Lansing Update: March 6, 2006

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Federal Government Approves Contraception Waiver
  2. High School Curriculum Mandate Headed to Senate
  3. Senate Committee Confirms New Children’s Ombudsman

Federal Government Approves Contraception Waiver

The State of Michigan learned this week that the federal government has approved a waiver that will allow the state to provide contraception coverage to some 200,000 uninsured, low-income women. The Administration applied for the waiver last year, which will allow funding to be included in the current fiscal year’s Department of Community Health budget.

The federal waiver will free some $183 million from the state’s Medicaid budget, which currently is under funded by several hundred million dollars. Michigan Catholic Conference staff has spoken openly against such a policy, asserting that the dollars should be allocated toward providing health insurance for the state’s poor and vulnerable population.

High School Curriculum Mandate Headed to Senate

The House of Representatives this week passed legislation that would implement stricter standards for students prior to graduating from high school.

House Bill 5606, which passed the full House after lengthy discussion, includes Algebra II as a graduation requirement and allows local school districts to apply for an exemption until administrators have hired all qualified teachers necessary. The bill calls for the course requirements to apply to the class of 2010, unless a school applies for a waiver. The Department of Education and State Board of Education have until April 15 to adopt the content expectations and guidelines.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Brian Palmer (R-Romeo), would mandate high school students to receive 16 total credits in the areas of math (4), English (4), science (3) and social science (3).

The bill now awaits consideration from the Senate Education Committee.

Senate Committee Confirms New Children’s Ombudsman

After receiving praise from both sides of the political aisle, Ms. Verlie Ruffin was approved by the Senate Families and Human Services Committee to become the next Michigan Children’s Ombudsman.

The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman is an independent government agency that works to assure the safety and welfare of Michigan children related to foster care, adoption, and protective services. The office investigates complaints and recommends changes to improve law, policy, and practice that benefit children’s welfare.

Ms. Ruffin most recently served as associate director of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families, and has also been employed as a foster care worker and supervisor. She has served on a variety of task forces including former Lt. Governor Connie Binsfeld’s adoption task force.

The full Senate must confirm Ms. Ruffin before her appointment is final.