Coercive Abortion Prevention Act Signed Into Law
This week, Governor Snyder signed HB 4787 and 4830 into law as Public Acts 149 and 150 of 2016, which make it a criminal offense to intentionally coerce a pregnant woman to have an abortion. These measures finally allow implementation of existing law to protect women against unwanted or forced abortions. Michigan Catholic Conference is thankful to the bill sponsors, Representatives Amanda Price (R-Holland) and Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton), who recognize the importance of protecting women against coercion to abort their child, which can have negative physical and emotional impacts on their health.
Legislature Passes Final Versions of the 2016–2017 State Budget
Michigan lawmakers approved their final budget proposals this week, which will now continue to Governor Snyder. The governor will review the budget and sign it into law, with the opportunity to veto any items that he does not think should be included. Last week, MCC wrote about the education items included in the budget from the conference committees. All those were retained in the approved versions.
MCC is especially pleased to see the inclusion of funding to reimburse non-public schools for expenses that go towards meeting health and safety mandates from the state. Staff is thankful to the leadership of House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant), House Appropriations Chair Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville), House K–12 School Aid Chairman Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw), Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Grand Haven), Senate Appropriations Chair Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), and Senate School Aid Appropriations Chairman Geoff Hansen (R-Hart), who supported the inclusion of this funding and helped it to be included in the final version. MCC is also thankful to all of you who helped to advocate for this important budget item.
In addition to those items, the final version also included these funding areas with MCC support:
- The Michigan Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program: provides $400,000 in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to support to women in crisis pregnancies and promote alternatives to abortion for the fourth year in a row.
- The Children’s Clothing Allowance: helps low-income families purchase clothing for the school year. The program is expanded to all school-age children that receive Family Independence Program (FIP) benefits, which allows 25,000 additional children to participate. Lawmakers increased funding for the program to $3.4 million, continuing to provide each child $140/year.
- Healthy Kids Dental Program: provides access to dental services to low-income children in all Michigan’s counties. $25.6 million in additional funding this year expands the Healthy Kids Dental to all school-age children in Kent, Oakland, and Wayne Counties, for a total program amount of $244.5 million.
- Human Trafficking: provides $200,000 in funding for intervention services for human trafficking. Another $390,000 is also included for a Human Trafficking Commission fund to assist prosecutions and to build public awareness regarding human trafficking in the state. An addition one-time appropriation of $500,000 for a special project to address human trafficking is also included.
- Private Foster Care Agency Administrative Rates: provides per diem administrative rates for private foster care agencies, such as Catholic Charities. The budget provides a rate increase, and private child welfare agencies will now receive $45 per day.
At this time, funding was unfortunately not included for the “Heat and Eat” Program, which helps low-income residents, including elderly and persons with disabilities, receive additional food assistance from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The funding would have assisted 160,000 low-income families who receive an average of $76 more a month for food benefits. However, discussions about how to fund this program are on-going.
Cell Phone Measures for Victims of Domestic Abuse Continue to Governor
The Senate unanimously passed legislation that allows domestic abuse victims to legally separate from a cell phone plan in their abuser’s name. House Bills 5641–5642, sponsored by Representatives Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) and Vanessa Guerra (D-Bridgeport), allows a victim to request a court order to do so when applying for Personal Protection Order (PPO). Cell phone providers would then be able to transfer the wireless number and set up a separate account. The bills will now be sent to Governor Snyder for his consideration and, likely, signature. MCC staff supported the two measures, which take further steps to protect victims from further danger and potential violence.
Michigan Senate Passes Restorative Justice Package
Over the last month, Senator John Proos (R-St. Joseph) and members of the Michigan Senate have been working on and debating a twenty-bill package aimed at encouraging rehabilitation for parolees and probationers, which is the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system. Among other aspects, these measures modify penalties for probationers who commit technical probation violations, encourage parole and probation officers to implement supervision practices that reduce recidivism, and expand participation in the “Swift and Sure Probation” supervision program. Michigan Catholic Conference is supportive of the legislative package, which is one aspect of improving the criminal justice system in Michigan. The measures will now go to the Michigan House for further consideration.
Vulnerable Adult Abuse Legislation Moves With Wide Support
The House approved House Bill 5422 with bipartisan support this week, which expands the definition of fourth degree vulnerable adult abuse, by a 105–3 vote. Specifically, the measure would allow the sentence to include an intentional act by a caregiver or other individual that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the vulnerable adult. Currently, vulnerable adult abuse in the fourth degree applies only if there is physical harm as a result of a reckless act or failure. Michigan Catholic Conference supported the bill earlier this year, which is sponsored by Representative John Chirkun (D-Roseville). HB 5422 protects the dignity of vulnerable adults, and staff will continue to advocate for its approval as it moves now to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate Approves Compensation Bill for Wrongful Imprisonment
This week the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would allow eligible individuals who have been wrongfully imprisoned for a crime to apply to receive compensation. Senate Bill 291, sponsored by Senator Steven Bieda (D-Warren), was supported by the Michigan Catholic Conference. The legislation now awaits consideration in the House Criminal Justice Committee. Similar legislation, House Bill 4536, sponsored by Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), previously passed through the House Criminal Justice Committee and is currently awaiting action from the full House.
Please note that the Michigan Legislature is now adjourned for the summer recess and Lansing Update will be publishing less frequently until the two chambers return for regular session in September.
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If you haven't done so already, please join the Catholic Advocacy Network to receive regular public policy updates—including Lansing Update—via email. For other news and information, follow MCC on Twitter, like MCC on Facebook, or visit MCC’s webpage.