Lieutenant Governor Signs Protecting Michigan’s Children Legislation Strengthening Sexual Assault Laws

LANSING, Mich. – Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed legislation on Tuesday sponsored by Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, and Senator David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, to extend the criminal and civil statutes of limitation to allow more sexual abuse perpetrators to be prosecuted.

Senate Bill 871, now Public Act 182 of 2018, extends the criminal statute of limitations for minors who are victims of second- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct to 15 years or until they reach the age of 28, whichever is later, for each offense.

O’Brien said the following about passage of the bills: “Rachael Denhollander asked an important question-‘How much is a little girl worth?’ These bills show our children are valued, and we will fight against predators. Our work is not done. These bills are the start, and we must continue our work in eradicating childhood sexual assault and abuse.”

Senate Bill 872, sponsored by Knezek, allows adult victims up to 10 years to file suit for sexual assault. Child victims can file civil suits until they are 28 years old or up to three years after the victim discovers both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the criminal sexual conduct, whichever is later. It is now Public Act 183 of 2018.

“When we began writing this legislation, our goal was to ensure that sexual assault survivors would have a path to justice,” said Knezek. “While this is only the beginning, I am honored to have worked alongside such brave women to craft legislation that sends a clear message: Michigan will no longer tolerate these heinous acts.”

Sterling Riethman is a Kalamazoo native and sexual assault survivor who supported the bills.

“Today is a monumental day for the state of Michigan, and what I truly believe to be the beginning of change for survivors everywhere,” Riethman said. “I am beyond grateful to the leaders who were willing to challenge the norm and engage in this critical dialogue by our side. I am particularly grateful for Senator Margaret O’Brien and Lieutenant Governor Calley for listening to us, giving the voiceless a voice, and encouraging the rest of the leaders of our state to do what is right.”

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Photo caption: Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, (far left) and sexual assault survivors attended a bill signing ceremony with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on Tuesday. Calley signed Senate Bills 871 and 872 to extend the criminal and civil statutes of limitation to allow more sexual abuse perpetrators to be prosecuted.

Senator O’Brien and Representative Iden: Budget Includes $4.6 Million For Kalamazoo County Road Projects

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — The Legislature on Tuesday approved the state’s annual budget, which included an increase of $330 million specifically for roads and bridges. Senator Margaret O’Brien said $4.6 million is dedicated for local road repair projects in Kalamazoo County.

“People in our community have asked the state to increase road funding,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “I have listened to them, and we will have over $4.6 million in additional money to fix our roads in Kalamazoo County.”

Road projects receiving money from the budget include:

  • $1.8 million for a project on Zylman Avenue in Kalamazoo;
  • $850,000 for a project on Idaho Avenue in Portage, and
  • $600,000 for a project on Lovers Lane in Kalamazoo.

“These are exciting projects that will improve transportation and bolster economic growth in our community,” said Representative Iden, of Oshtemo. “I am pleased to work alongside Senator O’Brien to ensure dollars are invested right here in our neighborhoods.”

In addition, Senator O’Brien was able to secure funding for the following projects:

  • $850,000 for a project on Portage Street in Kalamazoo;
  • $460,000 for a project on Texas Drive from 8th Street to 12th Street, and
  • $55,000 for a project on Wellhouse Drive in the village of Vicksburg.

Cumulatively the Senate has worked to add a total of $2.4 billion to our roads since 2017 as a result of the road funding package and prioritized spending.

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O’Brien Bill Improving Road Safety For Bicyclists Headed To Governor

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation that Senator Margaret O’Brien introduced in 2016 after a motorist struck nine bicyclists in Kalamazoo, killing five and injuring four, has been finalized and is on its way to the governor for signing.

The June 7, 2016 accident cut short the lives of Debbie Bradley, Suzanne Joan Sippel, Larry Paulik, Fred Anton and Melissa Ann Fevig Hughes. The four riders who survived are Paul Gobble, Sheila Jeske, Jennifer Johnson and Paul Runnels who together worked with O’Brien on the legislation.

“This legislation reminds us that we must share the road,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “I applaud the many partners who have worked to improve safety on our roads. A special thank you goes to Paul, Sheila, Paul and Jennifer who used their experience to highlight the dangers.”

Senate Bill 330, sponsored by O’Brien, expands Michigan’s law punishing drivers without a valid operator license who cause the death or serious bodily injury of another person to now also apply to out-of-state drivers.

Other measures in the plan include:

  • House Bill 4185 to require drivers to allow a safe distance of at least three feet when passing a cyclist on the left side;
  • House Bill 4265 to require drivers to allow a safe distance of at least three feet when passing a cyclist on the right side, and
  • House Bill 4198 to require at least one hour of education on the laws pertaining to bicycles and motorcycles and emphasize awareness of their operation.

If signed, Michigan would join nearly 40 other states with a safe passing law for drivers passing bicyclists on the road.

