COLUMBUS (WKBN) – A bill that would enable victims to sue a university if abused by a university doctor is moving through the Ohio House of Representatives.
In Ohio, every bill begins its legislative journey the same way — with an introduction into a chamber of the legislature. From there, it is sent to the Rules and Reference Committee and assigned to a committee for hearings.
This bill is the 249th submitted this way to the Ohio House. It’s sponsored by State Representative Brett Hillyer, from Uhrichsville.
The bill is narrow in scope, applying only to the time period from January 1, 1978 to December 31, 2000 and only at land grant universities.
That’s generally carving out an exception to statute of limitations for alleged victims of Dr. Richard Strauss at the Ohio State University.
So far, dozens of alumni have filed civil lawsuits against the university. The university said the lawsuits should be thrown out because the claims are too old based on current law.
Hillyer’s bill would rectify that problem.
The bill has been assigned to the House Civil Justice Committee and received its first hearing Tuesday.
Hillyer explained to lawmakers on the committee what his bill does and answered their questions.
He only received questions from the Democrats on the committee, asking him what he thought about expanding his bill to include the elimination of the statute of limitations on rape across the board.
He deflected one question by insisting his bill had to do with the civil aspects and the ability for people to recover damages, but also left the door open to further discussion by saying as much.
Afterward, Hillyer expressed hope his bill would become irrelevant due to the mediation talks between victims and the university.
State Representative Tavia Galonski was disappointed to hear that and shared a recent conversation she had with someone who called her.
“Someone contacted me and said, ‘What about the misogyny? Here, women have been raped for years, little kids have been raped for years and as soon as men or victims who are men are raped, then we suddenly need to remove the statute of limitations.’ Anytime you get into that type of disparate treatment, you’re gonna have people raising questions like that,” she said.
Galonski said warranted or not, those question have her concerned.
“Frankly, I believe that his bill needs to move out of the way and let House Bill 279 move through quickly because there are many victims who are waiting for this kind of justice,” Galonski said.
House Bill 279 is sponsored by Galonski and State Representative Kristin Boggs in response to the mounting calls for the bill from constituents and from the governor’s own call to action to lawmakers just a few weeks ago.
“We could close that loophole today by having some hearings on our bill and getting this moved through, and that would be for all victims,” Galonski said.
With that said, the majority party is pushing for Hillyer’s bill now.
Time will tell if the bill is just a warning shot over the bow acting as leverage in mediation talks or if it will continue to move forward and become real relief for the 177 men found to be victims in that investigation.
If it is the latter, it could get several more hearings before the committee decides if it will send the bill to the floor of the chamber for a full vote by the House of Representatives.
If the bill passes through the House, it will be sent to the Senate to start the process over again.
If it does so and passes through the Senate without any changes, it will be sent to Governor Mike DeWine for his signature.
If DeWine signs the bill at that time, it would become law 90 days from the date of his signature.