Lansing Update: June 19, 2009

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Conference Supports Introduction of Transparency in Embryo Research Bills
  2. Cuts All Around as Senate Moves Budget Bills

Conference Supports Introduction of Transparency in Embryo Research Bills

Legislation that would codify Proposal 2 of 2008 into state law, provide definitions, oversight and penalties for violating the constitutional amendment was introduced this week with the support of the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Proposal 2 of 2008, which passed 52–48, legally allows researchers to destroy human embryos in Michigan in order to extract their stem cells. The constitutional amendment, vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church in the state, failed to address several critical issues associated with human cloning and human embryo research. The ballot proposal also failed to provide any type of transparency related to the use and destruction of human embryos, which legislation introduced this week seeks to address.

Senate Bills 647-652 were introduced with the support of Democrats and Republicans and contain the following provisions:

The package of bills now await a hearing in the Senate Health Policy Committee. Similar measures will also be introduced in the House of Representatives.

Cuts All Around as Senate Moves Budget Bills

The State Senate and the Senate Appropriations Committee this week took action on several 2009–10 departmental budgets with the intent of eliminating the state’s $1.7 billion deficit. Among the harshest cuts enacted by the Senate this week were to the Department of Human Services (DHS), the state department primarily charged with overseeing programs that benefit the state’s poor and vulnerable population.

The DHS budget bill, which passed on a party line vote, saw some $200 million cut out of general fund allocations spent on the department this current fiscal year. Seeking to save some $24 million, the Senate cut $10 a month from the Family Independence Program, which currently averages $490 per month per family. The state’s $75 clothing allowance was also cut, totaling $5.6 million, and child day care rates were slashed by some $38 million. In addition, 150 department staff members would lose their jobs should the budget be enacted.

In the state’s Higher Education budget, the Senate Appropriations Committee slashed some $160 million in financial aid awards in an effort to reign in spending. Because strings attached to federal stimulus dollars prevent cuts in higher education spending, the panel turned to financial aid programs. Included is the elimination of the Michigan Promise Grant, a $80.5 million cut, a $19.2 million cut to the Competitive Scholarship Program, and a $25 million cut to the Tuition Grant program.

The House of Representatives still must pass its version of a DHS budget, which is unlikely to resemble the Senate version. Differences between the House and Senate in both the DHS and Higher Education budgets will be addressed in a conference committee. All of the state’s departmental budgets for the 2009–2010 fiscal year may not be completed until late July or possibly into September.