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Whitmer signs bills addressing sexual violence, train delays and public safety ⋆ Michigan Advance | #schoolsaftey

Several bills passed by the Legislature last month before its summer break were signed into law Tuesday afternoon by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

They include:

Legislation to address sexual violence within the state

Dozens of bills, often championed by survivors of disgraced former U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar and other survivors of sexual violence have been introduced in multiple sessions over the last five years since Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in January of 2018. 

Another set of bills addressing issues raised by Nassar survivors were signed into law Tuesday, after what one sponsor, Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) called a “long journey” in a news release from the governor’s office Tuesday.

‘Long overdue’: Whitmer signs bills advocated for by sexual assault survivors

Chang’s bill, SB 66, mandates the creation of materials educating students on what sexual violence can look like and what to do if it happens to them or a friend. Middle and high schools will be required to provide age-appropriate materials to students.

“I am confident that these bills will make a big impact in Michigan by starting to change the culture around sexual assault, ensuring that young people are aware of what sexual assault is and where to go for help, and so much more,” Chang said in the news release. “It’s been a long journey…We never gave up hope because we were determined to make these changes to prevent future sexual assault and protect survivors.”

Other bills addressing sexual violence that were signed today include SB 67 and SB 68. which expand the definition of criminal sexual contact under the guise of medical treatment and increases penalties for such assaults. Currently, sexual contact under the guise of medical treatment is a felony carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, but this legislation bumps it to a maximum of 25 years.

Senate Bill 69 and SB 71 require that anytime a medical professional needs to perform penetrative examinations on minors, they need written parental consent and another health professional in the room. Additionally, all penetrative examinations, unless they meet certain criteria, would be required to be put in record and maintained for 15 years. 

People put their trust in medical professionals and any betrayal of that trust is unacceptable, bill sponsor Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) said in the news release. 

“By explicitly outlawing the sexual abuse of patients by medical professionals, and outlining strict penalties for these crimes, we can help prevent these types of assaults from happening ever again and give greater recourse to survivors if it does,” Geiss said.

Another bill, SB 73, will amend rules surrounding Freedom of Information Act requests to exempt records that would reveal information about anonymous sexual violence victims. 

And SB 236 would expand the definition of being rendered mentally incapacitated in the Michigan Penal Code regarding criminal sexual conduct to include any time a victim is unable to consent due to the effects of a substance, not just when that substance was administered without their consent, as is written in the current law.

Expanding the definition of a peace officer

The definition of a peace officer is being expanded to include officers in agencies who are licensed under the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) Act, under SB 59

This will allow officers who qualify, such as park rangers and members of campus public safety to, among other things, take individuals into protective custody when they present a threat to themselves or others.  

The definition change will allow qualified officers to be able to help those who need it without having to call another qualified agency, bill sponsor Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint) said in a news release from the governor’s office Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, people have gone to state parks or public lands to harm themselves, and under current law, conservation officers have to call in another law enforcement agency to take a subject into protective custody,” Cherry said. “This common-sense solution will allow our experienced conservation officers to intervene appropriately when they believe a person may be a harm to themselves or others.”   

Susan J. Demas

Train delays

The state transportation department is authorized to create a local grade separation grant program and fund to build infrastructure to divert traffic from intersecting with railroad traffic under SB 125 and HB 4153

The delays in traffic caused by trains passing have been the scourge of many residents’ existence for years, preventing them from getting to work and school, bill sponsors Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.) and Rep. Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte) said in a press release Tuesday from the governor’s office.

For the city of Trenton, separating train traffic from the rest of the city’s traffic will benefit all motorists.

“This is a huge issue for our residents as both a public safety and economic development matter,” Trenton Mayor Steve Rzeppa said. “This grade separation will ensure our first responders and residents have access to our area hospital without fear of lengthy train delays inhibiting lifesaving care, that businesses won’t see long traffic backups inhibiting their access and growth, and parents on their way to and from work or school with their children can get to where they need and on time.”


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