fuel tax and adjust annually for inflation,
- Increase vehicle registration fees, and dedicate revenue for roads and other transportation purposes.
- Expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.
- Increase earned income tax credit.
At this time, MCC does not have a position on the ballot proposal. To read arguments from one of the main supporters of the ballot proposal, the Safe Roads Yes coalition, visit http://www.saferoadsyes.com/ [Link no longer available —Ed.]. To read arguments from one of the main opponents of the ballot proposal, the ballot committee Say No to Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals, visit http://saynotohighertaxes.org/.
The Word from Lansing Column Addresses Education Policies
All children deserve quality educational options, regardless of their zip code or family income. The Word from Lansing column this month for Catholic newspapers highlights several policies of importance to providing children with these options, including the Tuition Grant program, the Tuition Incentive program, and dual enrollment opportunities.
USCCB Urges Consideration of Poor and Vulnerable in the Federal Budget
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to federal lawmakers to encourage consideration of the poor and vulnerable in budget decisions. The letter emphasized reducing unsustainable deficits while also avoiding disproportionate cuts in essential services to low-income persons:
“The moral measure of the federal budget is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, or poor are treated…As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters and famines. In much of this work, we are partners with government, and our combined resources allow us to reach further and help more.”
At the state level, Michigan Catholic Conference is working to ensure the proposed 2015–2016 budget reflects the needs of the poor and vulnerable in society. Stay tuned for further updates as they become available.
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