Lansing Update: September 9, 2016

In This Update:

Human Trafficking Expungement Bills Continue Forward

Due to bills passed in 2014, human trafficking victims can apply to request certain convictions under the state penal code be removed from their record. Legislation considered this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee would allow victims to also apply for the removal of prostitution-related offenses under local ordinances. Additionally, the bills would increase penalties for traffickers in the sex trade. House Bills 5542-5544, sponsored by Representatives Laura Cox (R-Livonia), Gary Howell (R-Lapeer County), and Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton), previously passed the House by a unanimous, bipartisan vote and now awaits a discussion in the full Senate. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) supports the bills.

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Successor Judge Legislation

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered a bill that eliminates the veto power for successor judges related to certain parole decisions. Currently, parole can be automatically denied for an offender if either the original judge or that judge's successor files a written objection. House Bill 5273, sponsored by Representative Dave Pagel (R-Berrien Springs), would allow automatic denial of parole only based on the written objection of the original sentencing judge. Successor judges may still file written objections to assist the Michigan Parole Board's decision. MCC supports the bill. The House passed the measure in May by a 96-12 vote, and this week, it passed unanimously from the Senate Judiciary Committee. House Bill 5273 now continues to the full Senate.

MCC Testifies in House Education Committee on Student Transportation Bill

According to current law, if a public school district offers transportation for students attending their schools, they also must offer it to students living in the district but attending nonpublic schools. 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 MCC testified before the House Education Committee this week to remove the outdated language in Michigan's School Code, creating consistency with other areas of law and ensuring nonpublic school students are treated fairly. House Bill 5753, sponsored by Representative Amanda Price (R-Holland), passed the committee and continues to the full House.

USCCB Issues Comments on NIH Chimera Research Proposal

As mentioned in last week's Lansing Update, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently proposed ending the 2015 moratorium on federally funded human/animal chimera research. On September 2, 2016, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops submitted comments on the proposal, detailing ethical concerns with the part-animal, part-human research. Here is an excerpt from those comments:

"Herein lies the key moral problem involved in this proposal, beyond the already grave problem of exploiting human embryos as cell factories for research. For if one cannot tell to what extent, if any, the resulting organism may have human status or characteristics, it will be impossible to determine what one's moral obligations may be regarding that organism."

MCC staff would like to thank all those who also submitted public comments and will pass along further updates as they are available.

Prayer for Peace in Our Communities Brings Attention to Issues of Violence

On Friday, September 9, dioceses across the United States will have participated in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities to draw attention to issues of violence and the need for action. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will also be facilitating a conversation on YouTube Live on Wednesday, September 14 from three Catholic faith communities on what they are doing to pray for and address racial justice. For more information about the importance of creating a culture of life and speaking out against violence, read MCC's September edition of The Word from Lansing.