Feb 10, 2010

Grassroots support for ‘Katie’s law” is growing

Sometimes the wheels of government move slowly, but a lot of people in Michigan are urging them to move faster for 23-year-old Katie Viger of Trenton.

The recent graduate of the Henry Ford Community College nursing program is in hospice care suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma, but her biggest regret is not receiving her nursing degree. Her many supporters have been calling, writing and emailing the Michigan Legislature to make that happen.

She graduated from the competitive nursing program that has a three-year waiting list in May of last year, but in August she was diagnosed with cancer, just days before she was to take her exam to receive her nursing license.

Cathy Wakefield, her instructor at Henry Ford Community College, has stood by Katie during the ordeal, even helping organizing a fundraiser to help with paying for the mostly experimental treatment. As Katie’s condition worsened, Wakefield sprang into action to help her accomplish her lifelong dream, becoming a licensed nurse. What she found out was that the Michigan Department of Community Health does not have the statutory authority to issue an honorary nursing license.

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, is sponsoring legislation to allow the DCH to do so when a person has completed all the required course work but is not able to take the exam because of serious illness or event. It will be called “Katie’s Law.”

A Facebook group has been formed to gather support for the effort, and in the short amount of time it has been up it has gained more than 3,182 members, with the help of a couple of newspaper articles.

The problem now is getting it through the Legislature. A priority bill request has been submitted to the Legislative Service Bureau (LSB), the nonpartisan legislative agency charged with putting a plain language bill request into legal language. Once the bill is introduced, it can go directly to the Senate floor if no committee hearings are required, and in the Senate that is a common occurrence, but not a general rule in the larger House.

The bill must be approved in both the Senate and the House and signed by the Governor before it becomes law. However, the Facebook group is urging people to ask their Senator or Representative to co-sponsor the bill and do what ever they can to expedite the process, and that appears to be happening.

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