Two bills held over from the last session would help reduce domestic violence. Both are now before the Appropriations Committee and will either be funded and sent on to the Senate for a final vote, or allowed to die on the table. Contact members of the Appropriations Committee and tell them to fund LD 525 and LD 524 and send them to the Senate for a final vote.
Provide funding for Maine’s Batterer Intervention Programs (BIP): LD 525 would provide first-ever state funding for Maine’s Batterer Intervention Program (BIP), a domestic violence prevention initiative modeled after similar evidence-based programs around the country. BIPs teach batterers to understand and take responsibility for their violent behavior and are run by trained educators who work in conjunction with law enforcement, domestic violence advocates, and domestic abuse survivors. Maine’s programs are certified by the Department of Corrections, run for 48 weeks, and are offered at 10 locations around Maine. The programs receive no state funding and participants must cover the $30 weekly fee. Following a 2016 report from the Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse, which found that Maine courts mandated BIP participation in fewer than one-third of domestic abuse cases, the Legislature passed a law to increase court referral. The law had the desired effect of increasing participation, but also led to a steep rise in program costs. And domestic abusers who can’t afford the weekly participation fee are still directed to ineffective no-cost programs or to no program at all. LD 525 provides funding for BIP to hire educators and other program costs and subsidizes fees for abusers who can’t pay. Domestic abuse advocates testified in support of the bill at a public hearing in March 2017, citing research that completing a BIP program reduces the risk of re-offense. The bill passed the House in May 2017 and the Senate referred it to the Appropriations Committee for review and funding.
Strengthen the Laws on Domestic Violence: LD 524 seeks to reduce domestic violence by strengthening current laws under which abusers can be prosecuted. The bill creates the crimes of domestic violence aggravated assault, domestic violence elevated aggravated assault, and domestic violence elevated aggravated assault on a pregnant person. It also would allow people who violate a protection from abuse (PFA) order more than twice to be charged with a Class C felony. Domestic abuse advocates testifying at a public hearing in March 2017 said that currently, repeated violations of PFAs carry few consequences, making them ineffectual in keeping victims safe. Provisions in LD 524 naming aggravated crimes as domestic violence-related would exempt domestic violence offenders from the “good time” law that reduces prison time for inmates’ good behavior. It would also improve data collection regarding domestic violence in Maine. The bill passed the House in May 2017 and the Senate referred it to the Appropriations Committee for review and funding.
Contact the members of the Appropriations Committee and ask them to fund LD 525 and LD 524 and send the bills to the Senate for a final vote. If your legislator is a committee member, you will have more sway over her/his vote. Not sure who your legislators are? Find them here.
Sen. James M. Hamper (R-Oxford), (207) 539-4586
Sen. Catherine Breen (D-Cumberland), (207) 329 – 6142
Sen. Roger Katz (R-Kennebec), (207) 485-2394
Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), (207) 409-3477
Rep. Aaron Frey (D-Bangor), (207) 249-9969
Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor), (207) 288-3947
Rep. Erik Jorgensen (D-Portland), (207) 939-7120
Rep. John Martin (D-Eagle Lake), H: (207) 444-5556; W: (207) 444-5556
Rep. H. Stedman Seavey (R-Kennebunkport), H: (207) 967-5991; C: (207) 590-1597
Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough), H: (207) 883-5609; C: (207) 730-6602
Rep. Denise Tepler (D-Topsham), (207) 729-4018
Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake (R-Turner), H: (207) 225-6016; C: (207) 754-6000
Rep. Tom Winsor (R-Norway), H: (207) 527-2233; C: (207) 754-3678