Senate Committee Advances Sexual Assault Legislation

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would combat sexual assault and allow survivors to receive important protections in the state of Michigan.

“It is important that our laws protect those who are most vulnerable, including our children,” said Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “This legislation would put fear into the heart of any possible perpetrator. Justice must be served. My colleagues and I are taking swift action to get these much-needed protections into law.”

Senate Bills 871-880 would expand numerous existing laws and also create new protections in statute. The bills would update current law to allow prosecutors to bring charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) against a minor at any time after the act occurs, while also allowing charges of third-degree CSC against a minor up to the survivor’s 48th birthday, or within 30 years of an accuser being identified by DNA evidence.

“This comprehensive legislative package is long overdue in Michigan,” said Rachael Denhollander, a survivor of sexual assault. “It is desperately needed to bring our state to a place where the laws communicate the value of children and women and the seriousness of how sexual assault will be treated.”

The bills would also allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to remain publicly anonymous when bringing a claim in the Michigan Court of Claims and eliminate the current time limit for filing a claim.

The bills also increase reporting requirements for certain education employees and youth sports coaches. If passed, assistant coaches, athletic trainers and volunteers involved in youth athletic activities would all become mandatory reporters of child abuse. If an individual fails to report such crimes, they could face a felony of up to two years imprisonment, up to a $5,000 fine, or both.

“Our current justice system in the state of Michigan is a difficult system for survivors of sexual abuse to navigate,” said Sterling Riethman, a survivor of sexual assault. “This change to our legal system through this legislation will help prevent feeling victimized as a survivor of sexual abuse in our legal system.”

The legislation now heads before the full Senate for further consideration.

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Photo caption: Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, was joined by Rachael Denhollander as they testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in support of a package of legislation that would combat sexual assault.

**MEDIA ADVISORY** Sen. O’Brien to announce legislation to combat sexual assault

LANSING, Mich. — Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, will announce a legislative package on Monday, Feb. 26 designed to combat sexual assault.

 

Who:

Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage;

Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia;

Rep. Diana Farrington. R-Utica;

Rep. Beth Griffin, R-Mattawan;

Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing;

Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth;

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge;

Sen. David Knezek, D-Detroit;

Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy;

Rep. Leslie Love, D-Detroit;

Rachael Denhollander;

Lindsey Lemke;

Sterling Riethman;

Amanda Thomashaw;

Larissa Boyce; and

Jordyn Wieber.

 

What:

A press conference announcing upcoming Senate legislation to combat sexual assault.

 

When:

Monday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m.

 

Where:

Michigan Capitol

Room 402/403

Lansing

 

Brief:

Sen. O’Brien will be announcing a legislative package to combat sexual assault and increase protections for survivors under the law. Several sexual assault survivors will discuss the importance of the legislation.

The press conference will be livestreamed and available for download. The livestream can be viewed at the following website: https://misenate.viebit.com/player_live.php?hash=f1f89494-544e-4284-ba9a-37acfac6a488

Survivors and bill sponsors will be available for comment afterward.

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Sen. O’Brien and Rep. Hoadley Remind Heritage Community Residents Of Their Rights

LANSING, Mich. — State Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, and State Representative Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, urged residents to know their rights on Tuesday in response to the recent news regarding Heritage Community residents needing to find new residence.

“No one needs to leave their home,” Sen. O’Brien said. “In the case of an involuntary discharge, residents have rights and certain processes must be followed.”

Rep. Hoadley explained, “Residents and their family members should contact the Long Term Health Care Ombudsman with any concerns or questions about their rights.”

Since 1972, the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program strives to improve the quality of care and quality of life experienced by residents who reside in licensed long term care facilities. Licensed long term care facilities include nursing homes, homes for the aged, and adult foster care homes.

Ombudsmen advocate for the resident in the facilities, guided by the wishes of the resident. All services are provided under strict confidentiality. Ombudsmen cannot share information about the resident or the resident’s concerns without the resident’s permission.

