LANSING ─ The 102nd The Michigan Legislature has met and will hear Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address tonight.
The legislature is the first to be elected after new legislature maps introduced after the 2020 census and the 2018 constitutional amendment that created an independent map-drawing commission, meaning many Michiganns in new counties of the House or Senate, or due to term limits, with a fresh-faced legislator to represent them in Lansing.
With changing districts and the revolving door of politics, the Michigan Catholic Conference has for years offered the Catholic Advocacy Network as a way for believers to learn about important issues through the prism of Catholic doctrine and to connect with their own legislature on various issues.
“When important issues arise that need a Catholic voice, [the Catholic Advocacy] Network members are invited to contact their legislators directly by sending them a canned message,” said David Maluchnik, Michigan Catholic Conference vice president of communications Detroit Catholic. “In less than a minute, Catholics can join thousands of others to raise their voices on important legal issues. Catholics are called to be faithful citizens, and the Catholic Advocacy Network makes this important concept incredibly easy to live.”
The network was set up in the early 2000s as a way for community members to learn how to contact their representatives. Users enter their email address and zip code for more information and to receive weekly updates on what’s happening at the Capitol.
“Legislators need to hear directly from their Catholic constituents to represent them well, and the network helps facilitate such a connection,” Maluchnik said. “With dozens of newly elected officials in the new legislative session that began in January, grassroots advocacy is just as important today as it was about 20 years ago when the network began.”
The Michigan Catholic Conference has previously advocated SB 0003 (2023-24), which affects the Michigan Earned Income Tax, before a Senate committee, with Tom Hickson, Michigan Catholic Conference vice president of public policy, testifying for the committee in support the invoice.
The bill would increase the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 6 percent of the federal EITC to 30 percent of the federal EITC. The state and federal EITC are tax credits for low- to middle-income workers to receive a tax break on their income.
At the federal level, 31 million workers and families received approximately $64 billion in EITC, with the statewide average being $2,043 per applicant. In Michigan, 923,000 EITC applications totaled $1.9 billion, resulting in an average of $2,017 in tax credits for applicants.
The Michigan EITC was formed in 2006 with support from the Michigan Catholic Conference to allow low-income workers to keep more of their wages, Maluchnik said.
“The tax credit recognizes the importance of work and the human dignity it provides,” Maluchnik said. “The typical EITC beneficiary claims the credit for no more than two years, demonstrating that the tax credit is a powerful anti-poverty policy tool. EITC recipients say they typically use funds from the loan for things like groceries, childcare expenses, car or appliance repairs, medical bills, or other necessary experiences.”
Maluchnik added that so far more than 400 messages in support of SB 3 have been sent to lawmakers through the Catholic Advocacy Network.
Other consistent priorities of the Michigan Catholic Conference are protecting and preserving life, serving the needs of the poor, defending religious liberty, promoting quality education in all schools, caring for creation, and preserving natural resources.
“All of these principles relate to the dignity of human life, both in ensuring the right to life and in ensuring a dignified life by ensuring that basic human needs are available to all, especially the vulnerable and poor,” Maluchnik said .
The legislature meets at a time when the Democratic Party controlled both houses and the governorship for the first time in 1983-84, challenging some of the Michigan Catholic Conference’s priorities, including protecting the unborn and advocating for election School.
But Maluchnik added that the Michigan Catholic Conference is committed to building working relationships with members of all political parties and advocating policies that bridge the divide between parties, particularly when it comes to advocating for the working poor and to promote the dignity of work.
“The new Democratic majority proposes an increase in the earned income tax credit as one of its top priorities, although it should be noted that both parties support this important policy,” Maluchnik said. “The Michigan Catholic Conference has also previously supported initiatives such as safe-handling legislation, providing access to driver’s licenses and state identification cards for immigrants and refugees, expanding access to Medicaid to more of Michigan’s poor, promoting juvenile justice reform, and Sustainability promote energy practices to protect the environment, just to name a few.”
Beyond party politics and debates, Maluchnik said, there are issues that should foster cooperation and mutual respect as the new legislature begins.
“One is human life. Without the right to life, no other rights count. We must start with the preservation and protection of human life as the central political foundation,” Maluchnik said. “This involves a broad discussion – advocating for the needs of the poor, defending freedom of religion, caring for creation – but at the very least it should be about ensuring that every human being has the chance of a decent life and his or her human rights Basic needs are met.”