Lansing Update: September 23, 2016

In This Update

FOCUS: The Issues, The Candidates and Your Vote 2016

On Tuesday, November 8, Michiganders will vote on candidates and issues at the local, state, and federal level. It is important for Catholics to consider the impact of their choices at the ballot box, especially as it pertains to protecting the dignity of human life, providing for the poor and vulnerable, and promoting the common good. In The Issues, the Candidates and Your Vote: Calling for Dignity in the Public Square, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) provides information about the upcoming election, discusses conscience formation, and lists questions to consider before voting. To order print copies of this FOCUS at no charge, contact Karah May at

MCC Advocates for Immigrant Legislation

Denying an undocumented resident of the state access to a driver's license not only harms the dignity of that person but also makes life's daily routines excessively difficult, MCC staff said on Tuesday, September 20th during a press event in Lansing. The event included State Representatives Harvey Santana (D-Detroit) and Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), MCC, and several organizations that support policies that improve the lives of immigrants. House Bills 5940-5941, introduced after the press event, make specially-designated non-commercial Michigan driver's licenses and state identification available to applicants who do not have proof of immigration status. Here is an excerpt of MCC's comments:

"A driver's license allows a person to work, to take care of their children, to buy necessary goods and to contribute to our tax revenue. Those that do not have a driver's license must find other means of transportation, which often is not reliable. For those undocumented individuals that choose to drive, they do so at a great risk to themselves and others. As these individuals will not have access to driver's training, they could pose a greater traffic safety threat than drivers who do have access to training."

House Approves Transportation Bill With Bipartisan Support

Public school districts that offer transportation for students attending their schools must also offer it to students living in the district but attending nonpublic schools, according to current law. Legislation that passed in the 1990s, however, has caused confusion regarding the eligibility of nonpublic students to receive transportation services similar to that of their public school classmates. MCC testified in support of House Bill 5753 earlier this month, a bill that would create consistency with other areas of law and ensure nonpublic school students are treated fairly. This week, the House approved the measure, which is sponsored by Representative Amanda Price (R-Holland), by a 85-21 bipartisan vote. The measure now continues to the Michigan Senate.

Kevin's Law Update Passed by Senate Health Policy Committee

In 2004, the Michigan Legislature enacted four measures amending the Mental Health Code, known as Kevin's Law. These statutes authorize courts and community mental health agencies to develop assisted outpatient treatment programs that can be used in lieu of hospitalization for people who fail to comply with prescribed treatments. Probate court judges could then order treatment for individuals with serious mental illness who did not meet the traditional statutory criteria for involuntary hospitalization, but who needed mandated outpatient mental health treatment to protect themselves and others. However, a 2014 survey found that the law was little used, primarily because it was too complex. House Bill 4674, sponsored by Representative Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt), received consideration this week in the Senate Health Policy Committee to help clarify Kevin's Law and encourage its use of assisted outpatient treatment programs. MCC supports the measure, which passed the committee and continues to the full Senate.

Joint Custody Legislation Considered in House Committee

This week the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee heard testimony regarding House Bill 4141, sponsored by Representative Jim Runestad (R-White Lake Twp.), which proposes changes to joint parental custody laws. Legislation will require the court to consider the relationships between the child and his or her parents as well as the support each parent has provided the child in order to determine whether the presumption of joint custody is merited. The presumption would apply to joint physical custody and substantially equal parenting time and would attempt to maximize the parenting time the child has with both parents. The court also has discretion to override this presumption if it believes a child's health, safety, or well-being would likely be materially compromised by granting custody to a parent. MCC supported the concept of this bill, but staff will be reviewing the new language discussed in this week's committee to ensure there are adequate protections in place against domestic violence and child abuse. MCC is supportive of the concept of HB 4141 because it mirrors the Catholic Church's emphasis on the importance of children having both their mother and their father fully involved in their lives. The committee did not vote on the bill and will not be meeting again until after the November election.

Wrongful Imprisonment Bills Continue Forward to Michigan House

Two bills passed the House Criminal Justice Committee this week, which would assist individuals who were wrongfully imprisoned as they return to their communities. Senate Bill 291, sponsored by Senator Steven Bieda (D-Warren), allows eligible individuals who have been incarcerated and have had their conviction overturned to apply to receive compensation. House Bill 5815, sponsored by Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), helps to provide reentry services for these individuals, such as housing and employment assistance. SB 291 has already passed the Senate and awaits action from the House. HB 5815 awaits a vote in the House before continuing to the Senate for further action. Michigan Catholic Conference supports the measures.