Governor Paul LePage signed legislation Tuesday morning that will better protect and support victims of domestic violence. A signing ceremony was held in the Hall of Flags at the State House where legislators and domestic violence awar ness advocates gathered to view the Governor sign LD 1867, "An Act To Protect Domestic Violence Victims" and LD 1760, "An Act To Ensure Notification to Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking When Defendants Are Released on Bail."
LD 1867 is a Governor's initiative, sponsored by Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, which amends the Maine bail code in order to protect victims of domestic violence. This law makes a number of changes including stating bail must be determined by a judge for felony domestic violence offenses and violations of a protection from abuse order when the victim is a family or household member. It also requires judges to make findings on the record when setting bail in such cases.
Additionally, LD 1867 allows a defendant to be put on probation for a conviction of violations of conditions of release when the underlying crime is a crime of domestic violence and adds strangulation to the definition of what conduct constitutes as aggravated assault. "Republicans and Democrats have come together and collaborated on this issue," said Governor LePage. "It's not a problem that is defined by one party or the other -- this effort is for the Maine people and if we are truly working for Mainers we must work together on other issues too."
The second bill Governor LePage signed into law Tuesday ensures victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are notified when their abuser is released from jail. LD 1760 is sponsored by Representative Alan Casavant, D-Biddeford. The 9th Report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel, released last week by the Maine Office of the Attorney General, points out that notification to the victim of a defendant's release from jail is not always made in a timely manner, and there is inconsistency about who is responsible to make notification. Experts conclude the lack of notification may place a victim at increased risk.
"A major safety issue is addressed through this legislation and it will help to save lives," the Governor said.
As Governor LePage thanked everyone who has given support to making domestic violence awareness a priority during the past eighteen months he also expressed today he would like Maine to become the national leader in its efforts to end domestic violence. The Governor noted, "There are more initiatives which will be part of next session's agenda that will continue to address domestic violence issues." One of those items is a bill that will focus on Batterers Intervention programs.
Also included in the 9th Report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel is an observation that abusers released from incarceration may benefit from access to Batterers Intervention Programs, robust mental health services, and community supports, prior to release. In the coming months, Governor LePage, Attorney General Schneider, Chief Justice Saufley and domestic violence awareness advocates will work to craft a bill that addresses the need for accessible Batterers Intervention Programs.
Other bills signed by the Governor on April 17 include:
An Act Relating To Rating on the Basis of Group Size in the Small Group Health Insurance Market S.P. 569 -- L.D. 1670
An Act To Restore Departmental Management over Costs of State-paid Child Care
S.P. 671 -- L.D. 1894