Lansing Update: Legislature Finishes Budget in Dramatic Fashion; Abortion Providers Use Proposal 3 to Get Judge to Block Laws Limiting Abortion

Legislature Finally Reveals, Then Passes, $80B Budget in Overnight Marathon Session

In what has now become commonplace in recent years, the Michigan Legislature unveiled and then subsequently passed the $80 billion-plus state budget, mostly along party-line votes, in the span of hours with barely any advance public review of the document before it was voted on this week.

This year, the Legislature did so during a nearly 24-hour session that stretched late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, as lawmakers made this week the final one for session before they break for the summer. With lawmakers now on break for most of the summer, Lansing Update will publish as needed until session resumes.

The final budget decisions reached by the legislative conference committees emerged long after the sun went down and then passed both chambers in the middle of the night just hours later.

Like most of the rest of the Capitol community, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) staff this week were still reviewing the voluminous spending bills that cover the state departments and schools, which had not been seen publicly until just before lawmakers voted to approve it.

The following is an update on where the budget items of interest to MCC and the Catholic Church in Michigan ended up in what will likely be the final version of the budget.

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Safety Funds for Nonpublic Schools Makes Final Budget—but at Dramatically Reduced Level

Funding to help nonpublic schools with school safety upgrades did make the final expected state budget for next year—but at a drastically reduced amount compared to current year spending.

Nonpublic schools across Michigan have had access to $18 million in each of the past two years to pay for security upgrades and mental health support staff, with the overall goal of supporting school safety against the backdrop of persistent school shootings.

However, nonpublic schools will now only have access to $1.5 million in school safety funds in the budget approved by lawmakers and likely headed for the Governor’s signature.

On one hand, any school safety funding is a welcome development after the Governor and Senate left it out of their proposed budgets. On the other hand, the $1.5 million represents a 91% decrease from current-year funding.

It should be noted that $25 million in school safety funds were allocated to public schools, whereas before they had been receiving $300 million, so the ratio of what nonpublic schools receive compared to public schools was preserved.

In any case, the persistent advocacy efforts by MCC and the Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools (MANS), as well as the 7,000 emails sent to lawmakers by members of the Catholic Advocacy Network like you, played a significant role in preserving some school safety funding for nonpublic schools.

The rest of the state budget items affecting nonpublic schools featured a similar mix of good news and bad news.

On the positive side, nonpublic schools will continue to be reimbursed by the state for carrying out health and safety mandates, to the tune of $1 million. The $600,000 for nonpublic school students to participate in robotics programs was also preserved. There was also a $500,000 increase to allow nonpublic school students to participate in dual enrollment, bringing that to $3.5 million.

Unfortunately, nonpublic schools will continue to be shut out from benefiting from the student teacher stipend and future educator scholarship programs, both of which are aimed at increasing the number of teachers in the state.

Lawmakers also continued to leave nonpublic school students out of an expanded school lunch program that is intended to feed every student in schools that already serve breakfast and lunch.

Finally, the final budget proposal did go along with the Governor’s request to phase out the Tuition Grant Program, which had been helping low-income students attend private colleges by offering up to $3,000 in assistance per year. However, current students receiving funds would continue to do so.

The state is seeking to move all financial aid into a program called the Michigan Achievement Scholarship. In the new state budget, the maximum amount private university students could receive in that program would increase from $4,000 to $5,500.

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Mothers in Need See Increased Support in New Budget

The final budget contained several items that will help serve mothers and children in need.

A $2 million increase was granted to a diaper assistance program that benefits maternity homes, local county offices, and other nonprofit agencies that distribute diapers free of charge, bringing that program’s funding to $6.4 million.

Lawmakers expanded what started as a pilot program providing direct cash assistance to Flint mothers and young children with $20 million in funding, up from $16.5 million last year. The Rx Kids prenatal and infant cash allowance program is aimed at providing a healthy start for babies during the first year of life.

Lawmakers also agreed to set aside $500,000 for newborn car seats for low-income families.

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Programs Helping the Poor and Vulnerable Continue

Shelters that serve families, emergency hotels for families experiencing homelessness, and other families at risk of losing their housing would receive $8.5 million in support under the new budget, which featured several funding provisions that serve the poor and vulnerable in our state.

Foster care agencies that care for foster children will see an increase in funding, as the new budget provided a $5 increase to the agency daily administrative rate, raising it from $55.20 to $60.20.

The budget kept intact $10 million to help lower-income families afford school clothes for their children, the $19 per diem rate paid to homeless shelters, and a program that helps low-income residents, including elderly and persons with disabilities, receive additional food assistance.

The Michigan Energy Assistance Program, which reduces energy bills for low-income households struggling to pay energy bills, also was maintained at $50 million.

Other programs that help the most vulnerable populations in our state that will continue in the next budget include $50,000 for foster children’s clothes, $200,000 for human trafficking victim intervention services, $50,000 for caseworkers to provide immediate assistance to kids removed from dangerous environments, and a continued provision of three additional months of food assistance for victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.

