Lansing Update: MCC Speaks Out for the Vulnerable Impacted by Payday Lending, Compensated Surrogacy

Senate Panel Approves Surrogacy Bills Despite MCC Concerns for Vulnerable Mothers

A Senate committee approved along party lines legislation to allow compensated surrogacy contracts for the creation of children, which Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) warned would put the vulnerable women who become surrogates at greater risk of exploitation.

The Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee this week sent House Bills 5207 through 5215 to the Senate floor. MCC has testified against the package in a previous Senate hearing and when it was under consideration in the House.

In a statement released in response to the vote, MCC noted that by lifting Michigan’s prohibition on compensated surrogacy contracts, the Legislature would make the state an outlier among the broader global community that has come to recognize surrogacy as a human rights violation and connected to human trafficking.

MCC has opposed the legislation—which carries several social, moral, legal, and ethical problems—while still acknowledging the pain endured by those who suffer from infertility and affirming that children created through the surrogacy process have the same God-given dignity as any other human person.

“Surrogacy, however, upends the dignity owed to children by dismissing the significant prenatal connection and intentionally displacing them from their birth mother, often just moments after their birth,” said Rebecca Mastee, policy advocate for MCC, in the statement issued following the Senate committee vote.

While the bills were passed without any amendments, Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), chair of the committee, proposed follow-up legislation to address issues with the legislation identified by the state Department of Health and Human Services. MCC continues to encourage lawmakers to consider additional provisions and clarification to avoid problems experienced in other states and to try to better protect both children and surrogate mothers.

The compensated surrogacy package will head next to the full Senate for consideration. The Governor issued a statement indicating that she is supportive of the bills and will likely sign them when they reach her desk.

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Legislation Limiting Predatory Lending Receives Bipartisan Senate Support

A bill championed by MCC that would protect the poor from predatory lending by reining in exorbitant interest rates on payday loans passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote this week.

MCC issued a statement commending senators from both parties for approving Senate Bill 632, which caps interest on the short-term loans at 36%, a substantial improvement over the sometimes 400% charged on the loans now.

The high cost of the loans and the quick turnaround to repay them often trap the already cash-strapped individuals in an ongoing cycle of debt when they may have just needed quick access to cash for a one-time need.

“People in difficult financial circumstances looking for short-term help should be protected from predatory lending practices designed to keep them in debt,” said Tom Hickson, vice president for public policy and advocacy for MCC, in the statement. “If the federal government and numerous other states have seen fit to protect borrowers with a rate cap, Michigan should do the same for our residents.”

Also this week, the Senate gave full unanimous approval to House Bill 4343, which improves transparency around payday lending by requiring the state to publish reports on industry practices.

Both bills now head to the House for further consideration.

We again want to thank members of the Catholic Advocacy Network (CAN) like you who got involved and sent messages to your senator urging their support for this legislation to protect the poor and vulnerable from financial harm. Nearly 500 messages have been sent to lawmakers.

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Required Dyslexia Screening for Students Receives Widespread Lawmaker Support

Lawmakers this week overwhelmingly approved MCC-supported legislation to require screening for dyslexia in public schools.

The Senate approved Senate Bills 567 and 568 by 37-1 and 38-0 votes, respectively, which would require public schools to screen students in grades K–3, as well as older students who demonstrate difficulty reading.

Reading is crucial to learning progress, and dyslexia can be a sometimes-unnoticed impediment to students’ ability to read, and consequently, their ability to learn.

The legislation also requires that public schools ensure staff who provide reading intervention or reading instruction receive professional learning about dyslexia and instructional accommodations.

The bills head next to the House for further consideration.

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Senate Honors St. Patrick, Other Irish Saints; St. Joseph’s Feast Is Next Tuesday

Ahead of the Feast of St. Patrick on March 17, the state Senate this week adopted a resolution recognizing the patron saint of Ireland, as well as Saints Brigid and Colmcille.

St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland (left) and St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Our Lord (right).

Senate Resolution 103, sponsored by Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) and other lawmakers, observed that on March 17, “Irish Americans join with men, women, and children of all different ethnicities who, for one day, become Irish and celebrate the Feast of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland” and added that “all who wear green live in the spirit of Saints Patrick, Brigid, and Colmcille.”

Also of note is the upcoming Solemnity honoring St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Our Lord. St. Joseph Day is next Tuesday, two days after St. Patrick’s Day.

Last week, MCC shared the opportunity to pray a novena to St. Joseph to support those involved in adoption and foster care. To continue in asking for prayer from the foster father of Jesus, here is the Memorare to St. Joseph asking for his intercession:

Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never has it been known that anyone who asked for your help and sought your intercession was left unaided. Full of confidence in your power, I hasten to you, and beg your protection. Listen, O foster-father of the Redeemer, to my humble prayer, and in your goodness hear and answer me. Amen.

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