“This bicycle safety and education legislation is a step in the right direction,” said Bike Friendly Kalamazoo Founder Paul Selden. “My hope is that such laws will help Michigan become an even more bike friendly state — for all the public safety, economic, health and lifestyle benefits that other bicycle friendly states enjoy.”

John Lindenmayer is the executive director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, which supported the legislation.

“Year after year, we have seen bicyclist fatalities rise in Michigan. Just this week, a 14-year-old bicyclist in Wixom was killed by a hit-and-run driver,” Lindenmayer said. “This common sense bicycle safety package, which includes legislation to improve driver education, establish a minimum safe distance to pass bicyclists and strengthen our distracted driving laws, is an important first step in preventing these needless tragedies. We are pleased that these bills are advancing to the governor’s desk and look forward to building on this foundation to make bicycling safer across Michigan.”

The driver responsible for the Kalamazoo bicycle accident was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison this week.

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Senate Acts To Reform Auto No-Fault Insurance

LANSING, Mich. — State Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, issued the following statement after the Senate approved legislation on Thursday to reform auto no-fault insurance:

“Over the last eight years, I have voted six times to reform our auto insurance and make it affordable for hardworking families. This is an important first step in fighting medical fraud and lowering auto insurance rates,” O’Brien said. “Auto no-fault reform has been a priority of the people of Kalamazoo County. I hope the House will act soon so we can lower the rates of auto insurance.”

Senate Bill 1014 would create the Michigan Automobile Insurance Fraud Authority within the attorney general’s office to help investigate and reduce auto insurance fraud. The Insurance Institute of Michigan indicates auto insurance fraud in Michigan is estimated at $400 million per year.

Additionally, in Michigan, when drivers turn age 65 and go on Medicare, their auto insurance rates go up because Medicare does not coordinate with Michigan auto insurance. Michigan’s auto insurance law includes unlimited coverage for catastrophic injuries with no cap. Under Senate Bill 787, seniors age 65 and older could have could have a choice to remain in the unlimited coverage system or opt-out and request a cap on their auto insurance. They also would not have to pay fully into the catastrophic fund. This would bring Michigan in line with all other states, and provide a more affordable option for this vulnerable population.

The bills now advance to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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O’Brien: Senate Acts To Improve School Safety

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate passed several bills on Thursday to help improve school safety in the state.

“Every student in Michigan deserves a secure and safe place to learn,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “From boosting building security, improving the confidential OK2SAY program and establishing a state Office of School Safety, the legislation approved today empowers our school districts with tools and resources necessary to help accomplish that goal.”

Senate Bill 990, sponsored by O’Brien as part of the plan, would require school officials to consult with law enforcement before constructing or renovating buildings.

“An important part of securing our schools is beefing up the safety measures in the buildings themselves,” O’Brien said. “By consulting with law enforcement officials, school districts would be better informed when making decisions about building security when renovating or constructing facilities.”

Other bills in the Senate’s school safety plan include:

  • SB 991 to require a school’s governing body to provide the state police biannually with an emergency contact who would receive information submitted through the school safety hotline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year;
  • SB 982 to create the Office of School Safety within the state police to update school safety practices, offer training to school staff and oversee use of school safety grants;
  • SB 983 to require school districts to conduct a safety assessment with a local law enforcement agency for each school building by the 2019-2020 school year and at least every two years thereafter and require school districts to develop an emergency operations plan by Jan. 1, 2020;
  • SB 957 to eliminate the sunset on the OK2SAY program;
  • SB 958 to require schools to anonymously report thwarted incidents of attempted acts of violence on school grounds or threats of violence made on or off school grounds; and
  • SB 959 to require the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to develop statewide training standards for active-shooter situations in schools.

The legislation is in addition to a budget agreement to dedicate $58 million toward school safety initiatives such as mental health programs, OK2SAY and securing our schools.

The legislation now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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Senate votes to improve government efficiency by eliminating some reporting requirements

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate unanimously approved a 12-bill package to repeal 29 obsolete, burdensome or duplicative bureaucratic reporting requirements.

“More than 40,000 people work within state government and many hours and dollars are spent producing reports that are simply unnecessary,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “By eliminating these reports, we can help cut unneeded regulatory burdens, save tax dollars and make government more efficient and effective.”

O’Brien said much of the information contained in the to-be-repealed reports is already available online with no need to be compiled and sent as a public report for the governor or Legislature.

O’Brien sponsored Senate Bill 1008 in the plan. It would delete an unnecessary requirement of the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to report on a liming material analysis. The department has not done any analysis of liming materials in more than 15 years.

Senate Bill 1000 is the most comprehensive bill in the Senate package. It would repeal 16 reporting requirements in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

A total of 41 reports would be repealed should the Senate bills and companion House bills all be enacted.

“Removing these reporting requirements will help ensure that state employees spend their time at work more constructively, to improve the delivery of public services,” O’Brien said.

