Lansing Update: October 30, 2009

In this week’s Lansing Update:

  1. USCCB Launches Massive Grassroots Health Care Reform Effort
  2. Michigan Budget Finalized as Governor Signs Remaining Departmental Budgets
  3. Senate Committee Takes Testimony on Embryo Research Transparency Legislation

USCCB Launches Massive Grassroots Health Care Reform Effort

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops this week announced a major grassroots effort urging Catholics across the country to become informed about the health care reform debate and to contact their member of Congress in support of reform that protects the dignity of human life.

Michigan Catholic Conference has placed on its Web site the USCCB material, which includes bulletin inserts, prayers of the faithful, a color PDF ad/flyer and a template for emails to be sent to Congress, all of which has been sent to parishes across the country by the USCCB.

While the Church has historically supported health care coverage for all, recently introduced legislation does not include measures that would prevent taxpayer funded abortions. Through the efforts of Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee), efforts are underway in the House of Representatives to allow for a vote that would amend legislation to include a prohibition on taxpayer funded abortion.

It is anticipated that a Congressional vote on the Stupak amendment could come as early as next week.

ACTION ALERT! [Link no longer available —Ed.] Please contact your congressperson today and urge him or her to support the Stupak amendment.

Michigan Budget Finalized as Governor Signs Remaining Departmental Budgets

On Friday, October 30, Governor Granholm signed the remaining departmental budgets that finalize spending for the 2009–10 fiscal year that began on October 1. Michigan had been operating on a one month continuation budget since the beginning of October as legislators and the administration attempted to work out differences between revenues and shortfalls.

The budgets signed by the governor protect programs advocated for by the Michigan Catholic Conference, including the Michigan Tuition Grant program, and the children’s clothing allowance and Family Independence Grant in the Department of Human Services.

The Michigan Legislature must now turn its focus to next year’s budget which, according to estimates, already has a $1.2 billion deficit.

Senate Committee Takes Testimony on Embryo Research Transparency Legislation

Legislation that would put in place common sense regulations following the passage of Proposal 2 last year was debated by the Senate Health Policy Committee this week. The committee took testimony from several opponents of the legislation who last year supported the ballot campaign, and from supporters of the legislation who opposed the campaign, including the Conference.

Senate Bills 647-652, sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, would create the Embryo Research and Fertility Clinic Transparency Act. The legislation’s main sponsor and chairman of the committee, Senator Tom George (R-Kalamazoo), was a campaign chair last year for MiCAUSE, the official ballot question committee opposed to Proposal 2. The legislation draws clear parameters around human embryo research in Michigan, would prohibit the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos, prohibit embryos that were cloned in other states from being brought to Michigan, and would create informed consent and reporting requirements for in-vitro fertilization clinics.

MCC staff testified in support of the package and stated, in part, “Michigan voters have spoken in support of human embryo research; nothing in this package of bills violates the will of the people. There must be a statutory framework in place, however, that governs not only how the constitutional amendment will be implemented but also how it will be enforced. These bills provide a practical outline for establishing in statute what the voters have enshrined in the state constitution.”

It is unclear when the committee will revisit the bills for a vote.