Just a couple of things to share with you from the last couple of days, reflecting progress on criminal domestic violence over in the State House — actual progress in the Senate, and movement toward progress in the House.
This came from Senate Republicans on Wednesday:
Senate Judiciary passes Criminal Domestic Violence Bill
Proposal Heads to Full Senate for Debate
Columbia, SC – January 21, 2015 – Recognizing the need for immediate movement on the issue of domestic violence, the Senate Judiciary today passed legislation that would get tougher on offenders, as well as restrict gun ownership for many of those convicted of criminal domestic violence.
S.3, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin and others, is the first major piece of domestic violence legislation in years. Among other provisions, the bill would increases the penalties and prohibits those who have committed Criminal Domestic Violence from possessing a firearm for 10 years.
“We in state government have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in South Carolina, and tragically, that too often ends up being members of an abuser’s household,” Martin said. “South Carolina has been among the worst in the nation in domestic violence for far too long, and I’m hopeful the full Senate will address this bill quickly.”
“As a former solicitor, I’ve seen the tragedy of domestic violence more than I’d care to recall,” said Senator Greg Hembree. “When you look at those statistics, domestic violence deaths have too often involved firearms and repeat offenders. This is a commonsense way to make sure that offenders with a history of committing violence in the home are punished have a lessened ability to commit violence in the future.”
“I’m incredibly proud of my colleagues of Judiciary for moving so quickly on this bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler. “This is a bill that has been a long time coming, and I’m hopeful that we can get it to the House quickly for consideration.”
Then, this came across from the new House speaker yesterday:
Speaker Lucas Applauds CDV Ad Hoc Committee
Legislation will introduced in the House next week
(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement after the House Criminal Domestic Violence Ad-Hoc Committee completed its responsibilities and reached an agreement on legislation.
South Carolina unfortunately ranks second in the nation for women killed by men as a result of domestic violence. This unacceptable statistic deserves immediate attention and the government has a responsibility to enact significant reforms to our laws. Speaker Lucas is very pleased that the dedicated members of this committee have been working diligently since August to extensively investigate ways to better protect our citizens from abuse.
“Criminal domestic violence has no place in a civil society,” Speaker Lucas stated. “Our government has a responsibility to dramatically change our laws so that we can offer our citizens the best possible protection from those who attempt to inflict senseless harm. I applaud Chairwoman Shannon Erickson and the rest of this steadfast committee for their dedication and hard work on this extremely important issue and I look forward to seeing this piece of legislation progress through the South Carolina House of Representatives.”
Chairwoman Shannon Erickson stated, “I am proud of the work of this committee. We were able to spend time listening to the concerns of domestic violence victims in addition to concerns from the law enforcement agencies charged with prosecuting their offenders. After months of work, we have a piece of legislation that will give added protections to victims, respect individual rights as well as crack down on violent domestic offenders. I want to thank Attorney General, Alan Wilson, and each individual who contributed to this much needed reform. Our work is not yet done, but we remain dedicated to strengthening justice for victims in South Carolina.”
The legislation agreed upon in this ad hoc committee will be introduced in the House of Representatives next Tuesday and proceed through the proper legislative channels.
Members of the Criminal Domestic Violence Ad-Hoc Committee:
Rep. Shannon S. Erickson, Chairwoman (District 124-Beaufort)
Rep. J. David Weeks, Vice Chair (District 51-Sumter)
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (District 66-Orangeburg)
Rep. MaryGail K. Douglas (District 41-Fairfield)
Rep. Ralph Shealy Kennedy (District 39-Lexington)
Rep. Deborah A. Long (District 45-Lancaster)
Rep. Peter M. McCoy, Jr. (District 115-Charleston)
Rep. Mia S. McLeod (District 79-Richland)
Rep. Robert L. Ridgeway, III (District 64-Clarendon)
Rep. Edward R. “Eddie” Tallon, Sr. (District 33-Spartanburg)
Rep. Anne J. Thayer (District 9-Anderson)
Key provisions included in the legislation:
· Removes the word “criminal” because domestic violence itself is a crime
· Increases penalties for criminals by moving from a strictly occurrence based model to one that considers degree of injury; orders of protection; occurrence; and enhancements such as abuse to pregnant women, strangulation or incidents occurring in the presence of a minor
· Extends time period for a bond hearing to ensure a judge has all necessary information
· Allows the bond judge to consider not only the danger of the alleged criminal to the community, but also to the alleged victim
· Develops a fatality review committee to study domestic violence cases which result in death
· Adds domestic violence education to the curriculum for compressive health classes required in middle school
· Allows judges to proceed with the case without the presence of the victim
· Permits the Department of Social Services to study a voucher system for child care to allow the victim to appear in court
I’m noticing that Speaker Lucas has a penchant for these ad hoc committees, I suppose as a means of greasing the skids — getting some consensus from various stakeholders — before going through the actual, official bill-considering process.
Here’s hoping it works, on worthwhile bills such as these appear to be.
In any case, I’m glad to see interest from the speaker’s office in getting some things done. Lucas appears to working energetically to get beyond the malaise — actually, worse than malaise — of Bobby Harrell’s last years in office.
As to the merits of the bills — well, I’ll be interested to see what emerges as these bills move along, and see what comes out in debate. But for now, having GOP leadership in both houses showing this kind of eagerness to protect women, in a state so notorious for not doing so, is encouraging.