MSU abuse scandal feeds lawmaker proposals to require reporting, change board elections

Michigan lawmakers propose bills responding to Nassar situation

LANSING - The sexual abuse and assault scandal at Michigan State University leaked into the Legislature last week with numerous bills aimed at preventing future incidents and changing the way university boards are selected.

The bills would require coaches, physical therapists, athletic trainers and volunteers in K-12 schools and colleges to report any incidents of child abuse or neglect to law-enforcement authorities and prohibit a person in an authority position from persuading someone to not report such incidents.

“It is completely unacceptable that our coaches and trainers are not required to report allegations of abuse,” said state Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo. “Our children look up to these individuals to guide and protect them, not to turn a blind eye when something is terribly wrong.”

The bills were introduced the week after former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced in Ingham and Eaton counties for sexually abusing young girls and women while he was treating them for sports injuries. Nearly 200 of the survivors, including many members of the U.S. Olympics gymnastics' teams, gave compelling and emotional victim impact statements over the three weeks leading up to his sentencing.

In addition, many of the women said they had reported the abuse to authorities at MSU and nothing was done. As a result, many people have called for the MSU Board of Trustees to resign.

Several bills were introduced to abolish the election of the university governing boards at MSU, University of Michigan and Wayne State University. The bills don't  indicate how the board members would be replaced, but the boards at other publicly funded universities in the state are appointed by the governor.

Another bill would still allow for the election of university governing boards by voters in statewide elections, but would impose two four-year term limits on the board members, rather than the unlimited number of terms trustees can seek now.

Another package of bills introduced last week would abolish Michigan's no-fault auto insurance system, make coverage of lifetime benefits for people who are catastrophically injured in vehicle accidents optional and give drivers the ability to sue people involved in a crash.

The thorny auto insurance issue —fueled by Michigan's highest-in-the-nation rates — has been stalled in the Legislature for years as lawmakers have not been able to reach a compromise on how to reform the system. A less drastic proposal to overhaul Michigan's no-fault system, which was pushed by the GOP leadership in the House and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, failed in November when 22 Republicans joined most of the Democrats in the House to reject the legislation. 

The bills introduced last week: 

HB 5515-5516 and HJR DD: Abolish the election of university governing boards at Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University and amend campaign finance law to remove references to state Board of Education and university governing boards. Before any change can be made to how trustees are selected for the three university boards, a constitutional amendment  would also have to be adopted to end the election of the trustees and have those board members appointed by the governor. Sponsors: Reps. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills.

HB 5517-5523: Eliminate the no-fault auto insurance law. Sponsors: Reps. Jason Sheppard, R-Lambertville, Lana Theis, R-Brighton, Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, Joseph Bellino, R-Monroe, Bronna Kahle, R-Adrian.

HB 5524: Require teachers to get mental health training as a part of continuing education. Sponsor: Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit.

HB 5524: Repeal the provision in economic development law that allows for the taking or transfer of private property. Sponsor: Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy.

HB 5526: Establish a letter grading system for ranking public schools. Sponsor: Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township.

HB 5527: Promote the Troops to Teachers training program for military spouses. Sponsor: Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland.

HB 5528: Allow the issuance of vehicle registration plates that are exempt from fees for Medal of Honor recipients, ex-POWs and disabled veterans. Sponsor: Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland.

HB 5529: Increase the earned income-tax credit. Sponsor: Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township.

HB 5530-5532: Prohibit an individual convicted of criminal sexual conduct from returning to the same school building as the victim. Sponsors: Reps. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit

HB 5533: Change the term of office for the boards of Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan to two four-year terms, beginning in 2020. Sponsor, Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain.

HB 5534: Require that special elections be held for vacant state and federal offices at the next regular election date. Sponsor: Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield.

HB 5535: Allow for the purchase and possession of stun guns for individuals ages 21 and older. Sponsor: Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton.

HB 5536: Create a county veteran service fund. Sponsor: Rep. Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell.

HB 5537: Prohibit a person in authority to persuade someone not to report a crime. Sponsor: Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township.

HB 5538 and 5541: Expand mandatory reporting requirements of child abuse or neglect to include K-12 or post-secondary coaches, athletic trainers, volunteers and physical therapists. Sponsors: Reps. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo, Roger Hauck- Mt. Pleasant.

HB 5539: Expand the student safety act to include the potential harm from sexual abuse, assault and rape. Sponsor: Rep. Kimberly LaSata, R-St. Joseph.

HB 5540: Allow law-enforcement agencies that fund training for police recruits to require reimbursements for the training. Sponsor: Rep. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit.

HB 5542: Eliminate the requirement that police officers take security fee from nonresident motorists for civil infractions. Sponsor: Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake.

HB 5544: Eliminate the reference to colored persons in insurance law. Sponsor: Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy.

Senate bills

SB 805-807: Require the Secretary of State and student driver instructors to provide information to drivers about how to appropriately interact with law enforcement during traffic stops and require the Michigan commission on law-enforcement standards to develop training for law-enforcement officers. Sponsors: Sens. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield.

SB 808: Modify the property tax exemption for elderly or disabled families. Sponsor: Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint.

For more information and to track the progress of bills, go to: www.legislature.mi.gov

© 2018 Detroit Free Press


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