Lansing Update: MCC Backed Bills This Week to Help Foster Kids Graduate, Protect Low-Income Families

Bills Ensuring Foster Kids Receive Proper Education Earn Unanimous Votes in Senate

The state must ensure foster children are provided an education to meet high school graduation requirements, under legislation backed by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) that received unanimous support from the state Senate this week.

In a series of votes with no opposition, the Senate approved House Bills 4676 through 4678. The bills will head next to the Governor’s office for her signature. The package has received wide bipartisan support both in the House and the Senate.

The legislation arose from reports that foster children took classes that they found out later would not count toward their graduation requirements.

The bills require the state’s foster care policy to include the assurance that foster children are provided an education that prioritizes meeting the requirements for a high school diploma. The package requires the state to review the education being offered in foster care facilities and to report publicly on the education provided to foster children.

MCC supported this legislation because it helps foster children, which aligns with MCC’s policy priority to improve foster care.

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MCC-Approved Bills Protect Mobile Home Park Residents From Unjust Practices

MCC this week supported legislation intended to prevent mobile home park owners from engaging in unjust practices against their residents, such as unreasonable rent increases or arbitrary fees.

The legislation—Senate Bills 486 through 492—would stipulate that an unjustifiable rent increase is one that is beyond an increase in the Consumer Price Index, unless the park can provide documentation justifying the increase.

The bills would prohibit park owners from charging residents more for utility services beyond what is being charged by the service provider, and prohibit charging fees not associated with occupancy. The package also allows the state to enter agreements with local governments to conduct inspections of mobile home parks.

The package—which received a hearing before the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee this week—is aimed at improving access to housing by ensuring mobile home ownership remains affordable.

MCC supports legislation that seeks to improve access and quality of affordable housing. MCC also supports this legislation to protect mobile home residents against unjust and unfair actions that could drive them into poverty or exacerbate their economic circumstances.

Identical legislation has been introduced in the House but has not received a hearing yet.

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Legislation to Aid Access to Driver’s Licenses Backed by MCC

Two bills to help improve access to driver’s licenses—particularly for the poor—received MCC support this week during a Senate committee hearing.

Senate Bill 706, sponsored by Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe), would end the $125 reinstatement fee a driver must pay if the driver’s license was revoked for not paying driver responsibility fees.

Driver responsibility fees were repealed by the Legislature due to their punitive nature on the poor and phased out in 2019. As part of the repeal, the law also ended the obligation to pay back any outstanding fees.

This proposed legislation keeps with the original goal of ending the excessive, punitive nature associated with driver responsibility fees by ending the required reinstatement fee for a license lost to non-payment of the now-defunct driver responsibility fees.

The other license-related bill supported by MCC this week was House Bill 5103, sponsored by Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit), which ends the three-year waiting period to receive a license for someone who had committed two or more moving violations when they were without a license.

The goal of the legislation is to ease access to acquiring a driver’s license for someone—particularly the youth—rather than delaying it for three years.

Senate Bill 706 received its first hearing before the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week. House Bill 5103 also received a hearing in the committee this week after having previously passed the House.

The two bills are not directly tied to each other, but both are related to improving access to driver’s licenses, which are essential for daily life in Michigan. As such, the bills are supported by MCC to promote dignity for all people by improving access to driver’s licenses so people can get themselves and their families to work, church, school, the grocery store, and other essential activities needed for daily living.

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Senate Committee Offers Bipartisan Approval of Reading Improvement Bills

Legislation to improve student reading and learning by requiring dyslexia screening for students cleared a Senate committee this week with bipartisan support.

The bills—Senate Bill 567 and 568—were reported to the Senate floor by the Senate Education Committee this week. MCC supports the legislation and its intention to improve learning outcomes by addressing student reading issues, one of which can be caused by dyslexia.

The legislation requires public schools to screen students in grades K-3, as well as older students who demonstrate difficulty reading. The bipartisan-backed bills also require that staff who provide reading intervention or reading instruction receive professional learning about dyslexia and instructional accommodations.

MCC will look to advocate to ensure nonpublic school teachers have access to this training and resources, as well.

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Focus Friday: Amidst Tragedy, Michigan’s New Gun Laws Take Effect

The devastating impacts of gun violence has been in the news in Michigan again.

Earlier this month, three new gun policies supported by MCC and passed by the Legislature last year took effect. The policies took effect on the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Michigan State University that took the lives of three students and injured five others.

The intention of the new laws is to prevent more gun tragedies and save more lives. One of the new laws that gained MCC support was requiring gun owners to safely secure their firearms at home, or risk facing stiff penalties if a child or someone else accesses the gun and causes harm.

Sadly, just one day after the new laws took effect, a three-year-old toddler in Flint accidentally shot herself with an unsecured firearm and was critically injured. The father of the toddler is now the first person to be charged under the new safe storage law.

It is MCC’s hope that promoting more awareness of the safe storage law—and the other gun safety laws—will help in preventing the loss of more lives in Michigan, with the goal of keeping guns out of the hands of children, or people who may hurt themselves or others.

To learn more about the new gun laws, we encourage you to revisit the 2022 edition of Focus that explores the Catholic response to the issue of gun violence.

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