Michigan lawmakers voted Thursday to threaten a 10 percent state funding cut for any university that fails to comply with proposed new requirements prompted by the Larry Nassar sexual assault case at Michigan State.
The unanimous vote from a House budget panel came a day after a Senate committee passed a spending measure that would require the governing boards of all 15 state universities to receive written notice of any instances of possible campus sexual misconduct.
Nassar — a former sports doctor who is in prison for molesting female patients under the guise of treatment — worked at Michigan State, which is facing scrutiny for its handling of the physician who also treated top Olympians for USA Gymnastics.
Under the House bill, universities would lose 10 percent of their operations funding if they do not meet certain requirements such as prohibiting the use of in-house medical experts in investigations under IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination.
They also could lose the funding if they don't create an in-person sexual assault prevention course or presentation for all freshman and sophomore students or for failing to certify that the university president and at least one trustee or regent has reviewed all Title IX complaints involving school employees.
"The simple truth is we cannot allow something this serious to be mishandled ever again," said Republican Rep. Kim LaSata of Berrien County's Bainbridge Township, who chairs the House subcommittee and helped lead a legislative probe of Michigan State. That investigation included criticism of the university's 2014 investigation of a complaint brought by a Nassar patient, who had alleged inappropriate touching. The lawmakers said the school erroneously cleared Nassar and "almost entirely based this conclusion on the flawed testimony of biased medical experts."
He was fired in 2016 after another victim went public and filed Title IX and police complaints.
The House bill also would mandate that universities send an annual Title IX report to state authorities and to require the state auditor to review universities' Title IX operations at least once every three years.
The competing budget bills are expected to be approved by the GOP-led House and Senate in coming weeks — after which legislators will resolve differences with a goal of enacting a final state budget in June.
"The goal here is to use the power of the purse to make sure that these best practices are going to be implemented at all of our public institutions across the state — our 15 higher education public institutions. It's really providing some teeth — not just that we hope that they do it but if they choose not to do it, then it will cost them," said Democratic Rep. Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo.
The Senate plan calls for an overall 3 percent increase in university operations funding, while the House wants a 1 percent boost. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a 2 percent increase.
The Legislature also is working on a slew of other Nassar-inspired measures, including a Senate-passed package that would help hundreds of Nassar accusers seek financial damages from Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and others being sued.