Michigan

Michigan: Legislative Prayer Caucus

Michigan Catholic Conference released the following statement regarding today’s announcement of the formation of a Michigan Legislative Prayer Caucus. Continue reading…


Michigan: Lansing Update

Legislature Passes State Department Spending for 2012–13 Fiscal Year Continue reading…

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Michigan: Lansing Update

Legislation Would Allow for Concealed Weapons in Churches; Strengthened Parental Consent Laws Move to House; 2012–13 Departmental Budgets Begin to Move Through the Legislative ProcessContinue reading…

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Michigan: Lansing Update

Legislation Banning Abortion Coercion Heads to Senate; Senate Subcommittee Addresses Lack of Abortion Clinic Inspections; Failure to Report Stem Cell Research Could Mean Decreased Funds for U of M. Continue reading…

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Michigan: Lansing Update

In This Week’s Lansing Update:
  • Legislation Banning Abortion Coercion Heads to Senate
  • Senate Subcommittee Addresses Lack of Abortion Clinic Inspections
  • Failure to Report Stem Cell Research Could Mean Decreased Funds for U of M

Legislation Banning Abortion Coercion Heads to Senate
With overwhelming bipartisan support, the Michigan House of Representatives this week passed legislation that would make it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion. The legislation, House Bills 4798, 4799, 5134, 5181 and 5182 now await consideration from the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

The package of bills were introduced following a study from the Elliot Institute, which published a fact sheet stating 64 percent of women who abort their child do so due to coercive forces. The legislative package makes coercing a woman into an abortion a misdemeanor crime with fines ranging between $5,000 and $10,000.

According to the bills, stalking or assaulting a woman to convince her to abort a child, or withdrawing support or employment toward the same end would be prohibited. The legislation also allows civil action by or on behalf of the woman against the person who coerced or attempted to coerce the abortion. Facilities that provide abortions also would have set protocols to screen whether a woman might be coerced to terminate the pregnancy.

A hearing date for the legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to be set. Michigan Catholic Conference, Michigan Right to Life, Michigan Family Forum and the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence have offered support for the legislation.

Senate Subcommittee Addresses Lack of Abortion Clinic Inspections
The Senate Appropriations Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee this week addressed a recent report from Right to Life of Michigan which alleges that abortion clinics across the state are not regularly inspected. Senator Mark Jansen (R-Gaines Township), chairman of the subcommittee, has stated that extra funds may be needed for the Bureau of Health Systems to add staff in order to clear a backlog of inspections. 

According to an overview of the Right to Life report decades of abuses at abortion clinics have demonstrated “a pattern and practice of gross violations throughout the industry”:

  • Illegal biohazard waste disposal and breaches of medical record privacy,
  • Negligent operative and post-operative practices that result in patient injury and death,
  • Refusals to release medical records for patient use and patient follow-up care,
  • Failure to report to the state medical complications, including patient deaths,
  • Illegal drug prescription, storage, and administration practices,
  • Failure to ensure sterile, sanitary surgical equipment and a sterile operative environment,
  • Violations of the law regarding informed consent for abortions, and
  • Performance abortions past the point of viability without documentation of a maternal health reason.

Conversations related to the Right to Life report are expected to continue as legislators seem interested in finding sufficient funding for the necessary inspections.

Failure to Report Stem Cell Research Could Mean Decreased Funds for UofM
Members of the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee this week expressed outrage at the University of Michigan over its failure to comply with legislation that mandates any university conducting human embryo research to report its activities to the state. Members of the committee stated publicly it may look to decrease state funding for U of M after the school submitted a packet of news releases and news stories rather than actual research information. 

In November 2008 voters approved a controversial constitutional amendment that allows researchers to destroy human embryos in the state in order to conduct stem cell research on those embryos. The State of Michigan Fiscal Year 2011–12 Higher Education budget included language that mandates those conducting human embryo destructive research to report:

  • the number of human embryos and the number of human embryo stem cell lines received by the university during fiscal year 2010–11;
  • the number of human embryos utilized for research purposes during the same time;
  • the number of human embryo stem cell lines created from the embryos received that fiscal year;
  • the number of donated human embryos being held in storage by the university as of September 30, 2011; and
  • the number of research projects using human embryonic stem cells derived from donated embryos being conducted by the university.

University of Michigan was a supporter of the 2008 ballot proposal and has opposed through its government relations staff legislative efforts to bring transparency to the embryo destruction business in Michigan. The chairman of the Higher Education Subcommittee stated he gave the university a second chance to submit the necessary information, but the university declined.

