Lansing Update: MCC Advocacy This Week Focused on Protecting, Helping Kids

In this update:

Bills to Prevent Sex Abuse Heading to Governor’s Desk

Legislation supported by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) to proactively prevent sexual abuse has cleared both chambers of the Legislature and is now headed to the Governor’s desk.

A group of children running in the forest.

House Bills 4120 through 4125 passed the full Senate this week by wide bipartisan margins, after having previously cleared the House. MCC has been supporting this legislation since it was first introduced during the 2018 legislative session and reintroduced in the subsequent three sessions since then.

The bills that cleared the Legislature would do following:

House Bill 4120, sponsored by Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo)
Require the state to create and post training materials for people who are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse and require employers to provide these materials to employees who are mandatory reporters.
House Bill 4121, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi)
Include a conviction for engaging in sexual contact or penetration under the pretext of medical treatment among the grounds for disciplinary action against a health professional.
House Bill 4122, sponsored by Rep. Kara Hope (D-Lansing)
Require the permanent revocation of the license of an individual convicted of engaging in sexual contact or penetration under the pretext of medical treatment.
House Bill 4123, sponsored by Rep. Graham Filler (R-St. Johns)
Ban a person from intentionally using his or her professional position of authority over another person to prevent or attempt to prevent the other person from reporting child abuse or other criminal sexual conduct.
House Bill 4124, sponsored by Rep. Carol Glanville (D-Grand Rapids)
Prohibit a person from intentionally using his or her professional position of authority over another person to prevent or attempt to prevent that person from reporting certain crimes, such as criminal sexual conduct.
House Bill 4125, sponsored by Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor)
Prohibit a public school from expelling a pupil or suspending a pupil for more than 10 days for an action the pupil took arising out of an incident in which the pupil reported being sexually assaulted or a school employee witnessed a sexual assault on the pupil.

Meanwhile, the Senate component of the package — Senate Bills 66 through 73 — has been approved by the Senate and is awaiting consideration on the House floor.

MCC has supported the legislation in the interest of promoting safe environments for children in all settings with the intention of shielding them from abuse.

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Ensuring Adequate Education for Foster Children Backed by MCC

MCC is supporting legislation to require the state to ensure children in foster care receive an education that puts them on track to graduate high school.

The three-bill package arises from a report of foster children taking classes they later found out would not count toward their high school graduation requirements. The House Families, Children and Seniors Committee approved the bills this week and sent them to the House floor for further consideration.

House Bill 4676, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), requires the state’s assurance of quality foster care policy to include that foster children are provided an education that prioritizes meeting the graduation requirements for a high school diploma under state law.

Another bill, House Bill 4677, also sponsored by Rep. Young, requires the state to provide the Legislature a report on foster care children and their educational experiences, which would include data such as the percentage of foster children who meet academic standards on state tests, and the percentage of foster children who are receiving special education services.

The final bill — House Bill 4678, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe) would also require state review of the education being offered in foster care facilities to ensure it is up to standard.

MCC is supporting this legislation in accordance with its advocacy principle of strengthening marriages and families, which includes improving foster care for children, who are among the most vulnerable populations of our state.

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Legislation Limiting Speech in Counseling Approved in Party-Line House Vote

Legislation that could unconstitutionally limit free speech in counselor-patient settings was approved in a party-line vote in the House this week.

MCC has previously shared its concerns with the fast-moving bills in both the House and Senate that would ban practices or treatments by a mental health professional that seek to “change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” which would include “efforts to change behavior or gender expression or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward an individual of the same gender.”

The bill bans the provision of these efforts specifically for minor patients. Mental health professionals who violate the prohibition under the bills would be subject to disciplinary action and license sanctions.

In a memo submitted to lawmakers, MCC outlined how the bills single out and silence a specific message: The possibility that one could experience change to their sexuality or live consistent with their biological sex. Such limits imposed on counseling could hamper counselors and patients from having a free and open discussion based on the patient’s needs.

MCC also pointed out that court decisions have ruled that very similar regulations elsewhere are unconstitutional limits on free speech.

The House versions of the legislation — House Bill 4616 and 4617 — are now headed to the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee for further consideration.

The Senate versions of the bills — Senate Bills 348 and 349 — have cleared the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee and await further consideration on the Senate floor.

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House Approves Bills to Help Former Prisoners Return to Society

Bills to help former prisoners in their transition back to society by arranging applications for their driver’s licenses or state ID cards have passed the House in bipartisan votes.

MCC supports House Bills 4191-4194, which collectively put into state law the requirement that the state Department of Corrections apply for a driver’s license or state personal ID card on behalf of a prisoner scheduled to be released from prison. The state already does this by matter of procedure, but these bills would make that law.

MCC supports these bills because they would ensure the provision of comprehensive re-entry services to assist the formerly incarcerated in becoming productive members of society.

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Bill Making Juneteenth State Holiday Approved by Legislature

Legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday has now passed both legislative chambers and will likely head to the Governor for her signature.

Juneteenth: Freedom Day. June 19.

MCC has supported the push to make Juneteenth — June 19 — a state holiday due to its historical significance in American and African-American history, which marks the day in 1865 when African Americans in Galveston, Texas learned they had been freed from slavery two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation.

Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), has now cleared both the House and Senate.

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What to Say When Someone Says ‘Guns Don’t Kill People’

MCC’s latest edition of Focus covers gun violence, which is a contentious one with strong opinions on all sides of the debate.

With that in mind, MCC offered a series of responses to assertions often made by critics of gun safety legislation intended to address concerns and provoke dialogue. Among the assertions addressed include:

“You cannot legislate away evil. Homicides will continue despite these laws.”

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

“These restrictions only take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. It would be safer to arm law-abiding citizens so they can protect themselves.”

To see responses to these assertions that are grounded in Catholic social doctrine and amplified by academic studies, click or tap here.

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