Michigan bill boosts spending to combat lead, abusive clergy

LANSING (AP) — A $28.8 million mid-year spending bill that received final legislative approval Tuesday would allocate funding to help deal with tougher rules for lead in drinking water, investigate sexual abuse by clergy and replenish a compensation fund for wrongfully convicted inmates.

Also included in the measure is money to implement marijuana legalization and expanded voting ballot initiatives approved by voters last fall, prepare for the 2020 Census and expand a program that enables people getting food assistance benefits to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is expected to sign the legislation that sailed through the Republican-led Senate unanimously Tuesday, days after the GOP-controlled House overwhelmingly approved it following changes.

The measure would allot:

— $10 million to a fund that assists exonerees. Whitmer last month line-item vetoed a separate bill that included the funding because of her policy of rejecting spending policy bills to uphold voters’ referendum rights.

— $635,000 for Attorney General Dana Nessel’s ongoing criminal probe of clergy abuse, which has resulted in charges against five former Catholic priests.

— $8 million to implement the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and the expansion of absentee voting and automatic voter registration.

— $2 million as part of Whitmer’s plan to help expand the Double Up Food Bucks program to all 83 counties and add retailers in the 65 counties where it is now offered. A match of up to $20 a day is given to food assistance recipients purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at participating grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

— $3 million for public health services needed as a result of Michigan passing the country’s toughest lead rules in the wake of Flint’s water crisis. The rules are expected to result in more community drinking water systems testing above the safety level for lead. The funds would be used for public education, in-home water investigations and to buy water filters for low-income families. Large water suppliers in the Detroit area are challenging the rules in court, calling them a $2.5 billion unfunded mandate.

— $5 million to support outreach and preparation for citizen participation in the 2020 Census, a bid to ensure the state gets its fair share of federal funding that is based on population.

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