It has been my experience that whenever the legislature is about to go on an extended break, we have to be ready for the unexpected—and, often, the unexpectedly bad when it comes to ACLU of Michigan priorities.
The Senate held to this pattern this past Wednesday when, with no advance notice, senators rushed through a vote on damaging and controversial RFRA-style adoption bills. Once the bills passed the Senate, they were concurred upon in the House and signed by the Governor in under 24 hours—very unusual for Lansing except when they are up to no good.
And believe me, this package of bills is no good. The bills sanction state-funded discrimination by child-placing agencies that contract with the state to provide foster and adoptive homes for the 13,000 kids in the foster care system.
Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services contracts with both religious and secular agencies to place about half of their foster care placements and ALL of their adoptions.
For the past three legislative sessions, two of the largest religiously affiliated agencies in Michigan, Bethany Christian and Catholic Social Services, have been advocating for a state law that would allow them to refuse to provide services based on the agencies’ religious tenants.
Make no mistake: Their stated intention is to discriminate against placing children with same-sex couples even when using state funds.
Michigan pays about $10 million per year to religiously affiliated child placing agencies—and that means your money is being used to advance hate and intolerance, not to mention a child welfare system that puts children at the mercy of closed-minded ideologues.
The reaction has been unrelenting disdain, including this spot-on Free Press editorial.
Please let your legislator and the Governor know that discrimination is wrong, and state sanctioned discrimination is intolerable.
Road to Ruin
Apparently, the Michigan legislature will take a summer break after all.
After the defeat of the road funding proposal, word circulated that the lawmakers would need to work through the summer to negotiate a sound and comprehensive road funding bill. So it was a little bit of a surprise when the House rather swiftly unveiled a proposal, with no apparent consultation or discussions to engage the Senate. The 12-bill package, which narrowly passed the House chamber basically along party lines, dedicates $1.1 billion a year for road-funding by 2019.
In addition to diverting funds by virtually eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit (which benefits close to 800,000 low-income Michigan citizens) and taking money away from the efficacious Pure Michigan campaign and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the plan relies on phantom “future revenue.”
So far, it has been hailed as less than comprehensive or even realistic. With this, the House announced they will take their typical summer break during July and August, while the Senate, as they prepare to advance their own road funding proposal, has yet to announce their summer schedule.
Shelli Weisberg is the Legislative Director for the ACLU of Michigan