FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(LANSING)—Some 300 adult and student Catholics from across the state congregated in Lansing today as the Michigan Catholic Conference and the Catholic Dioceses of Michigan conducted Catholic Legislative Day and Student Catholic Legislative Day 2005. While participation focused on Catholic obligation to social and human life policy issues, specific attention was brought to the administration’s proposal to eliminate the Michigan Tuition Grant Program for the 2005–06 fiscal year.
“Participation in Catholic Legislative Day has increased every year since its inception and today was no different as hundreds of Catholics from across the state were presented with an edifying and engaging day of advocacy,” said MCC Vice-President for Public Policy Paul A. Long. “Those in attendance were briefed not only on Catholic obligation to become involved in the democratic process, but also on the social and moral issues that affect the daily lives of Michigan citizens.”
Among the highlights of Catholic Legislative Day included an in-depth focus on Catholic social action and involvement from Mr. John Carr, director of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Office of Social Development and World Peace. Mr. Carr discussed the U.S. bishops’ call to “faithful citizenship” and addressed the importance for Catholics to become engaged in the social and human life issues that affect society as a whole.
Also highlighting the day was State Representative Brian Palmer, chairman of the House Education Committee, who focused on the significance of grassroots advocacy and its influence on public policy. Following Representative Palmer’s discussion Michigan Catholic Conference staff raised attention to key current issues, including the administration’s proposal to eliminate the Michigan Tuition Grant Program.
For the past three fiscal years the governor has proposed cutting the $61.8 million tuition grant program from Section 119 of the Higher Education budget, which enables low and middle-income students to attend Michigan’s independent colleges and universities. While the Legislature has restored funding with overwhelming bipartisan support in the past, the repeated proposed elimination of the program presents a possible calamity for those students who depend on the grants for their college studies.
“It’s baffling why the program’s elimination has been repeatedly proposed at a time when the state is trying to increase its college graduation rate,” said Long. “The tuition grant funding has been supported by this state for nearly 40 years and has endured the test of public policy scrutiny through that time with bipartisan support. Surely the Legislature can continue that tradition this year and assist Michigan’s low and middle income families by reinstating the Michigan Tuition Grant Program.”
Also taking place today was Student Catholic Legislative Day, where some 170 high-school students from across the state engaged in small-group activity that focused on the seven principles of Catholic social teaching and their relevance to modern-day public policy issues. The students dissected such issues as human life, health care, immigration, choice in public education, crafting the state budget as a moral statement, caring for the environment and protecting the state’s poor and vulnerable residents.
Catholic Legislative Day has been conducted for the past seven years and took place this morning at the Cathedral of St. Mary in downtown Lansing. Following the day of advocacy and social policy awareness the students and adults proceeded to the House of Representatives gallery to witness the democratic process in action.
Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.
-- 30 --