Lansing Update: December 16, 2016

In This Update:

Several MCC-Supported Bills Could Soon Be Signed Into Law

A number of bills that were supported by Michigan Catholic Conference passed the Michigan Legislature this week and continue now to Governor Snyder for his consideration. Some of these include:

Michigan Legislature Approves Sale of Fetal Body Parts Ban

This week, the Senate approved Senate Bills 564-565, which ensure no person financially benefits or receives compensation for fetal body parts obtained from an elective abortion. These measures, sponsored by Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), were in response to the disturbing revelation that the abortion industry was selling fetal tissue. Michigan Catholic Conference supported the bills, which continue to Governor Snyder for further consideration. At this time, the governor's position on these bills is not clear.

Unemployment Insurance Bill Passes Late in Legislative Session

The Michigan Legislature unanimously approved House Bill 4982 in both chambers during the last weeks of session. This measure changes how the Unemployment Insurance Agency deals with potential fraud cases of unemployment benefits. Among other provisions, the bill requires the agency to establish fraud based on unreported earnings, to gather the weekly wage information from the employer, and to transition from a six-year to a three-year time frame for administrative or court action. These changes help to prevent unemployed workers from being mistakenly rejected by a computer or having benefits tied up in a long court process, instead, resolving their claims in a timely manner. Michigan Catholic Conference supported the bill, which was sponsored by Representative Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville). The legislation awaits the governor's consideration.

Revised Energy Legislation Passes Legislature; Governor's Approval Expected

A compromise, which MCC supported, was reached at the end of the legislative session to approve bills enacting significant changes to the provision of energy across the state. The revised legislation eliminates the fees and restrictions on alternative energy suppliers and choice customers that Michigan Catholic Conference opposed in early versions of the package. The two bills also increase the percentage of energy that utilities must generate from renewable sources from ten to fifteen percent by 2021. Additionally, MCC opposed a surcharge on those who generate their own power and place their excess generation into the grid, which was eliminated in the compromise. Staff weighed in on these measures to ensure concerns for the environment and concerns for low-income ratepayers were heard during the process. Senate Bills 437-438, sponsored by Senators John Proos (R-St. Joseph) and Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek), passed both chambers and continue now to the governor. The governor is expected to sign the legislation.

Governor Approves Heat and Eat, Successor Judge, & Human Trafficking Measures

Michigan Catholic Conference is thankful to Governor Snyder for signing several measures into law this week. These measures include:

Overview of Major Accomplishments

During the 2015-2016 legislative session, Michigan lawmakers approved many MCC-supported items. Here is a brief overview of ten of those items, with a more detailed report of the 2015-2016 advocacy efforts of Michigan Catholic Conference staff coming in mid-January 2017. Michigan lawmakers approved measures to:

  1. Allow faith-based child placement agencies to continue serving Michigan's vulnerable children in a manner that is consistent with their religious beliefs,
  2. Reimburse nonpublic schools for the cost of state health, safety, and welfare requirements,
  3. Prevent abortion coercion and support women in crisis pregnancies and their children, up through their first year of life,
  4. Expand the Homestead Property Tax Credit to help low-income residents,
  5. Extend the Healthy Kids Dental program to low-income children in all of Michigan's counties,
  6. Allow low-income individuals to receive extra food assistance by increasing state energy assistance (Heat and Eat),
  7. Reimburse schools who voluntarily test water for lead,
  8. Help more low-income families purchase weather appropriate school clothing for their children,
  9. Improve protections for the privacy of domestic violence victims and post the national human trafficking hotline number in public areas, and
  10. Expand shared time services to kindergarten.

Measures were also defeated that would have eliminated the state Earned Income Tax Credit, reinstated the death penalty, allowed for physician assisted suicide in Michigan, and placed restrictions on refugee resettlement in the state, all of which MCC staff opposed.

President-Elect Chooses Michigan's Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary

President-Elect Donald Trump recently nominated Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education. A Grand Rapids native, Secretary-Elect DeVos is a longtime advocate of school choice, working to give parents good options for their children's education-whether they be in traditional public schools, charter schools, cyber schools, or nonpublic schools. Michigan Catholic Conference has a longstanding positive working relationship with Mrs. DeVos and is looking forward to how her appointment will advance education for all school children in this country. The appointment will be subject to U.S. Senate for final approval.