The Michigan State Senate may vote this week on a package of bills inspired by the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case. However, some groups are expressing concern that the legislation would retroactively extend the time victims would have to file lawsuits and remove an immunity defense for governmental agencies.
People sexually abused as children generally have until their 19th birthday to sue. Under the legislation, those abused as children in 1993 or later could sue until their 48th birthday.
The legislation is backed by victims of Larry Nassar. The former doctor at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics has been sentenced to decades in prison for sexually abusing scores of young women during physical therapy sessions over many years.
But State Sen. Ken Horn (R-Saginaw) insists the legislation is not only for the dozens of gymnasts victimized by Nassar.
“This is about more than athletes,” says Horn. “This is about our young men and women across demographics. This is a very personal thing. What we want to do is let them know that we’re here, that we’re watching out for them and there are people in their lives that they can absolutely trust.”
The legislation is moving quickly through the legislature. Too quickly for some.
Public university officials are urging Michigan lawmakers to “tap the brakes.”
Michigan's 15 public universities have sent a letter to state lawmakers making their case to delay the legislation. The universities say several bills would have a "profound impact" and encourage the filing of a "significant number" of lawsuits against schools, churches, governments and organizations.
“There needs to be much more study on the impact of these bills,” says Daniel Hurley, the CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities.
State Senator Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) is not convinced.
“I think this is something that if we have to pay a price to protect our boys and girls, maybe it’s time we start paying that price because we seem to be willing to pay the price for other things that aren’t as important,” O’Brien told reporters in Saginaw on Monday.