Michigan: Editorial in Detroit Free Press

Michigan Catholic Conference President and Chief Executive Officer Paul A. Long writes in today’s Detroit Free Press: “Nearly three years after President Barack Obama called for the protection of conscience rights at the University of Notre Dame, not only has he failed to honor his words, last month he authorized perhaps the most egregious and sweeping intrusion into the religious liberty and conscience rights of every American citizen.” Continue reading…

Michigan: Religious Liberty Focus

Grassroots advocacy remains a critical resource and a valuable opportunity for Catholics to urge public officials to enact policies that advance the common good and uphold the moral fiber of the state. While the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network continues to grow in 2012, new and frightful legislative challenges have arisen. Regrettably, policies have surfaced at the congressional level, now funneling down to the state level, that obstruct the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to exercise its faith free from government intervention. Continue reading…

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Michigan: Lansing Update

“Choose Life” License Plates May be Coming to Michigan; Senate Passes Resolution Honoring Catholic Schools Week. Continue reading…

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Michigan: State Senate Recognizes “Catholic Schools Week”

The State Senate has voted to support a resolution that recognizes January 29 – February 5, 2012 as Catholic Schools Week. According to the Resolution: “The Catholic Church sees the parents as the primary educators and that parental supervision and involvement play a major role in the education of students.” Continue reading…

Michigan: Catholic Conference Applauds Dual Enrollment Push

Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy Tom Hickson made the following comments this evening after Governor Snyder urged the Michigan Legislature during the State of the State Address to pass dual enrollment legislation. Continue reading…

Michigan: Support for Shared Time/Dual Enrollment

Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy Tom Hickson and Policy Advocate Paul Stankewitz today testified before the House Education Committee in support of legislation that streamlines policies that benefit non-public school students. Continue reading…

 

Michigan: New Poll Indicates Overwhelming Statewide Support For School Choice

All Demographic, Ideological & Party Affiliations Want Ability to Choose
(Lansing) – As the Michigan Legislature continues its review of a package of bills that reforms education policy in the state, Michigan voters have responded to a recent statewide survey overwhelmingly in favor of having the ability to choose where their child receives an education. 
“Regardless of the respondent’s location, race, gender, union membership or party affiliation, the results of this survey clearly indicate that Michigan families have grown lethargic of the status quo and want the ability to choose where and how their children receive the best education possible,” said Paul A. Long, Michigan Catholic Conference President and C.E.O. 

Senate Bills 618-624 and 709-710 would increase the number of charter schools in the state; streamline dual enrollment and shared time policies that benefit both public and non-public schools; expand the schools of choice policy; increase the number of cyber schools in the state; and allow for the conversation of failing schools.  

Senate Bill 624, which would expand existing public school options for parents, has been met with vocal opposition from interests in certain communities and politicians.  Yet, an overwhelming majority of Michigan residents support this bill.

When asked the question “Do you think that parents of children in failing schools should or should not be allowed to send their children to better performing schools in other districts” 82 percent of those surveyed responded in favor, with 68 percent strongly supporting the option.  

The poll’s cross-tabulations provide the following results to the above question: 

                                        YES%                NO%
Overall        …………………………………..82                15

Republicans……………………………….83                12
Ticket Splitters        ………………………….79                17
Democrats…………………………………83                14

YES%                NO%

Children at home…………………………86                13
No Children at home……………………..81                15

Union membership………………………..81                15
Non union membership…………………..82                14
                                                
Caucasian………………………………..83                13
African American………………………..95                5
Other Non-Caucasian……………………75                24

MEDIA MARKETS        
                                                YES%                NO%

Sag/Flint/BC……………………………..83                13
GR/KZoo/West        …………………………88                8
Cad/TC/SSM……………………………..88                9
Mid/Lansing………………………………85                10
Metro Detroit…………………………….77                20
UP……………………………………….100                0

METRO DETROIT                        YES%                NO%

        Detroit……………………………………85                12
        Outer Wayne County……………………..68                31
        Oakland County…………………………..74                23
        Macomb County………………………….85                11

“It is the hope of the Michigan Catholic Conference that these polling numbers will help members of the Michigan Legislature look past what is a very small yet vocal minority of special interests, and listen to everyday parents and families who want better educational options for their children,” said Long. 

