MONTGOMERY –With a goal of preventing further abuse for domestic violence victims and their families, First Lady Dianne Bentley on Wednesday held a news conference to announce her legislative agenda aimed at strengthening domestic violence victim services and protection in Alabama.
“Domestic violence is a pressing issue in our state, and I will continue to use my platform as an advocate for victims and their children,” First Lady Dianne Bentley said. “Though there is help available in Alabama, Alabama laws need to be strengthened and funding for victim services needs to be increased. This has led me to the State House with a comprehensive approach to protect Alabamians from domestic violence.”
Since 2011, domestic violence prevention has been a top priority for Mrs. Bentley. During her time as First Lady, Mrs. Bentley has visited all domestic violence centers across the state, spoke with victims and worked with the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ACADV) to help address the overwhelming need for victims and their children. Thanks to a partnership with the Alabama Department of Corrections, since 2012, Mrs. Bentley has collected more than 15,000 cell phones for HopeLine from Verizon to assist domestic violence shelters and victims of abuse.
The First Lady Dianne Bentley Domestic Violence Prevention Legislation aims to modernize domestic violence laws, increase state funds toward lifesaving services for victims and their children and strengthen victim protection through law enforcement and judicial provisions.
This legislation establishes a structure of accountability and standards in service provision for ACADV through the Alabama Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs (ADECA). Governor Bentley has recommended $2 million in his General Fund budget for ACADV’s certified domestic violence shelters. State funding appropriated would be managed and disbursed by ADECA with the establishment of a Domestic Violence Trust Fund.
A Domestic Violence Capital Improvement Program would also be implemented through the legislation. This is a needs-based, competitive grant process used for shelter facility improvements and expansions. Shelters would be evaluated by ADECA, which would then distribute grants to facilities in the most need of repair. Governor Bentley has recommended $3 million in his General Fund budget to launch this initiative.
The final part of the legislation will strengthen the provisions relating to domestic violence crime scenes, protection orders and court proceedings. Victims will be informed of their local domestic violence center’s contact information, its services and their legal rights in pursuing criminal or civil charges against the abuser. Police reports will be filed regardless of arrest and shared with local domestic violence centers. Judicial officers will have strengthened measures in court proceedings to better protect domestic violence victims and greater punishment alternatives for those who violate any protective order, conditional release or bail.
Governor Bentley praised Mrs. Bentley’s efforts on domestic violence prevention.
“Domestic violence is an issue that cannot be overlooked or excused,” said Governor Robert Bentley. “I hope Alabama legislators will join me and members of my Administration to support Dianne in her effort to protect Alabama families from domestic violence.”
Mrs. Bentley’s domestic violence prevention legislation will be sponsored by State Senator Clay Scofield, (R-Guntersville) and State Representative Mike Jones, (R-Andalusia).
“Though thousands are silent, we hear the cries of victims through staggering statistics. I have a loud message for their perpetrators: there is no excuse for violent actions. Through this legislation, we will give law enforcement the tools necessary to put abusers behind bars,” Scofield said.
“Domestic violence is a serious issue that impacts many Alabamians,” Jones said. “I am honored to join First Lady Dianne Bentley to raise awareness for domestic violence.”
Photos from the event can be found here.
House Bill 320 (as introduced)
Senate Bill 276 (as introduced)
Provided by the Office of the Governor of Alabama | governor.alabama.gov