Statute of limitations, immunity concerns hold up sex assault bills west la community college

LANSING – the state senate came under intense lobbying tuesday from a wide cross-section of groups concerned about the extension of the statute of limitations included in a package of bills aimed at preventing another sexual abuse scandal like the one caused by former MSU sports doctor larry nassar.

Under the bills, the statute of limitations for civil and criminal lawsuits would be extended to 30 years past a victim’s 18th birthday. For civil cases, the statute of limitations would be retroactive dating to 1993.

That could open up public and private institutions to lawsuits on problems where evidence no longer exists, said wendy block, director of health policy for the michigan chamber of commerce.

“we want to make sure the bills address the nassar situation, but these bills go much further and would subject businesses and other entities unrelated to nassar to an indeterminate number of lawsuits and civil damages,” she said.Sexual abuse “there’s no reason for businesses to have personnel files that date back 30 years when no liability issues have been raised. And without those records, there’s no ability to have a full and transparent adjudication of the matter.”

The concerns delayed a vote on the legislation, prompting an outcry from the victims of nassar, who has been convicted of sexually molesting girls and young female athletes during what he described as medical procedures.

“slow clap for the 15 universities that just showed every survivor exactly how much we’re ‘valued’. Shameful. Absolutely shameful,” tweeted sterling riethman, one of more than 200 women who gave victim impact statements during nassar’s sentencing last month.

The lobbying included letters and calls from groups representing universities, community colleges, cities, counties, townships and schools.Statute limitations it helped put the bills on hold for at least another day.

“it’s really frustrating because it feels like they’re putting money and pride before the well-being of children,” said larissa boyce, another nassar victim, who sat watching the senate session from the gallery above the chamber. “I don’t know how anybody could have a problem with what they’re proposing if they really want to change the culture of sexual abuse.

“if we want to change as a society, we need to weed out the pedophiles. I think maybe (the legislation) will sting a little in the beginning, but I think it will make our state a better place for our children.”

Daniel hurley, CEO of the michigan association of state universities, said the organization did an analysis of the legislation and concluded that it “raises concerns about the profound impact several of these bills will have with extensive legal, constitutional and fiscal ramifications for every governmental, nonprofit and private sector entity in the state.”

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“the 30-year statute of limitations would be just about the longest in the entire united states," said corrigan, who also served as the director of the state department of human services. “think about in the area of foster care and child protection investigations … when you think about the thousands of kids who have been through the programs, how could you possibly defend the cases?”

In a separate letter from the groups associated with cities, townships, counties, schools and community colleges, the groups said, “we ask that any vote on these bills be delayed until legislators have had a chance to understand the full impact of the package as it is currently drafted.”

"Anything that is as sweeping a change that is contained within the package, emotionally the response is a very passionate one from all of the members.Civil criminal but there are still a lot of questions about the details, so we’re sorting through those details," said amber mccann, spokeswoman for senate majority leader arlan meekhof, R-west olive. "They want a better understanding of who beyond MSU will be impacted."

Sen. Margaret O’brien, R-portage and the lead sponsor of the legislation, said some changes will be made to the bills to address some of the concerns, but some things are nonnegotiable.

"I think we have good sound public policy here," she said. "It really needs to focus how are we bring justice first and foremost to the victims. What are we saying to victims: not in michigan or is the state going to be open for business for pedophiles?"

• extend the statute of limitations for civil and criminal sexual abuse claims to 30 years after a person’s 18th birthday.Civil criminal for civil cases, the statute of limitations would be retroactive back to 1993.

• expand the number of people who are mandated and at least 18 years old to report complaints of sexual abuse to include coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists and bus drivers and increase the penalties for failing to report cases.

• clarify the law to ensure that governmental entities, including universities and colleges, do not have immunity from civil or criminal cases of sexual assault if they knew or should have known of the cases.

"We’re trying to refine and greatly define what we’re trying to do," O’brien said. "We’ve heard the concerns and we’re trying to refine the bills where we think it will improve the package."

The senate is expected to continue private discussions of the bills — SB 871-880 — on wednesday and could still vote on the bills on thursday.Sexual abuse