SBs 1000-1011 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

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O’Brien Reacts To MSU Settlement With Nassar Survivors

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — State Senator Margaret O’Brien reacted Wednesday to news that a settlement has been reached between Michigan State University and survivors of Larry Nassar’s crimes.

“I appreciate that Michigan State University recognized the importance of settling with the survivors,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “While no amount of money will ever compensate for the betrayal, violation, hurt and mental anguish Larry Nassar inflicted on this group of women, it is my hope that this painful chapter can be closed.

“This settlement does not lessen the need for changes in our laws, and Michigan can and must do better to protect our children. These survivors have shown strength and grace while turning this horrendous tragedy into action that will help overcome the past and protect future generations. I thank the many women who have fought to improve our laws in that effort that started with Rachael DenHollander and Sterling Riethman on December 5, 2017. Our state owes them and the many other courageous women a debt of gratitude.”

In March, the Michigan Senate approved legislation that would combat sexual assault and allow survivors to receive important protections in the state of Michigan.

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 the accused being identified by DNA evidence.

The bills would also allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to remain publicly anonymous when bringing a claim in the Michigan Court of Claims.

Additionally, the legislation would expand mandated reporting requirements to include sports coaches, athletic trainers and college professors. If an employee fails to report such crimes, they could face a felony of up to two years imprisonment, up to a $5,000 fine, or both. A volunteer would face a misdemeanor of up to one year in jail, or a $1,000 fine, or both.

The legislation is under consideration in the House of Representatives.

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O’Brien: Address Confidentiality Program for Assault Survivors Passes Senate

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault would be able to hide their physical address from offenders under legislation approved by the state Senate on Tuesday.

“The address confidentiality program would restore peace of mind to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault by helping to keep them safe,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, who sponsored two of the package’s seven bills. “Protecting crime survivors is not a partisan issue. These bills can proactively protect survivors and give their lives back to them.”

The program would enable victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking to obtain a confidential address for official documents and mail correspondence to help protect them from their past offenders.

“This program would be a preventative tool, as much as it will be a safeguard for those who have been harmed,” said Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “This could prevent individuals from becoming victims by allowing them to apply to be program participants if they feel disclosing their address puts them at greater danger of harm.”

The program would also afford children the same address confidentiality if they are at risk of being threatened or physically harmed, or if they or their parents or guardians are victims of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking, rape or sexual battery. A school would not be allowed to disclose the address of a pupil or a pupil’s parents or guardians if they are program participants.

A program participant’s location would also be made confidential in the state’s Qualified Voter File system and participants would be able to vote absentee instead of going to a polling location, which might reveal their physical address. They would also be exempt from jury duty.

Michigan would join 38 states with similar laws if the plan is enacted.

Senate Bills 655-658 and 954-956 now go to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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Senator O’Brien Receives Peter Pettalia Memorial Sunshine Award

LANSING, Mich. — State Senator Margaret O’Brien was awarded a 2018 Peter Pettalia Memorial Sunshine Award by the Michigan Press Association (MPA) on Thursday during the association’s annual convention.

The award is named in honor of the former state representative who tragically died in 2016.

“Peter Pettalia was more than a colleague; he was a dear friend,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “Pete and I shared many things in common, and ensuring that government is open and transparent was important to us. To be recognized with an award in his name for those efforts is an honor. I cherish this award.”

Senator O’Brien was recognized for her strong support of open government, transparency and journalism. She credited investigative journalists for bringing Larry Nassar’s crimes to the public.

O’Brien was one of three legislators to be recognized. In a press release announcing the winners, the MPA said the actions of the three award recipients directly support MPA’s mission of defending free speech, promoting a strong press and fostering an informed citizenry.

The MPA heralded Rep. Pettalia for his advocacy of newspapers and open government. The MPA noted he was one of the first recipients of the award and that this year’s recipients honor those traditions.

“Open government is always good government, and these leaders are examples of doing the people’s business in the open and knowing the value of keeping the public informed,” said MPA President Brad Thompson in the news release.

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Photo caption: State Senator Margaret O’Brien was awarded a 2018 Peter Pettalia Memorial Sunshine Award by the Michigan Press Association on Thursday during the association’s annual convention. Pictured are, from left, MPA Executive Director James Tarrant, O’Brien, and Three Rivers Commercial News Publisher/Editor Dirk Milliman.

O’Brien Receives Legislative Award from Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Margaret O’Brien was honored with a Legislative Award by the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union on Wednesday during its 53rd Biennial Convention in Bay City.

Senator O’Brien was recognized for her work last year to protect the promised retirement benefits of retired and active firefighters.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union for my Legislative work,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “Firefighters are the embodiment of service and sacrifice, volunteering to place themselves in harm’s way to protect our communities. I look forward to partnering with them and am committed to supporting their mission to keep us all safe.”

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