The ombudsmen services assist when one has unresolved questions or concerns about care in a facility, rights in a long-term care facility or need technical expertise on long-term care issues.

There is no cost to residents or families for ombudsmen services. To reach a local ombudsman, call: 1-866-485-9393.

Residents may also file a complaint with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. There are three methods for filing a complaint:

  1. Submit a complaint using the online form found at gov/LARA
  2. Submit a complaint using the complaint form (BCHS-361) by mail, fax, or email.
  3. Call the toll-free Complaint Hotline at 866-856-0126.

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Sen. O’Brien’s Resolution to Recognize February as the Bicentennial of Frederick Douglass Approved by Senate

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved Senate Resolution 130, which would recognize February 2018 as the bicentennial of Frederick Douglass.

“A man ahead of his time, Frederick Douglass continues to inspire many as a symbol of freedom,” Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, sponsor of SR 130 said. “His heroism and leadership helped to lead our country out of a dark period. We should always remember the important contribution that Frederick Douglass made to help bring an end to slavery in the United States.”

Born in February 1818, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery from Maryland and headed to the free states in the North in 1838. Once free, he helped lead the abolitionist movement. Douglass produced an anti-slavery newspaper, authored several books on his time as a slave, and served as an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln amongst many other important achievements. Additionally, he served in important roles for President Rutherford B. Hayes and President Benjamin Harrison. He passed away at the age of 77 on Feb. 20, 1895.

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‘What to do if stopped by blue’ legislation introduced in Senate

LANSING, Mich. — A bipartisan effort aimed at facilitating positive interactions between law enforcement officers and civilians during a traffic stop was recently introduced in the state Senate.

Sen. Marty Knollenberg, who sponsored part of the three-bill package, says the ultimate goal is to standardize interaction between police officers, drivers and passengers during traffic stops and make an unpleasant situation safer and less stressful for all involved parties.

“Traffic stops are stressful for drivers of all levels, but even more so for inexperienced drivers,” said Knollenberg. “A consistent curriculum including instructions for expected behavior during a traffic stop can help reduce the anxiety level for both drivers and police as well as lessen the risk of minor misunderstandings become something more serious.”

Senate Bills 805-807 would direct the secretary of state and Michigan State Police to develop a program on how to interact with law enforcement during a traffic stop. The guidelines would be included in current driver’s education curriculums so students are familiar with what to do before getting behind the wheel.

“It is long overdue for lawmakers to sit down together with the people of the communities they serve and restore confidence between drivers and law enforcement,” said Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Lathrup Village, sponsor of SB 806.

The bills also instruct the secretary of state to provide a pamphlet that includes a summary of the developed material to drivers 25 and under who are renewing their license. Additionally, officers involved in a traffic stop must provide drivers with a business card that contains contact information where drivers can direct complaints.

The measure was inspired by a similar bipartisan effort that was adopted last year in Virginia.

“Neither drivers nor the police should be fearful during a traffic stop,” Knollenberg said. “I believe these training measures will make all drivers more comfortable and thus put officers at ease. This is a win for all involved parties.”

Sen. Margaret O’Brien agreed and says this measure will improve relations between members of the law enforcement community and their respective communities.

“As the mother of young drivers, I want my kids to be prepared for every situation,” O’Brien said. “I’m pleased to partner with law enforcement to ensure safe interactions in what can be a stressful situation.”

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation for further consideration.

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House Approves Bill To Name I-94 Corridor After Fallen Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan House of Representatives on Wednesday approved final passage of Senate Bill 543, which would name a stretch of Interstate 94 after fallen Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski.

“Chief Switalski was the epitome of a public servant who provided true leadership in our community,” said Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “Renaming this stretch of I-94 after him will help to remind people of road safety and honor his commitment to our community.”

Switalski was killed in the line of duty on June 14, 2017 when he was struck by a vehicle while responding to an accident on I-94 in Kalamazoo County. He was named Michigan Fire Chief of the Year for 2017. The bill would name the span between exits 80 and 86 on I-94 after Switalski.

SB 543 now heads to the governor for his signature.

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