- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate overwhelmingly approved a seven-bill package on Thursday that would overhaul the state’s domestic violence laws.

The package would need the House’s approval again before heading to Gov. Rick Snyder for consideration.

Rep. Kurt Heise, a Plymouth Republican who sponsored one of the bills, said the package takes into account previously overlooked ways that abusers can manipulate or terrorize victims, such as harming someone’s pet.

“The common theme again is to make sure that the laws are up to date and that we are giving domestic violence situations the higher scrutiny that they deserve,” Heise said.

The package would create new rules for people who might undergo domestic mediation through the court system, protect pets from the person listed in a personal protection order and create a new legal category for assaulting a pregnant woman.



It would also provide sentencing guidelines for assault and battery of a pregnant woman and prohibit, in some cases, the parent of a child conceived through sexual assault from having custody or parental visiting time.

Rep. Robert Kosowski, a Westland Democrat who sponsored a bill that would allow those with personal protection orders to include their pets, said it addresses “antiquated laws.”

He added, “I think we really need to step it up, and I think this is the first step in doing it.”

Kosowski’s legislative director, Renee Edmondson, helped Democratic Rep. Harvey Santana, of Detroit, draft the legislation. She said the need to update domestic violence laws first came to her attention while she was working as Santana’s legislative director.

Edmondson says she discovered the need to update the laws after talking with lawyers and judges in the Detroit area about the city’s high prevalence of domestic violence. She said she brought the issue to Santana’s attention “who really spearheaded the whole thing.”

Santana’s current legislative director, Joe Taylor, said a constituent phone call sparked Santana’s interest.

Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, an Alto Republican who also sponsored legislation in the package, talked about the need to send a strong message to survivors of domestic violence in a statement her office released Thursday.

“Too often in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence, a rapist will use the threat of seeking custody of the child to intimidate pregnant victims into not pressing criminal charges of the attack,” Lyons said in a statement. “It is unthinkable that we would allow this to occur when we have the ability to provide victims with the protection and peace of mind they need in order to heal.”

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