LANSING, MICH. - Former U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ resignation and the ongoing scandal involving Dr. Larry Nassar and his sexual abuse of young girls and women at Michigan State University have spurred three new proposals in the state Legislature.
State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Wiliams Township, introduced a bill last week that would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment lawsuits against elected state officials. Another bill would ban tax dollars from being used to settle lawsuits involving gross negligence, intentional misconduct or criminal behavior by elected officials.
Those two bills come on the heels of state Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, announcing last month that he plans to introduce a bill this year that would prohibit universities and community colleges from using state funds to settle sexual misconduct lawsuits. That proposal is in response to the case involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics sports doctor who has been accused of sexually abusing more than 100 girls and women.
“When I heard that John Conyers’ accuser was being paid with tax dollars, my thought was I can’t believe we have to pass a law that you shouldn’t use tax dollars to pay off somebody’s misconduct in office,” Glenn said.
The state House of Representatives did just that in 2015 when it settled a lawsuit filed by a staffer of former state Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit, who accused the politician of firing him when he refused sexual advances. Banks denied the allegations in the lawsuit and said he fired Tramaine Cotton in 2013 after learning the legislative assistant was driving on a suspended license.
Because Banks was an employee of the state of Michigan, the state tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but the state Court of Appeals ruled in March 2015 that it could go forward. The state settled the lawsuit for $11,950 and paid $85,622 to the Lansing-based Dickinson Wright law firm to represent it in the lawsuit.
Banks resigned his seat in the House in 2017 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing false financial statements in a 2010 application for a loan. He has filed to run for a seat in the state Senate this year.
The 88-year-old Conyers, who had served in Congress since 1965, resigned from his seat last year after it was revealed that three women claimed he had sexually harassed them and he settled one case with a $27,000 payment from his office funds.
Neither of the bills would cover sexual harassment complaints against federal elected officials from Michigan.
“Pressure them to resign at the next election, recall them or require them to pay any damages out of their own pocket,” Glenn said of lawsuits against state elected officials. “But I don’t think in any case that taxpayers should pay for an elected official's bad behavior.”
Other bills introduced last week:
HB 5378: Provide for a free all-species fishing license for individuals with developmental disabilities. Sponsor: Rep. Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon.
HB 5379: Allow for the possession and application of sunscreen in schools. Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores.
HB 5380: Create tax incentives for taxpayers who provide child care for their employees. Sponsor: Rep. Patrick Green, D-Warren.
HB 5381: Allow construction vehicles to use flashing or rotating green lights. Sponsor: Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing.
HB 5382-5383: Expand the requirement that vehicles move over or slow down for emergency vehicles to include construction workers. Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing.
HB 5384: Require cyber schools to post financial information online and set the per-pupil foundation amount at 80% of the foundation allowance given to traditional schools. Sponsor: Rep. Ed Canfield, R-Sebawaing.
HB 5385: Change the way speed limits are set in subdivisions if the area is a through highway or the highway segment is in a subdivision that has not been zoned residential. Sponsor: Rep. Holly Hughes, R-White River Township.
HB 5386: Tighten up eligibility requirements for food assistance and Medicaid benefits and allow for the discontinuation of benefits if an individual doesn’t respond to inquiries from the Department of Health and Human Services within 10 days. Sponsor: Rep. Kim LaSata, R-St. Joseph.
HB 5387: Allow agriculture businesses to purchase electricity from an alternative electric supplier. Sponsor: Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Township.
HB 5388: Require landlords to inspect and correct for lead-based paint in rental housing. Sponsor: Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit.
HB 5389: Revise the legislative report requirements for payday lending businesses. Sponsor: Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit.
HB 5390: Expand the permissible uses for school sinking funds to include improvement or installation of water filtration systems. Sponsor: Rep. Curtis VanderWall, R-Ludington.
HB 5391: Define and regulate electric skateboards. Sponsor: Rep. Curtis VanderWall, R-Ludington.
HB 5392 and 5407: Require a defendant to be present when victims make a statement on the impact of the crime. Sponsors: Reps. Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon, Holly Hughes, R-White River Township.
HB 5394: Designate a portion of Business Route 127 as the SPC Robert Friese Memorial Highway. Friese, a veteran of the Army, was killed in action in 2011 while serving in Iraq. Sponsor: Jason Wentworth, R-Clare.
HB 5395: Prohibit law enforcement agencies from providing their digital photographs for inclusion in a federal database that uses facial recognition technology. Sponsor: Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township.
HB 5396: Modify eviction proceedings so that people can recover their possessions if they haven’t been convicted of a crime at the residence. Sponsor: Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township.
HB 5397 and 5405: Prohibit the use of public funds to settle legal claims or pay judgments involving gross negligence, intentional misconduct, criminal conduct or sexual harassment by public officials. Sponsors: Reps. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, Gary Glenn, R-Williams Township.
HB 5398: Allow for the use of a certificate of trust in probate cases that affect real property. Sponsor: Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township.
HB 5399: Modify renewal dates for vehicle registrations to coincide with the expiration of auto insurance policy. Sponsor: Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township.
HB 5400-5401: Require testing of water at state veterans’ facilities. Sponsor: Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland.
HB 5402-5403: Require consent from individuals before video-recorded statements that are used for training purposes can be used in counties other than where the statement was taken. Sponsors: Reps. Diana Farrington, R-Utica, Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit
HB 5404: Increase the personal exemptions on state income taxes from $4,300 to $4,500. Sponsor: Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township.
HB 5406: Establish a water asset management council. Sponsor: Rep. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville.
HB 5408: Modify reporting requirements for local road agencies to the transportation asset management council. Sponsor: Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona.
HB 5409: Limit the ability of people to picket outside businesses so that they don’t obstruct the entrance to the buildings and authorize courts to impose civil fines of $1,000 a day for individuals or $10,000 a day for unions who mass picket. Sponsor: Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Township.
HB 5410: Change the way vacancies are filled in the state House and Senate so that the governor appoints a replacement, chosen from among three recommendations from the county political party of the person who has left the office. Sponsor: Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Township.
SB 742-743: Decriminalize the crime of tampering with utility shut-offs. Sponsor: Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint.
SB 744: Exempt adult-care facilities from special or conditional zoning use permits. Sponsor: Sen. James Marleau, R-Lake Orion.
SB 745: Allow for exemption of licensing requirements for adult foster-care homes. Sponsor: Sen. James Marleau, R-Lake Orion.
SB 746 and 5393: Allow for access to interscholastic athletic activity for transfer students. Sponsor: Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair and Rep. Jim Tedder, R-Clarkston.
SB 747: Revise how retirement benefits are calculated for military adjutants general. Sponsor: Sen.
SB 748: Increase the personal exemption on state income taxes from $4,300 to $4,800. Sponsor: Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township.
For more information or to track the progress of bills, go to www.legislature.mi.gov
Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, email@example.com or on Twitter @michpoligal
© 2018 Detroit Free Press