LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on Tuesday signed two bills inspired by the Larry Nassar scandal, including one giving childhood sexual abuse victims more time to sue.
The current cutoff to file a lawsuit in Michigan is generally a minor victim's 19th birthday, which critics say is out of step with other states and does not account for how many victims are afraid to report abuse or have suppressed it. Starting in three months, people who were sexually abused as children will be able to sue until their 28th birthdays or three years from when they realize they have been abused. Victims of Nassar, the imprisoned former sports doctor who worked for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, will get a 90-day window to sue retroactively.
In its original form, the bill provided the same window for all victims of sexual abuse to sue their alleged abusers retroactively. That version of the bill passed the state Senate, but was amended in the House to allow only people who were abused by Nassar to use the new law retroactively.
Legislators who supported the bill in its original form and some of the Nassar survivors who helped create the bill and advocated for it publicly during the last several months blamed the limiting amendment on politicians caving to the pressure of special interest groups. Representatives of state universities, the chamber of commerce and the Catholic Church all expressed concerns about the number of lawsuits that could come from allowing all abuse survivors access to the new law.
"Members of the House did exactly what I and my sister survivors specifically told them not to do and amended the legislation in the exact way we pleaded with them not to amend," said Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault and one of the women who spearheaded the legislative effort. "... Our goal was to stand for every sexual assault survivor in the state, and bring Michigan closer to the rest of the country. For every sexual assault survivor who would have, and should have, had access to the justice system because of this reform -- We still hear you. We still see you. And this is not over."
As part of a $500 million settlement with Michigan State, his hundreds of accusers agreed to withdraw their support for legislation that would have eliminated the immunity defense in lawsuits for entities that are negligent in the hiring, supervision or training of employees, or if the governmental agencies knew or should have known and failed to report sexual misconduct to law enforcement.
Calley, who enacted the main bill in a private Capitol ceremony because Snyder was out of the state, also signed a measure giving prosecutors 15 years or until a victim's 28th birthday to file charges in second- and third-degree sexual conduct cases if the victim was younger than 18. The deadline currently is 10 years or a victim's 21st birthday, whichever is later.
Charges could be filed at any time if there were DNA evidence.
There already is no statute of limitations for first-degree sexual misconduct, which can result in life imprisonment and for which Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting nine girls in the Lansing area under the guise of treatment.
Five Nassar survivors attended the bill-signing event.
"My greatest hope is that this is only the first step in much-needed legislative reform," Rachael Denhollander, who was 15 when Nassar assaulted her in his campus office in 2000, said in a statement released by the governor's office.
"This legislation is an important step forward, but there is still more work to do," Calley said in a statement. "I appreciate the voices of those who have taken a leadership role to support survivors throughout our state. I hope that today's action and the work to come will help prevent these crimes and continue to change the culture surrounding sexual assault in Michigan."
More than two dozen other Nassar-related bills are unlikely to win final legislative passage until September at the earliest because the Republican-led Legislature planned to adjourn for the summer on Tuesday. The House and Senate are at odds over expanding who must report suspected child abuse to include paid coaches. However, legislators are in agreement on other bills that would require a second health professional to be in the room when a procedure involving vaginal or anal penetration is performed on a minor, require written parental consent before such a procedure is done and require that related medical records be kept for at least 15 years.
ESPN's Dan Murphy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.