The State Senate has passed out to the House of Representatives all of the bills in the package except for that which expands the state’s schools of choice policy, which may be addressed this week in the Senate Education Committee, and the bill that allows for the conversion of a public school into a charter school, which awaits consideration from the full Senate.  The House Education Committee has already conducted one hearing on the legislation that would allow for a greater number of charter schools in Michigan. 

Policies of Interest to Non-Public School Community
Of particular interest to the non-public school community is the shared time (Senate Bill 621) and dual enrollment (Senate Bills 622-623 & 709-710) bills.  Shared time is a 32-year policy in Michigan that allows public school teachers to provide instruction of non-essential classes to non-public school students.  The policy is a win-win for both public and non-public schools as the participating public school receives a pro-rated per pupil foundation allowance from the state, and the non-public school students are given wider access to non-essential classes not offered at the non-public school. Senate Bill 621 broadens existing geographical boundaries to the Intermediate School District (ISD) or contiguous ISD if the local public school district or contiguous district is unable to provide shared time services. 

On at least four occasions the United States Supreme Court and the Michigan Supreme Court have upheld the constitutionality of shared time policies.  At the state level those cases include Clonlara v. State Board of EducationSnyder v. Charlotte Public Schools; and School District of Traverse City v. Attorney General.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the policy in Agostini v. Felton in 1997. 

The process of allowing students to dual enroll in secondary and post-secondary institutions was instituted with the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Act (Public Act 160 of 1996) and the Career and Technical Preparation Act (Public Act 258 of 2000). Senate Bills 622-623 and 709-710 amend the state’s dual enrollment policy, and eliminates the unnecessary burden/requirement for non-public school students to first enroll in a public high school course prior to enrolling in that student’s desired class at a post-secondary institution. According to the legislation, payment for that student’s class would go directly from the Department of Treasury to the post-secondary institution.  The legislation also allows for all students, public and non-public, to dual enroll in earlier grades. 

The dual enrollment policy was also asked of those who participated in the survey, with a healthy majority of respondents supporting the policy change.  A statement about the policy was first read before the question was asked: 

Currently in Michigan, non-public high school students who want to take a college-level course at a university or college must first enroll in a public high school and pass a qualifying course.  Would you support or oppose a proposal to remove this requirement and allow non-public high school students to directly enroll in college-level courses if they wish?

The poll’s cross-tabulations indicate the following results to the above question:

                                        YES%                NO%
Overall……………………………………63                33

Republicans………………………………72                23
Ticket Splitters……………………………61                35
Democrats………………………………..58                37

Children at home…………………………62                31
No children at home………………………63                33
Union membership………………………..59                37
Non union membership        ………………….65                30

Caucasian…………………………………64                32
African American………………………….61                34
Other Non-Caucasian…………………….55                40

MEDIA MARKETS        
                                        YES%                NO%
Sag/Flint/BC……………………………….61                36
GR/KZoo/West        …………………………..57                38
Cad/TC/SSM……………………………….74                21
Mid/Lansing………………………………..65                31
Metro Detroit………………………………63                31
UP…………………………………………63                38

METRO DETROIT                        YES%                NO%
Detroit……………………………………71                24
Outer Wayne County……………………..59                38
Oakland County…………………………..62                31
Macomb County………………………….64                32

        
“Voters are very much in support of eliminating the discriminatory barrier for non-public school students, no more so than in the City of Detroit, with greater than seven out of ten support the policy change,” said Long. 

The MRG survey commissioned by the Michigan Catholic Conference survey sampled 600 likely voters.  The statistical margin of error is +/- 4 percent.  The survey was conducted October 6-9, 2011.  

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. 

 

Michigan: Statement in Support of Senate Passage of Education Reform

The purpose of these education reform bills is to move Michigan toward a more robust public school system and to streamline existing policies that benefit nonpublic students and families. Parents are the primary educators of their children and as such should have as many educational options available for their children. Continue reading…

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Michigan: Lansing Update

Governor Snyder Expected to Sign Partial-Birth Abortion Ban; Catholic Conference Testifies in Support of Education Reform Legislation.Continue reading…

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Michigan: Catholic Conference Applauds Bipartisan Majorities for Passing Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Legislation

Michigan Catholic Conference President and C.E.O. Paul A. Long released the following statement today after the State Senate and Michigan House of Representatives passed with wide bipartisan support a ban on partial-birth abortion in Michigan:

“Banning partial-birth abortion in our state is the most common sense policy a civilized society could enact.  There is no place in our state for those who seek to terminate the life of an unborn child partially delivered from his or her mother. Today Michigan should stand proud in following the lead of dozens of other states and the federal government by prohibiting this most heinous and gruesome practice.