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Faith-Based Grants Among Funding Items Left Out

There were a few other spending items MCC was watching that did not make the final cut in the state budget.

The $1.5 million to establish a new state office dedicated to suicide prevention was dropped. New proposed funding to provide $5 million for faith-based service grants for housing and community service-related activities also did not make it.

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Abortion providers used the language of Proposal 3 to make a legal case that several state laws that limit abortion are no longer constitutional, and a judge this week agreed to temporarily block the state from enforcing those laws while the lawsuit proceeds.

The order, issued by state Court of Claims Judge Sima Patel, came because of a lawsuit filed on behalf of several abortion providers in the state and Medical Students for Choice.

The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the state laws that include requirements that women wait 24 hours to undergo an abortion and receive information about the risks and complications involved with abortion. They also challenged state law that allows only licensed physicians to perform abortions.

As a result of this challenge, Judge Patel issued a preliminary injunction that immediately blocks the state from enforcing those laws, which will have the effect of expanding who can perform abortions to nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants and remove informed consent requirements intended to protect the health and safety of women seeking abortions.

It should come as no surprise that the abortion providers argued the state laws are unconstitutional due to the new constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2022 that created a right to an abortion, which also included language that an “individual’s right to reproductive freedom shall not be denied, burdened, nor infringed upon unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

Furthermore, the voter-approved amendment known as Proposal 3 stated that the “state interest is ‘compelling’ only if it is for the limited purpose of protecting the health of an individual seeking care, consistent with accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine and does not infringe on that individual’s autonomous decision-making.”

Lansing Update readers may remember that MCC, along with a coalition of pro-life organizations, repeatedly warned the public that the overly broad language of Proposal 3 would open up the state’s existing limits on abortion to legal challenges. Proponents of Proposal 3 had said the amendment would only restore what was legal in Michigan when Roe v. Wade was in effect.

In fact, MCC and others warned the amendment was written to go beyond what was legally permissible for abortion in Michigan. The 24-hour law and informed consent standards, along with the ban on non-physicians performing abortions, had been legal and in effect in Michigan while Roe was in effect.

It’s also worth noting that legislative efforts to repeal these laws through the Reproductive Health Act in the fall of 2023 failed when the Democratic majority in the Legislature failed to muster enough support within its own party to repeal those provisions.

Instead, abortion providers then took their argument to court and got a favorable ruling from a state judge to stop the laws from being enforced.

MCC noted this week that the lawsuit and court ruling is further proof that the purpose for Proposal 3 was never simply to ‘codify what was legal under Roe,’ as advocates claimed, but rather to eliminate every Michigan law that provides limits on abortion.

The 24-hour waiting period and informed consent laws blocked from enforcement have enjoyed widespread support from Michigan voters across the political spectrum. Additionally, those policies are supported by 67% of people who voted for Proposal 3.

Also this week, a new lawsuit was filed in the state Court of Claims challenging the state’s existing ban on using taxpayer funding for abortions. The suit was filed by the ACLU and YWCA Kalamazoo.

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MCC Joins Letter Urging Elected Officials to Adopt Working Parents Tax Cut

Lower-income working families would benefit from a $5,000 per-child tax credit for children aged birth to three years old, and $2,500 per-child for kids ages three to six, under a proposed policy supported by MCC and 80 other coalition members.

MCC signed onto a letter sent to the Governor and state lawmakers this week from the Coalition for a Working Parents Tax Cut advocating for the policy.

In the letter, the coalition noted that the proposed Working Parents Tax Cut would benefit families raising 250,000 children. Families who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit would be eligible for this additional benefit, which could be used to help pay for the rising costs of childcare.

Because the tax credits could help families afford childcare, the coalition also argued the policy would benefit employers by helping more people stay in the workforce.

MCC supports this policy because the Working Parents Tax Cut would help lift more lower-income families out of poverty by allowing parents to afford childcare and work to support their families, as many families increasingly need to rely on two full-time workers to make ends meet.

Legislation has been introduced to implement the Working Parents Tax Cut but no hearings have been scheduled yet.

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The Word from Lansing: Why Each Person’s Infinite Dignity Should Serve as Basis for Public Policy

That every human being is endowed by God with infinite dignity forms the basis of MCC’s public policy advocacy, and that truth was also recently reiterated by the Church in a Vatican document called Dignitas Infinita.

In addition to its teaching on human dignity, the Vatican document provides reflections on public policy topics of interest to the Church that serve as “grave violations” of human dignity, and why.

In a recently published Word from Lansing, MCC shares why human dignity serves as the common link for the Church’s approach to abortion, assisted suicide, the death penalty, fighting poverty, supporting immigrants and migrants, and more issues that span across partisan and ideological divides.

To read the column, click or tap here.

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