Lansing Update: Reforms 5 Years in the Making Cross Finish Line with MCC Support & Much More

In this update:

MCC Applauds Lawmakers for Completing Abuse Prevention Reforms

Five years after they were first introduced, several measures to prevent sexual abuse were signed into law this week.

MCC issued a press release applauding lawmakers from both parties and chambers for providing broad support for legislation signed into law by Gov. Whitmer intended to prevent sexual abuse of children.

Three young children splashing at a waterpark

The policies addressed in House Bills 4120–4125 were first proposed three legislative sessions ago, in 2018. Since that time, MCC has worked with lawmakers to see preventative measures for the protection of children and adults brought to completion. Senate Bills 66–73 also passed the Legislature and will soon be presented to the Governor for her expected signature.

In the statement, Tom Hickson, vice president for public policy and advocacy for MCC, commended the leadership of Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Rep. Graham Filler (R-St. Johns), Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo), Sen. Roger Hauck (R-Mt. Pleasant) and all the sponsors of the bipartisan package.

The statement also noted that MCC’s advocacy for these bills flow from the Catholic Church’s commitment to prevent abuse, as more than 230,000 Michigan residents have been trained by the seven Catholic dioceses in the state since 2003 on how to protect children and vulnerable adults.

To read more of the statement and about the legislation, as well as the Church’s collective efforts to prevent and fight abuse, click or tap here.

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Legislature Unveils Final Budget Decisions, Sends Spending Plan to Governor

Lawmakers unveiled and quickly passed an $80 billion state spending plan this week for the fiscal year that begins in October.

After weeks of behind-the-scenes work between lawmakers and the Governor’s office, the final budgets for state departments and public education were presented in legislative conference committees this week and then approved by both the House and Senate, garnering votes from Democrats and Republicans. The budget will move next to Gov. Whitmer, who is likely to sign it.

MCC staff are analyzing the spending items of interest and will report on those items in a future Lansing Update.

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Payday Lending Transparency Bill Approved in Bipartisan House Vote

Legislation that will shed light on the impact of predatory payday lending practices that disproportionately impact the poor passed the House with bipartisan approval.

MCC previously testified in favor of House Bill 4343, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor), which would require the state’s insurance regulator to produce an annual report about Michigan’s payday lending industry.

The report would have to include how many businesses are providing payday loans and where the businesses are located, as well as how many customers are using the loans and how much they are paying in fees to access the loans.

MCC previously noted this information will help lawmakers assess the impact that repeated borrowing from payday lending has on the financial standing of people in Michigan. MCC has opposed the expansion of payday lending practices because the interest rates are structured in such a way that a person who takes out a loan may have to take out a second loan to pay off the first one, thus trapping some customers — who typically have lesser means to begin with — in a cycle of endless debt.

House Bill 4343 passed the chamber on a 97-12 bipartisan vote last week and heads to the Senate next for further consideration.

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Legislation Cracking Down on Church Vandalism Wins Support from House

A pair of bills creating penalties for people who damage church property and other sacred spaces was approved by the House recently on bipartisan votes.

The legislation supported by MCC specifically makes a crime the act of vandalizing or threatening to vandalize a church or other religious space, and prescribes penalties based on the dollar amount of the destruction. The bills make this vandalism a crime if it is specifically motivated by several listed factors, including religion.

A broken cross laying in the grass, surrounded by dead leaves

The bills would also punish this activity if it targeted other spaces and facilities associated with sacred spaces, such as cemeteries and schools, for instance.

House Bill 4476, sponsored by Rep. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), and House Bill 4477, sponsored by Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton), passed on 83-26 and 82-27 votes, respectively. Both bills were referred to the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee for further deliberation.

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Vulnerable Adults Protected from Exploitation in Bills Ok’d by House Panel

Bills that would hold accountable those who seek to exploit vulnerable adults moved out of a House committee this week with MCC support.

House Bill 4320, sponsored by Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy), prohibits a person from intentionally or knowingly coercing, compelling, or exploiting a vulnerable adult in a way that causes the vulnerable adult to provide sexually explicit visual material to that person or any other person.

A vulnerable adult is described in the legislation as a person who because of age, developmental disability, mental illness, or physical disability requires supervision or personal care. Sexually explicit visual material is defined as a photograph or video that depicts nudity.

The bills make a first offense a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to $500, or both. A second offense would be a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to two years or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. House Bill 4387, also sponsored by Rep. MacDonell, would make changes to sentencing guidelines based on the felony created in House Bill 4320.

The legislation is a reintroduction of bills proposed last session, which MCC also supported, in accordance with its advocacy principle of combating the abuse of all vulnerable persons in society.

The legislation is now on the House floor for further consideration.

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Free Speech in Counseling Settings Threatened by Legislation Headed to Governor

Bills that MCC believes will unconstitutionally limit free speech in counselor-patient settings have quickly cleared the Legislature and will head to the Governor for her likely signature.

House Bill 4616, sponsored by Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Ann Arbor) and House Bill 4617, sponsored by Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), were introduced in late May and have quickly moved through both legislative chambers on largely party-line votes.

MCC has previously shared its concerns with lawmakers regarding the legislation, which would ban practices or treatments by a mental health professional that seek to “change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The legislation says that prohibition includes “efforts to change behavior or gender expression or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward an individual of the same gender.” The bill bans the provision of these efforts specifically for minor patients. Mental health professionals who violate the prohibition would be subject to disciplinary action and license sanctions.

In a memo submitted to lawmakers, MCC outlined how the bills single out and silence a specific message: The possibility that a person could experience change to their sexuality or live consistent with their biological sex. Instead, the bills make it so that only a contrary viewpoint is allowed to be discussed, and such limits imposed on counseling could hamper counselors and patients from having a free and open discussion based on the patient’s needs.

MCC also pointed out that a court decision has ruled that very similar regulations elsewhere are unconstitutional limits on free speech. Specifically, a federal appeals court ruled that a Florida ordinance with similar language to the Michigan legislation did not pass constitutional tests.

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MCC Supports Ending Unnecessary Fees on Juvenile Offenders & Their Families

Lawmakers are seeking to end many extraneous fees that juveniles and their families must pay to the court system according to legislation that MCC is supporting.

The package of bills — House Bills 4634 through 4637 — would implement a recommendation made by a state commission that studied Michigan’s juvenile justice system to eliminate most non-restitution fees and costs associated with the juvenile justice system.

The goal of that recommendation is to have the juvenile court and probation system cease assessing fees, except for restitution or for crime victims. According to testimony in the House Criminal Justice Committee, the unnecessary fees associated with the juvenile justice system exacerbate the cycle of poverty and increase disparities experienced by juvenile offenders and their families.

MCC supports this legislation in the interest of pursuing restorative justice — one of its advocacy principles — which calls for fostering fairness in the criminal justice process while also respecting crime victims.

The package received testimony in committee last week, but no further action was taken.

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Lawmakers Head Out for Summer Break, MCC Closed for Independence Day

The Legislature is scheduled to meet for just six days of session over the next two months.

Both the House and Senate are scheduled for three days of session during the weeks of July 18–20 and August 22–24 before resuming a busier schedule in September after Labor Day.

MCC will publish weekly Lansing Update emails over the summer on an as-needed basis, particularly as the Governor signs legislation of interest.

A woman's hand, holding two small American flags in front of a brilliant sunrise

MCC offices will be closed next Monday and Tuesday, July 3–4, for Independence Day.

In commemoration of the anniversary of our nation’s declaration of independence, here is a portion of a prayer written by Archbishop John Carroll, who was the first bishop appointed for the United States.

O almighty and eternal God, we recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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