Lansing Update: November 2, 2007

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Finishing Touches Placed on 2007 Budget
  2. House Committee to Address Embryonic Stem Cell Research Next Week

Finishing Touches Placed on 2007 Budget

This week the Legislature placed the finishing touches on the remaining elements of the 2007 state budget. Despite the governor’s last hour line-item vetoing of certain programs with the Department of Human Services, those programs advocated for by the Conference remained in tact and well-funded.

Throughout the budget debate Michigan Catholic Conference staff sought the protection of three specific areas: preservation of the Michigan Tuition Grant program, and appropriate funding levels for those programs within the Department of Community Health and the Department of Human Services that assist the poor and vulnerable population.

Toward the end of budget negotiations Governor Granholm publicly announced that Tuition Grant dollars were not protected from her line-item veto pen. However, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, State Representative George Cushingberry (D-Detroit), immediately threatened that the full House would override her veto. In the end, all but $2.2 million of the $56 million appropriated for the program remained. The Tuition Grant program assists low-income students attend private institutions of higher education, including Catholic colleges.

Medicaid programs were fully funded for the fiscal year as 19 and 20-year-old recipients were protected from elimination, as were caretaker relatives. The Department of Human Services made important governmental reforms as some foster care and juvenile justice programs will now be handled by non-profit, private agencies, and more child protective service employees have been made available to assist with high case loads.

Unfortunately, a 50 percent increase for indigent burial costs and a line that would have provided for varying levels of adoption rates were vetoed from the DHS budget.

House Committee to Address Embryonic Stem Cell Research Next Week

Michigan’s 30-year policy of protecting the human embryo from destruction will be placed at risk next week when the House Judiciary Committee [Link no longer available —Ed.] meets to discuss embryonic stem cell research.

House Bill 4616 seeks to amend Public Act 368 of 1978 and would also allow for embryos that were cloned in other states to be trafficked into Michigan to be destroyed for research.

Michigan Catholic Conference staff is prepared to testify against the legislation and will urge the committee to reroute its focus towards promoting and funding adult stem cell research in the state. Also expected to testify are individuals suffering from certain chronic ailments that do not support embryonic stem cell research, and bioethicists that will address the promise of adult stem cell research.

The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, November 7th at 8:30 a.m. in room 519 of the House Office Building in Lansing.