Monday, February 6, 2012

Week of Feb. 6: Legislative Update

Wow is all I have to say at the midpoint of the 2012 legislative session.  Last week marked the deadline for bills to crossover to the other chamber and business was concluded on Wednesday for a much-needed break for the Super Bowl.  The Right to Work bill took center stage and a great deal of time was devoted to debating, or avoiding debate, on the issue.  For better or for worse, the bill passed and hopefully this means that we can re-focus on the more important issues that got lost in the shuffle.  One key victory that did happen was the human trafficking bill that passed with lightning speed and went into effect before the Super Bowl.  Hopefully the attention brought to the issue as well as the stiffer penalties curbed a lot of the trafficking that happens in Super Bowl host cities. 

MCCOY has been monitoring a wide variety of bills and, for the most part, is supportive of the majority of them.  A couple of the bills that MCCOY is actively supporting are one that requires the establishment of a child care ministries advisory committee; a bill creating a “Family Friendly” designation for schools; a bill to educate schools about child sexual abuse and create guidelines and materials for prevention in schools; and the creation of an advisory committee on early education within the state Education Roundtable.

There are a couple of bills that MCCOY has some concerns about and will continue to monitor as they move forward.  One bill deals with giving schools more freedom to suspend and/or expel students for behaviors that occur off-campus and off school hours.  In current law, schools can make that determination based on “unlawful” activities by a student.  This bill strikes the word “unlawful” and opens the law up for a school’s discretion.  The intended purpose of the bill, according to its author, is to allow schools to address cyberbullying and cheating.  However, this is not specified in the bill.  Given our state’s already high suspension and expulsion rates, we should exercise caution in this area.

Another bill of concern deals with drug testing of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) recipients.  The law would revoke TANF benefits from an individual who tests positive for drugs and would withhold that benefit until the recipient is able to test negative.  There are various other penalties and details in the bill, but the unintended consequence of this bill is that children would be harmed as they would lose their benefits.  Michigan attempted to implement a similar law, but is was struck down in federal court as violating the Fourth Amendment.  MCCOY is working with partner coalitions and organizations to speak out on this highly controversial bill.

For more information on the bills moving forward that pertain to MCCOY’s public policy priorities, please visit our blog, which is updated every Friday or sign up to receive legislative update e-mails here.

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