- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Bills moving forward in the Michigan Legislature would make it illegal to assault a sports referee.

A Senate committee on Tuesday voted 4-1 to send the legislation to the full Senate.

Democratic Sen. Morris Hood III of Detroit introduced the bills soccer referee John Bieniewicz (BEN’-uh-wits) was killed by a player with one punch at a Livonia park last summer.

Hood says the legislation will make sporting events safer and “encourage people to respect the game.”

Bieniewicz’s wife recently testified in support of the legislation.

It’s already illegal to assault someone in Michigan. But the bills would provide enhanced criminal penalties for attacking a sports official.

Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton says he voted “no” because criminal sentencing should not depend on someone’s profession.

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