“With a 15 year struggle now behind us, and with legal and political obstacles having been removed, Michigan Catholic Conference looks forward to Governor Snyder signing the ban into law.  It must not be overlooked that this legislation received broad support from both Democrats and Republicans.  Their vote today in support of justice for the unborn deserves applause.”

Senate Bill 160 passed the Senate 29-8 and House Bill 4109 passed the House 75-33.

Michigan: On Passage Of 2011 Welfare Reform Legislation

‘Impact on Families and Children Will be Felt for Years to Come,’ Says Conference

(Lansing) – Today’s passage of welfare reform legislation that will cut off from state assistance a minimum of 13,000 families and some 25,000 children was fast-tracked through the legislative process while neglecting to address how the measures will impact destitute children, Michigan Catholic Conference stated today following the House’s concurrence of House Bills 4409 and 4410. The legislation now heads to the Governor for his signature. 

“The impact of the bills that passed the Legislature today will be felt by poor and vulnerable Michigan residents and children for years to come,” said Tom Hickson, Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy.  ”It is unfortunate that the House chose to ship these bills to the Governor rather than send them to conference committee in order for elected officials and the public to engage in a much-needed conversation of how the legislation will affect destitute persons – most critically the thousands of children whose parents rely on state benefits.” 

In late July Michigan Catholic Conference urged the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee to send the bills to conference committee once the bills were granted immediate effect by the State Senate.  This, according to the Conference, would “allow for a discussion of how the state will prevent thousands of children from falling deeper into poverty.”  The correspondence also made clear that passing House Bills 4409 and 4410 in their current form would do nothing to move the needle on the MIDashboard, which places the number of Michigan children living in poverty in its ‘economic strength’ category. Michigan’s unemployment rate has climbed from 10.5 percent to 10.9 percent since the Conference’s request for the bills to be sent to conference committee. 

“While some have spoken to the temporary nature of the state’s assistance program as the reason for moving thousands of families and children off the rolls, the fact remains that underprivileged children will feel the impact of their parents losing state benefits,” said Hickson.  ”It is highly unfortunate and counter-productive to the state’s future economy for the Legislature to casually dismiss the economic reality of thousands of Michigan children.” 

Michigan: Bishops Urge Support for Immigrants

Stating that it is unfair and mistaken to blame undocumented persons for problems more accurately attributed to a failed federal policy, the seven diocesan Catholic Bishops in Michigan have composed a statement on the public policy issue of immigration that is now being sent to Catholics across the state, to members of the Michigan Legislature and to the Michigan congressional delegation. Continue reading…

Michigan: Catholic Conference Urges Speaker, House Members to Send Welfare Reform Bills to Conference Committee

(Lansing) – In order to allow for the Legislature to discuss how the state will prevent thousands of children from falling deeper into poverty, Michigan Catholic Conference has urged in a memo to the Speaker of the House and the chairman of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee for House Bills 4409 and 4410, legislation that reforms the state’s welfare assistance program, to be sent to a conference committee.  

(To read the full memo click here).  

According to the correspondence from Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy Tom Hickson: “As you are aware, the legislation, if enacted, will mean thousands of vulnerable Michigan families and their children will be eliminated from state assistance due to the retroactive 48-month clock.  The number of children who will be impacted, and the importance this state places on caring for vulnerable children (the MiDashboard includes a ‘children in poverty category’) demands a more thorough discussion of the bills than what took place in the State Senate.”

At the end of June the State Senate discharged from the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee HBs 4409 and 4410, which prevented testimony and comment from the general public.  Two weeks later when the Senate returned to session the chamber passed the bills on a party line vote. Confusion about the bills immediately ensued as many members apparently did not realize the impact the legislation will have on the state’s poorest children.  Once the Senate grants immediate effect to the bills, which is needed to realize budget savings for the fiscal year that begins October 1, the legislation will be sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence and is expected to be quickly approved and sent to the governor. 

If HBs 4409 and 4410 become law, those families and their children who have received assistance from the state for a cumulative 48 months will immediately lose benefits once the bills go into effect. While the Conference credited both the House and Senate for inserting language that increases the earned income disregard and exempts disabled persons and their caregivers from the running clock, the bills in their entirety, according to an earlier statement from the Conference, “will only create wider cracks through which more people will fall.”

