Lansing Update: MCC’s Top Policy Moments from 2023: Part One

Grassroots Catholic Advocacy Help Highlight MCC’s Top Policy Moments of 2023: Part 1

As the end of the calendar year approaches, we are reflecting upon and writing for Lansing Update readers a top 10 list of public policy moments that happened in 2023, from a Catholic perspective. Below is the first part in a two-part series, with the second part coming in next week’s email. The issues discussed below are in no particular order.

A major legislative initiative of the abortion lobby — the Reproductive Health Act — was significantly curtailed thanks in part to pro-life advocacy.

With a supportive Governor and a pro-abortion rights majority in the Legislature, the abortion industry sought passage of a signature legislative priority: the Reproductive Health Act. Framed as easing access to “abortion care,” the legislation removes common-sense safeguards around abortion that protect the health and dignity of women and their children.

From left to right: Eileen McNeil of Citizens for Traditional Values, Dr. Michelle Monticello, Dr. Catherine Stark, and Rebecca Mastee with MCC testify against the RHA before the House Health Policy Committee.

From left to right: Eileen McNeil of Citizens for Traditional Values, Dr. Michelle Monticello, Dr. Catherine Stark, and Rebecca Mastee with MCC testify against the RHA before the House Health Policy Committee.

The RHA package as introduced did not include a repeal of the state’s parental consent requirement for a minor to procure an abortion, with bill supporters acknowledging it did not have enough support to pass. MCC’s work to commission and publicize polling confirming that Michigan voters are not supportive of overturning parental consent likely contributed to abortion advocates omitting the policy change.

Several other components of the introduced RHA package — requiring Michigan taxpayers to fund abortions through the Medicaid program, eliminating a 24-hour informed consent period, and removing screening for coercion prior to an abortion — were not included in the final package that made it to the Governor’s desk, which MCC credited to courageous lawmakers, pro-life grassroots, and legislative advocacy in Michigan.

Despite those achievements, several concerning policies were signed into law by Gov. Whitmer, including a repeal of health and safety standards required of most of the state’s abortion clinics, and overturning a state ban on partial birth abortion.

Abortion rights supporters have publicly stated they will continue to pursue measures not included in the final package, so continued pro-life advocacy will be necessary in the New Year.

Historic tax break for low-income Michiganders signed into law

MCC’s numerous years of advocacy to help lower-income working families keep more of their money paid off this year when the Governor signed a historic increase of the Earned Income Tax Credit into law.

Tom Hickson, vice president for public policy and advocacy for MCC, appears at the bill signing for the increased Earned Income Tax Credit along with other coalition partners.

The legislation increases the state tax credit from 6% to 30% of the federal credit, which will result in more money returned to families who need it most. For example, a family of four with $37,500 of earned income could claim $999 in a tax refund under the expanded EITC, up from a refund of $200 at the current rate.

Between the federal and state EITC, more than 750,000 eligible Michigan workers could see as much as $3,000 on average returned at tax time to support their families and meet basic needs. Families that qualified for the tax credit in the 2022 tax year will soon begin to receive checks directly from the state.

MCC was a key advocate in this year’s effort to increase the credit to a larger level than when it was first enacted. The increase will help lift more families out of poverty when it takes effect next year.

Catholic grassroots showed up this year in droves

No matter the issue, when MCC called upon grassroots Catholics to speak up, they showed up by the thousands.

More than 12,000 actions were taken by Catholic grassroots this year to contact lawmakers in response to MCC action alerts on various legislative issues. Among the topics that required action were protecting human life, upholding religious liberty, supporting nonpublic schools, and helping low-income families — all core principles of Catholic social teaching.

Two campaigns in particular — one advocating for religious liberty protections in state civil rights legislation and another campaign against the RHA bills — spurred record amounts of messages sent by grassroots Catholics to lawmakers. The religious liberty campaign yielded more than 8,000 messages sent, and the RHA campaign resulted in more than 6,000 messages to elected officials.

Nonpublic school funding protected in state budget

With a new Democratic party majority in the Legislature, there were concerns among school choice advocates over whether previously approved budget funds to help nonpublic schools with safety measures, mental health services and more would continue under new leadership.

Nonpublic school students from across the state gathered for an advocacy day at the state Capitol as part of the annual celebration of National School Choice Week.

Thanks to advocacy from MCC and others, much of the previously-approved support for nonpublic schools continued in the budget approved this year, including $18 million for school safety-related projects as well as mental health services, $3 million for nonpublic high school students to dual enroll in college courses and earn college credits, and $1 million to reimburse nonpublic schools for the cost of complying with state health and safety mandates.

However, work remains to continue promoting fairness and equity for nonpublic school students, including expanding a free meals program to nonpublic school students who would otherwise qualify under a new state program but for their attendance at nonpublic schools.

Abuse prevention protections approved after five years of MCC advocacy

Five years after it was initially introduced, abuse prevention measures supported by MCC finally passed the Legislature and were signed into law this year.

The bills implement a series of reforms intended to be proactive in preventing sexual abuse of minors, with a particular focus on creating safe environments in medical settings. The legislation also requires the state to develop and disseminate age-appropriate information on the prevention of sexual abuse and harassment to all public schools for students in grades 6–12.

MCC’s support for these measures stem from the Church’s commitment to prevent abuse, considering some 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.

Back to top ⇧

Merry Christmas From MCC

As the great solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord approaches, MCC staff extends warm wishes for a merry Christmas to all our Catholic Advocacy Network members. May all the blessings of the Lord be yours in abundance this Christmas and throughout the New Year.

MCC will be closed from Christmas on Monday, Dec. 25 through the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, on Jan. 1, 2024, which is also New Year’s Day. The office will reopen Tuesday, Jan. 2.

Back to top ⇧