State Senator Margaret O’Brien says female genital mutilation is horrific, and she says there is never a medical reason for it. The Kalamazoo County Republican is one of the sponsors of a package of bills to make female genital mutilation a state crime.
O’Brien says the federal penalties (up to five years in prison) aren’t severe enough. The state legislation would make it a 15 year felony, the same penalty as second degree sexual conduct. O’Brien says it’s important to know that female genital mutilation is a cultural, not a religious practice. She says it’s about controlling women psychologically and physically.
About 20 bills have been introduced on opiates, O’Brien who is the sponsor of some of that legislation says not all of them will pass. But she says it’s important to have a conversation about abuse and addiction. One bill targets doctors who intentionally write prescriptions for addicts. O’Brien says there’s a few doctors writing a larger number of the prescriptions for opioids.
O’Brien says a larger debate is needed on pain management. She says the issue of assisted suicide focused attention on pain. O’Brien says it’s still a quality measure of health care, and surveys ask how much pain patients endure. O’Brien says a discussion is needed about risk analysis and realistic pain expectations.
Governor Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders said last week that they were close to an agreement on reforming the teacher retirement system and finishing work on a state budget. O’Brien says there is a not a simple answer. She says one solution would be to offer a better 401-k match program. O’Brien says she understands the concerns, but questions the process of linking the reform proposal directly to completing the state budget.
Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley recently announced a petition drive to put a proposed amendment to the state Constitution before voters. It would make the state Legislature part-time. O’Brien says she favors a part-time legislature, but says it should be more flexible than Calley’s proposal. The Lieutenant Governor’s amendment calls for lawmakers to meet for 90 consecutive days in session. O’Brien says it would have to be early in the year since the state Constitution calls for the House and Senate to come to order on a particular Wednesday in January. O’Brien questions what happens if a crisis such as the Flint water crisis happens outside of the 90 legislative session. O’Brien says any discussion of a part-time Legislature should also include another look at Michigan’s term limits on state Representatives and Senators.
In the extended version of the interview, O’Brien discusses bills to increase penalties for animal cruelty and give restaurants the option to allow dogs on outdoor patios.