The memo concludes: “When House Bills 4409 and 4410 arrive from the Senate, Michigan Catholic Conference respectfully, and strongly, urges the House of Representatives to give a more through and compassionate review of this legislation, and to consider sending the bills to conference committee in order to allow for a discussion of how the state will prevent thousands of children from falling deeper into poverty if and when these bills become law.  The welfare and dignity of vulnerable children must take priority over budget targets.”

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. 

Michigan: Lansing Update

Senate Passes Welfare Reform Legislation. Continue reading…

Michigan: On the Passage of Welfare Reform

“From the beginning of this legislative session Michigan Catholic Conference has consistently stated that a clear indicator of the moral strength of a society is the assistance it provides its most needy citizens. Unfortunately, the bills that passed the State Senate today will only create wider cracks through which more people will fall.” Continue reading…

 

Michigan: Lansing Update

The current issue of Lansing Update has been posted to the Michigan Catholic Conference Web site at:

http://www.micatholicconference.org/public-policy/publications/lansing-update/

In This Issue:

1.  Partial Birth Abortion Ban Moves to Full House

2.  House Commerce Committee Addresses E-Verify Immigration Legislation

Partial Birth Abortion Ban Moves to Full House
Michigan would be among the growing number of states to outlaw the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion if the Legislature moves to support House Bills 4109-4110 after the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee this week passed the bill out to the full House of Representatives.

The legislation mirrors the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act that passed Congress and was deemed constitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 2007. The issue has been on ongoing one in Michigan as the Legislature on four occasions has passed, overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, a ban on the procedure—only to face the veto pen or to be ruled unconstitutional by the judicial branch.

While HBs 4109-4110 await consideration from the full House, the state Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year also passed legislation to ban partial-birth abortion in Michigan. It is not clear at this time if the House or Senate bill will be the primary legislation that moves through the entire Legislature, which is considerably pro-life. Governor Rick Snyder has indicated his support for the legislation. A statement from the Conference praising the House committee for passing the bill can be read here.

Below is a brief history of legislation that has sought to ban partial-birth abortion in Michigan:

1996:
Legislation banning partial-birth abortion sponsored by Representative James Ryan signed into law by Governor John Engler (P.A. 273 of 1996). Michigan becomes first state in the nation to ban partial-birth abortion. Legal challenge filed by American Civil Liberties Union. Legislation deemed unconstitutional by Judge Gerald Rosen on July 31, 1997.

1999
Governor Engler signs “Infant Protection Act” (P.A. 107 of 1999) sponsored by Representative Joel Gougeon, which bans partial-birth abortion. Federal Judge Arthur Tarnow delays effect as the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled Stenberg v. Carhart, a similar partial birth abortion ban in the state of Nebraska, unconstitutional. Judge Tarnow enjoins the Michigan law, citing Stenberg’s control of the Michigan case. Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm fails to appeal the decision.

2003
Governor Jennifer Granholm vetoes the “Legal Birth Definition Act,” sponsored by Senator Michelle McManus, which bans partial birth abortion and declares birth to be at the point where any portion of the child is vaginally delivered outside of the mother’s body. Citizen’s initiative to ban partial birth abortion by bypassing the governor is launched after the Senate falls one vote shy of a veto override. “People’s Override” initiative is successful as hundreds of thousands of signatures prompt the Legislature to address and overwhelmingly support the initiative. Planned Parenthood files suit and U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood later finds the law unconstitutional, citing an “undue burden.” Attorney General Mike Cox appeals the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in June 2007 ruled the Legal Birth Definition Act unconstitutional.

2008
Governor Jennifer Granholm again vetoes legislation (Senate Bill 776) that would have banned partial birth abortion in Michigan. The legislation mirrors the federal Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007. SB 776 passed the Senate 24-13 and the House of Representatives 74-32 with wide bipartisan support. Catholic Conference cites Granholm’s “continued indifference toward human life.”

House Commerce Committee Addresses E-Verify Immigration Legislation
Legislation that would mandate all employers in the state to verify the citizenship of foreign-born persons was addressed by the House Commerce Committee this week as several prominent organizations, including the Michigan Catholic Conference, prepared to testify against the bills.

E-verify is a federal program that allows employers to verify citizenship status of prospective employees. Many states across the country have addressed this mandate, with states such as Georgia and Alabama recently enacting the proposals. However, statistics prove that E-Verify is a highly flawed system that is prone to error and has separated families and turned away workers erroneously.

Michigan Catholic Conference is prepared to testify against the bills in committee with a message that not only is E-Verify a flawed program but, more importantly, immigration is a federal matter and as such Congress must soon pursue and enact comprehensive immigration reform.

