The Violence Against Women Act, first authorized in 1994, creates and supports comprehensive, effective and cost-saving responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. VAWA expired in December 2011 and must be reauthorized by Congress to ensure the continuation of lifesaving programs.
S. 1925 as passed by the Senate on April 26, 2012 was carefully crafted with new provisions based on interviews with more than 2000 law enforcement, court personnel, prosecutors, legal services, state and federal grant administrators and advocates from across the country. Twenty-two issue committees were convened to work through the responses and prioritize the most important issues still facing victims, including a lack of available services to LGBTQ victims, barriers to services for undocumented victims, and continuing high levels of violence against Native American and Native Alaskan victims. The Senate legislation was drafted in consultation with federal agencies charged with implementing the provisions of VAWA. The resulting legislation, S.1925 built on the past successes of VAWA, decreased the total amount of federal authorization levels by 20% and streamlined 10 programs into three.
The House version (HR 4970) passed on May 16 rolling back existing programs, included a number of harmful provisions and undermined the core principles of VAWA. These provisions include involving the abuser in the VAWA self-petition process and allowing investigators to gather information and interview the abuser. The single point of contact for VAWA self-petitioners, now located in Vermont, would be spread out across the country, losing the expertise and expeditious process that has been developed. The bill makes U Visas for crime victims ineffective as it provides only a small number of victims to achieve legal status as their offender must be convicted and deported (some offenders are US citizens). The House version eliminates the provision in the Senate bill that required US marriage brokers to tell clients if the potential spouse was subject to a protection order and eliminated penalties for lying about a criminal history.
The House version of the bill eliminated the Senate provision that would have provided concurrent authority and allowed Tribal government to prosecute non-Indian offenders for domestic violence, dating violence and protection order violations when the criminal act occurred on Tribal land while ensuring the same rights of due process, right to counsel, and jury and the right of appeal. Currently the state courts have no jurisdiction on tribal land, the tribal courts have no jurisdiction over non tribal individuals and federal courts are not prosecuting misdemeanor crimes.
The bill would also require the auditing of a much greater number of VAWA funded programs each year by the federal government, possibly up to 2000 each year, thus greatly expanding federal government.
HB 116 Bullying (Representative Barnes)
Passed and Signed by the Governor
Effective Date: May 4, 2012; anti-bullying provisions effective November 4, 2012
The legislation, entitled the “Jessica Logan Act,” requires age appropriate anti-bullying education, if state or federal funds are appropriated, training of school personnel, annual issuance and notification to parents of policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying, expands the definition to include cyberbullying, and covers incidents on school buses.
The legislation provides Judges more leeway in dealing with minors charged with prostitution and creates a procedure for expungments for juveniles charged with prostitution who were victims of trafficking. It also toughens penalties, increasing trafficking in persons to a first degree felony and requires trafficking and prostitution offenders to register as sex offenders. The legislation also requires the creation of a poster by the Department of Public Safety that displays the 24 hour toll free trafficking hotline and encourages it to be displayed in a number of establishments including hotels, any establishment with a liquor permit, hospitals, schools, agricultural labor camps, massage parlors, highway truck stops, fairs, and adult entertainment establishments. The legislation establishes a civil course of action for trafficking victims and allows minor victims to access the Attorney General Crime Victim Compensation Fund. The legislation also requires local government to collect data on trafficking and the Attorney General to publish the data and to establish training programs for law enforcement. The legislation establishes the Victims of Human Trafficking Fund, using funding under forfeitures to fund services for victims.