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Bills aim to prevent assaults on Michiganders with disabilities

The chamber of Michigan's House of Representatives in Lansing. Leaders in the Michigan legislature and Governor Granholm are close to an agreement on the budget.

There are new efforts in Michigan to crack down on those who hurt people with special needs.

Rep. Frank Liberati, a Democrat, and Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican, have sponsored bills that would increase penalties for assaulting a person with a developmental disability.

Jones says people with disabilities can often have difficulty caring for themselves and protecting themselves. And he contends all Michiganders deserve to live with respect and dignity.

"I, myself, had a son who was born with some disability and I watched him be bullied several times," he relates. "So beyond bullying there are occasionally people who are assaulted and we want to make sure that we send a strong message that it's not going to be allowed in Michigan."

House bills 5728 and 5729 and Senate bills 1017 and 1018 were introduced this week.

According to the American Community Survey, more than 6 percent of non-institutionalized Michiganders reported a cognitive disability in 2014.

Jones says the legislation will help elevate the voices of those with disabilities by creating a harsher punishment for those who hurt them.

"If you knowingly assault somebody with learning disabilities you could serve up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine," he states. "If you do it a second time, we want to really get tough: five years, $5,000 fine."

Earlier this year, Jones and Liberati formed the Disabilities Awareness Caucus to focus on policy issues impacting those with a disability.