House Bills 4024 and 4026, sponsored by State Representative Dave Agema (R-Grandville) will likely return to the committee for further testimony in the fall.

Michigan: Anti-Immigrant Bills Would Hurt Workers

MCC opposed in House Commerce Committee this week immigration legislation that would, according to the Free Press editorial, “make poor social and economic policy.” Michigan Catholic Conference strongly believes that immigration matters are best left to the federal government, which would serve our nation well by enacting comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible. Continue reading

Michigan: LEGISLATURE URGED TO ADOPT BAN ON PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION

Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy Tom Hickson provided the following comments after the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee this morning passed legislation – House Bills 4109 and 4110 – that would prohibit a physician from performing a partial-birth abortion in this state:

“It is hard to imagine a policy that deserves to be enacted more quickly than that which outlaws the gruesome practice of destroying a living human child midway through delivery. While those who support the legality of this heinous procedure will argue that the federal law makes a state law superfluous, the necessity for a state statute that mirrors a federal law (Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, for example) is unambiguous.

“This legislation will eliminate reliance on federal authorities to prosecute anyone who destroys a partially born child, especially as the current administration has decided to no longer enforce certain laws, specifically the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Passing this legislation also makes a statement that Michigan will speak boldly in the defense of the sanctity of human life.

“Michigan Catholic Conference applauds the sponsors and cosponsors of this legislation as well as the members of the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee for taking quick action on this common sense measure.  We now urge the full House to move the bills over to the Senate with the intent to enact a partial-birth abortion ban as quickly as possible.”

Michigan: 6% STATE EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT TO BE SIGNED INTO LAW TODAY

With the Governor reportedly scheduled to sign into law today legislation that overhauls the state tax code, Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO Paul A. Long offered the following comments on the component of the bill that establishes a six percent state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC):

“This is a remarkable improvement from where we were at the outset of this legislative session.  While the EITC has been significantly reduced from its current twenty percent level, the fact that the credit has been preserved – in light of limited state resources – is a testament to the Legislature’s appreciation for the working poor of this state.

“Michigan Catholic Conference is especially thankful to State Representative Jud Gilbert, chairman of the House Tax Policy Committee, for his efforts to keep the EITC alive and for working within his caucus and across party lines to garner support.  The Conference believes the state EITC would not have been preserved without the dedicated efforts of both Democrats and Republicans alike.

“Moving low-income workers and their children out of poverty through good public policy is a matter of justice. The inclusion of the state EITC indicates with certainty that this policy is a cornerstone for the working poor in the state’s tax code.”

Michigan: DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES CONFERENCE REPORT “A MIXED BAG”

(Lansing) – Today the Department of Human Services (DHS) conference committee reported out to the full Legislature a Fiscal Year 2012 spending plan that is “a mixed bag,” according to the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC).  This session the Conference has tracked in the DHS budget the Children’s Clothing Allowance program, the State Disability Assistance (SDA) program, and an earned income disregard in the Family Independence Program (FIP).

“This budget really is a mixed bag,” said Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy Tom Hickson. “On one hand, the MCC applauds the conference report’s language to allow those receiving FIP assistance to earn additional income while still receiving benefits, and we support the committee’s efforts to maintain current funding levels for disabled persons incapable of working. On the other hand, while it is the intention of the Legislature to utilize the increase in the earned income disregard to offset cuts to the clothing allowance program, the nearly $10 million cut to the clothing allowance is cause for concern as revised eligibility means some 124,000 vulnerable children will lose the benefit.”

According to the conference report for Senate Bill 179:
Increasing the earned income disregard will allow for low-wage earners to earn up to $14,000 per year while continuing to receive FIP benefits;
The Children’s Clothing Allowance program will be reduced from nearly $12.9 million to approximately $2.9 million, and eligibility will be altered to allow for children with no work-eligible adult in the home to receive an average of $79 per child.  Funding from this program will provide revenue for the increased earned income disregard; and
The State Disability Assistance (SDA) program will be retained at $269 per month for all current cases. Future recipients will receive a reduced amount of $200 per month.

“Allowing for an increase to the amount a FIP recipient can earn is consistent with the Conference’s long-standing welfare reform principle for those on assistance to have greater access to employment, job training and work, and we appreciate the DHS subcommittee chairs for agreeing to this provision,” said Hickson. “We urge the Legislature to revisit cuts to the clothing allowance program and future benefits for disabled persons once additional revenue is realized by the state as these programs provide an essential safety net for those most in need.”

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.